The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An unusual C130 flight and the fall of Saigon.

The Fall of Saigon was on April 30th 1975, I remembered my dad being glued to the TV and I didn't understand the significance back then.  I remember a bit earlier the Watergate Hearings that had preempted Flipper and other kid shows/and I was angry about it.   shows the perspectives from a kids point of view.  If I understood the significance of it, I would have paid more attention to it.
This picture is the iconic photo of the fall of Saigon.  The bad thing is that the Watergate hearings directly impacted the resulting fall of South Vietnam, the hearings allowed the anti-war democrats to gain enormous influence and later more seats in the senate and house of representatives thereby increasing their majorities.  Despite our promise to the South Vietnamese that we would support them after the Paris Peace Accords the congress controlled by the democrats refused to appropriate money to the South Vietnamese for military aid to replenish their stocks after years of war.


C-130A USAF 56-0518
was by the 314 TCW, 315 AD, 41 ATS, 328 TAS; to South Vietnamese Air Force 435 Transport Squadron, November 1972; holds the C-130 record for taking off with the most personnel on board, during evacuation of SVN, 29 April 1975, with 452. Returned to USAF, 185 TAS, 105 TAS; gate guard at Little Rock AFB Visitor Center, Arkansas by March 1993 

This C-130A Hercules was the 126th built by Lockheed Aircraft corp. of Marietta, Georgia. It was accepted into the Air Force inventory on 23 August 1957.
On 2 November 1972, it was given to the South Vietnamese Air Force as part of the Military Assistance Program. A few years later, the aircraft would be involved in a historic flight.
On 29 April 1975, this Herk was the last out of Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. With over 100 aircraft destroyed on the flight line at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, some of them still burning, it was the last flyable C-130 remaining. In a very panicked state, hundreds of people were rushing to get aboard, as the aircraft represented a final ticket to freedom.
People hurriedly crowded into the Herk, packing in tighter and tighter. Eventually, the loadmaster informed the pilot, Major Phuong, a South Vietnamese instructor pilot, that he could not get the rear ramp closed due to the number of people standing on it. In a moment of inspiration, Major Phuong slowly taxied forward, then hit the brakes. The loadmaster called forward again stating he had successfully got the doors closed.
In all, 452 people were on board, including a staggering 32 in the cockpit alone. Using a conservative estimate of 100 pounds per pe rson, it translated into an overload of at least 10,000 pounds. Consequently, the Herk used every bit of the runway and overrun before it was able to get airborne.
The target was Thailand, which should have been 1:20 in flight time, but after an hour and a half, the aircraft was over the Gulf of Slam, and they were clearly lost. Finally, a map was located, they identified some terrain features, and they were able to navigate. They landed atUtapao, Thailand after a three and a half hour flight.
Ground personnel were shocked at what "fell out" as they opened the doors. It was clear that a longer flight would almost certainly have resulted in a loss of life. In the end, however, all 452 people made it to freedom aboard this historic C-130.
Upon landing, the aircraft was reclaimed by the United States Air Force and assigned to two different Air National Guard units for the next 14 years.
On 28 June 1989, it made its final flight to Little Rock Air Force Base and placed on permanent display.


  1. I have a friend that was in a Marine platoon sent to help in the evacuation. They stayed, guarded and left on one of the last helicopters that flew from the roof of the embassy in Saigon.

    1. My neighbour says he was the pilot on that plane. He tells me how he watched the people, as they where trying to climb on to the plane, as it accelerated down the runway. He certainly had the look of someone who had experienced first hand the sadness and madness of war.

    2. Hey and thanks for the visit, this was one of my older post and it still draws traffic. Yeah I remembered seeing the pictures but it didn't do it justice. When this stuff happened, I was a kid and had no clue. Wasn't until much later that I realized what had transpired. I have blogged more about the fall of South Vietnam and the last voyage of the South Vietnamese Navy among other things.

  2. I saw that C-130 sitting on the ramp in Utapao a couple of days later... Abandoned... As far as I know, the USAF just took it back and put it back in inventory.

    1. Hey Jess,

      You hear stuff that way that you don't read in the history books or on the history channel. Stuff like that can give you the willies...

      Hey Old NFO;

      I figured you might enjoy the story, I wondered what the Military did with the stuff that was given to our allies but we happen to have still. Would have loved to get one of those Hueys that got pushed over the side during the evacuations.

    2. I was a C-130 driver at Little Rock from 2003-2007. Drove by that static display every day - they've kept it in good shape.

      It was crowded when we had 50 or so paratroops in the back; I absolutely cannot fathom 452 with 32 (32! they must have been on the crew's laps) in the cockpit. That's mindboggling.

    3. Was John Scaropa the Pilot ?

    4. Hey Unknown;

      Honestly i don't know.


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