The Pan Am Podcast

Episode 42: Operation Babylift: The 1975 Saigon Evacuation

November 21, 2023 Pan Am Museum Foundation Season 3 Episode 42
The Pan Am Podcast
Episode 42: Operation Babylift: The 1975 Saigon Evacuation
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Show Notes

In this episode we explore Operation Babylift, the historic April 1975 evacuation of more than 3,000 Vietnamese war orphans just before the fall of South Vietnam.

We are joined by Thoa Bui, Vice President of Programs and Services for Holt International and Al Topping, Pan Am’s Country Director for South Vietnam.

This episode is a follow up to Episode 4: Evacuation of Saigon, Wings of Freedom Mission. If you haven’t heard that installment, we encourage you to do so after listening to this episode.

Operation Babylift was directed by U.S. President Gerald R. Ford in the final days of South Vietnam shortly before the country fell in 1975. 

Pan American World Airways sent two Boeing 747 jumbo jets, one charted by Holt International and the other by American businessman Robert Macauley, to assist in the evacuation.

On April 24, 2022, the Pan Am Museum partnered with Holt International and hosted a 47th anniversary celebration. In attendance were two dozen babies, now adults, and their families. They were re-united with three Pan Am flight attendants on their flights and Al Topping. Bringing these groups together for this special humanities program demonstrated the massive positive impact this one historical event had on generations of people to this day. Watch the video from this incredible event in the episode description.

In future episodes we plan on exploring the stories of the children, now adults, of Operation Babylift and the Pan Am flight attendants that cared for them on those historic flights.

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Thoa Bui is Licensed Master Social Worker and serves as Vice President of Programs and Services for Holt International. She implements Holt’s vision and strategic leadership to ensure growth in Holt’s programs for vulnerable children in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the U.S.

Pan Am veteran Al Topping is the author of the book, “Wings of Freedom: A True Story,” about his incredible experience in Saigon.  Purchase Al's book from the Museum’s online store.

In 1990, NBC made a movie out of Al’s story called Last Flight Out starring James Earl Jones, Richard Crenna, and Rosliand Chao. Watch the full movie on  our YouTube channel!

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A very special thanks to Mr. Adam Aron, Chairman and CEO of AMC and president of the Pan Am Historical Foundation and Pan Am Brands for their continued and unwavering support!