Mapping the Vietnam War and the Fall of Saigon
April 30, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War. The war in which 58,000 Americans died ended with the communist forces of North Vietnam overtaking Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and the collapse of the Republic of South Vietnam.
The Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) on the second floor of Bracken Library houses current and historic maps of Vietnam, including maps depicting North and South Vietnam. Original U.S. Army maps published during the war are also available for research and learning—Long Binh was a U.S. Army supply facility constructed near the city of Bien Hoa, about 20 miles north of Saigon. The map above (second from top, click to enlarge) was published in 1967 and shows the location of ammunition supplies, antennas, a heliport, hospital, and recreation areas.
The Atlas Collection in Bracken Library also includes current travel, road, and topographic atlases of Vietnam and atlases describing the Vietnam War. South Vietnam Provincial Administrative Maps was published by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1967.
Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War by Harry Summers was published in 1995 and is a comprehensive cartographic guide detailing the war. The atlas includes photographs, charts, and maps describing the landmark events leading up to and during the war.
The second map above is from Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War. The red lines represent troop movements of the North Vietnamese infantry. The blue boxes are the locations of the U.S. and allied forces around Saigon, including the Long Binh base. The inset map, Evacuation of Saigon, shows where the North Vietnamese fired rockets into downtown Saigon on April 27, 1975, near the U.S. Embassy.
The events of the last days of the American presence in Saigon are described in the atlas: The U.S. Embassy workers were tasked with calming the evacuees and organizing them for evacuation:
At 3:58 A.M. on April 29, 1975, North Vietnamese rockets struck the U.S. defense attaché’ office compound at Tan Son Nhut, effectively closing the air base and ending the fixed-wing aerial evacuation of U.S. civilian workers, third-country contract employees and their dependents, and selected South Vietnamese civilians and their families underway since April 1.
On the afternoon of April 29, they began to move everyone out. By 4:15 A.M. on April 30, 2,619 evacuees had been helifted from the Embassy. But in a final betrayal, made all the more tragic by the fact that it was inadvertent, the lift was cancelled, and the final 420 evacuees were abandoned: Believing that there was a bottomless pit (of evacuees), the White House had ordered a halt. It was the Vietnam War in microcosm—good intentions but fatally flawed execution.
…The war was at an end. But not all South Vietnamese forces heeded the call for unconditional surrender. Many Air Force officers flew to bases in Thailand or to U.S. aircraft carriers, and 34 Navy warships sailed to the Philippines.
The GRMC created posters featuring photographs and maps detailing World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War for use in classroom and other educational exhibits. The posters are available from the University Libraries’ Cardinal Scholar repository. The Vietnam War poster (top, above) includes photographs and maps from atlases in the collection against a backdrop of the Vietnam War Memorial.
Maps from the GRMC may be circulated for two weeks or longer. Atlases from the atlas collection may be circulated for 28 days or longer. For more information, please contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.