What the author saw, April 29, 1975: Evacuees climbing to the roof of a downtown Saigon building in order to board an Air America helicopter that would take them to Navy ships off Vietnam.
Hubert van Es
Hubert van Es (1941-2009) was the Dutch photographer who took the well-known photo of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, which shows South Vietnamese civilians scrambling to board a CIA Air America helicopter during the U.S. evacuation of Saigon.
Van Es died in Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, where he had lived after the end of the war, on May 15, 2009 at the age of 67 from a haemorrhagic stroke.
Taking the picture
Van Es, who was working for United Press International, had remained in the city for as long as possible before its occupation by North Vietnamese troops. That day he had taken pictures of Saigonese burning documents that could associate them with the United States as well as that of a Marine confronting a Vietnamese mother and her little boy. Later that day he would take his famous picture:
|Around 2:30 in the afternoon, while I was working in the darkroom, I suddenly heard Bert Okuley shout, "Van Es, get out here, there's a chopper on that roof!" I grabbed my camera and the longest lens left in the office - it was only 300 millimeters, but it would have to do - and dashed to the balcony. Looking at the Pittman Apartments, I could see 20 or 30 people on the roof, climbing the ladder to an Air America Huey helicopter. At the top of the ladder stood an American in civilian clothes, pulling people up and shoving them inside. Of course, there was no possibility that all the people on the roof could get into the helicopter, and it took off with 12 or 14 on board. (The recommended maximum for that model was eight.) Those left on the roof waited for hours, hoping for more helicopters to arrive. To no avail. After shooting about 10 frames, I went back to the darkroom to process the film and get a print ready for the regular 5 p.m. transmission to Tokyo from Saigon's telegraph office.|
The building in the photo, which has been incorrectly identified as the US Embassy since the 1970s, was not labeled as such by Van Es. Van Es has stated that he wrote, for the caption of his photograph, that the helicopter was taking evacuees off the roof of a building in downtown Saigon (22 Gia Long Street). The current address is 22 Ly Tu Trong Street and they don't allow visitors up on the roof.
- ^ Lucas, Dean. "Famous Pictures Magazine - Vietnam Airlift". http://www.famouspictures.org/mag/index.php?title=Vietnam_Airlift. Retrieved on 2007-06-01.
- ^ a b HUBERT VAN ES (April 29, 2005). "Thirty Years at 300 Millimeters" (HTML). New York Times. http://www.mishalov.com/Vietnam_finalescape.html. Retrieved on 2007-07-24.