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Friday marks 35th anniversary of Vietnam War's end

April 30, 2010 | 11:04 am

Friday marks the day 35 years ago that Communist tanks smashed through the gates of Saigon's presidential palace and ended the Vietnam War.

While the anniversary of the 1975 Fall of Saigon is marked with celebration in Communist Vietnam, it is a day of mourning for Vietnamese who fled their homeland, the day they lost their country, South Vietnam.

The Fall of Saigon led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, who fled on military planes, on boats, or on foot through jungles.

Many came through Camp Pendleton Marine Base and were sponsored by American families or churches. Many eventually settled in Westminster, a blue-collar town in central Orange County with cheap housing, plentiful jobs and weather similar to Vietnam.

In the bean and strawberry fields, Vietnamese began opening restaurants and shops, and Vietnamese scattered throughout the country began to move to Orange County.

Today, Orange County is home to the largest population of Vietnamese in the county, and Little Saigon is chock-full of Vietnamese markets, restaurants, doctor's and lawyer's offices. There are five daily Vietnamese language newspapers. Orange County is home to several Vietnamese politicians, including Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Garden Grove) and County Supervisor Janet Nguyen. The Westminster City Council has three Vietnamese council members, a majority.

Anti-Communism is still the pulse of the community, where demonstrations are still held and the flag of fallen South Vietnam waves atop businesses. A statue of a Vietnamese and an American soldier stands in a Westminster park. Human rights and religious freedom violations in Vietnam are still sore points.

Decades after the war, Vietnamese Americans have begun to see opportunity in their homeland. People are moving back, setting up businesses, starting humanitarian organizations to help with education or health -- actions barely imaginable a decade ago.

-- My-Thuan Tran

Photo: Vietnam Memorial statue in Westminster in Orange County. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times



Audio Slide Show:  Black April


Lives remembered, lives rebuilt, attitudes changing -- 33 years after South Vietnam fell