My Minute of News: Why the fall of Kabul feels so much like the fall of Saigon

Aug 16, 2021, 12:23 PM
fall of saigon helicopter photo...
A CIA employee helps Vietnamese evacuees escape Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, as a helicopter perches atop an apartment building near the US Embassy on April 29, 1975. (Photo: Hubert Van Es/Bettmann Archive)
(Photo: Hubert Van Es/Bettmann Archive)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

I can’t help but picture another iconic photo as I learn more about the chaotic US evacuation from Kabul, Afghanistan — a photo captured during the fall of Saigon in April of 1975. 

If you’re under 50, you might not understand why Saigon is seared into a generation’s memory. But actually what we recall is one powerful photograph — a single image that captured the futility and humiliation of that US evacuation. (Most of us remember it as the last helicopter involved in the airlift — that’s not true, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) 

The photo that encapsulated the fall of Saigon

It was April 1975. America cut a peace deal with the communists and our troops came home. But the enemy kept fighting, and the South Vietnamese surrendered their country after 58,000 US troops laid down their lives. 

As the enemy closed in on the US Embassy in Saigon, President Gerald Ford went on TV. Armed Forces Radio played White Christmas, a signal that it was time to evacuate. 

It was chaos. 

Desperate Vietnamese tried to scale the embassy walls and get out of the country. Military pilots choppered in and out, over and over, some of them staying in the air about 19 hours. 

One photo in particular stands out. An Air America chopper perches on the tiny roof of an apartment building just about a block from the embassy. Blades spinning, evacuees crowded a rickety wooden staircase or ladder, so desperate and so urgent the mission, that the ladder bowed under their weight as they scrambled to get up, get on and get out. 

And as they ran up that ladder and the helicopter readied for takeoff, a photographer snapped the shutter. 

Most of us know that photo as the last helicopter. Actually, it wasn’t. But when you see the photo, you understand how we might believe that. It says so much, without saying a single thing. 

The picture is burned into America’s memory. America’s history. 

And Sunday in Kabul, we added another dark page to the history book.

“My Minute of News” airs weekdays 3 to 7 p.m. during Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News on KSL NewsRadio. 

Read more: 

Jeff Caplan

A man walks in the rain. Incoming weather will bring rain and snow...
Martha Harris and Samantha Herrera

Winter storm hits Utah with wind, rain, and snow

The weather in Utah will see a few changes in the next few hours, according to the National Weather Service.
1 month ago
Stock photo of an egg being peeled.  Photo credit: Canva...
Simone Seikaly

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: The secret to easy hard boiled eggs

After 700 tests, a researcher has found the perfect combination to assure an easily peeled hard-boiled egg. Hint: it's all about temperature.
1 month ago
Trucker uses CB radio. CW McCall sang trucker songs....
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Whatever happened to CB radios?

CW McCall sang a trucker song that at one point, nearly every American could sing word-for-word. But why was a trucker song so popular?
1 month ago
Eric Church at a concert....
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: The worst concert cancellation ever

Concert cancellations are always a possibility. But the way an artist cancels can be a delicate art, and some are better at it than others.
2 months ago
vending machines drive-thru...
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Burger vending machines

Food vending machines already exist in other parts of the world. With the current labor shortages, maybe U.S. restaurants should take note.
2 months ago
Lucy Harris...
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Queen of Basketball

Lucy Harris was a female basketball player and could have been the first woman to play for Jazz. A documentary about her life won an Oscar on Sunday.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
My Minute of News: Why the fall of Kabul feels so much like the fall of Saigon