Vietnam veterans reflect on the 45th anniversary of the 'Fall of Saigon'

SEATTLE -- April 30, 2020, marks the 45th anniversary of the “Fall of Saigon” and essentially the end of the Vietnam War.

For local Vietnam veterans, the images captured on that day are still a painful reminder.

"It reminds us that in the end, we walked away from our allies," said Joe Galloway, a famed war correspondent. "We walked away from South Vietnam and it fell into the hands of our enemies and that’s not a time for celebration.”

Galloway served four tours as a war correspondent in Vietnam for United Press International.  He was decorated with a Bronze Star Medal with "V" for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire in the Ia Drang Valley, the only civilian to receive such a U.S. Army medal during the war.

Joe Galloway in Vietnam as a young war correspondent for UPI. Photo provided by Joe Galloway.

Galloway said when these anniversaries come up, it's still painful for Americans who fought in Vietnam.

"I think this one especially," Galloway said. "You think about all we put into it in terms of blood and treasure and it all came in the end to a defeat.”

He said for too many American service members, the horror they experienced during the war in Vietnam was only made worse when they returned home to America. The country was divided about the war. Many members of the military were called "warmongers" and "baby killers."

Like a true war correspondent, Galloway quoted a general for context.

“General Hal Moore said, "It’s okay to hate war, nobody hates war more than those who fight it, but you must never hate the warrior."

Galloway has written a new book, titled, They Were Soldiers: The Sacrifices and Contributions of Our Vietnam Veterans. It showcases 49 Vietnam veterans,  from Colin Powell to Barry McCaffrey.

Vietnam veteran and POW Joe Crecca, of North Bend, Washington, still feels like the Fall of Saigon is not how the Vietnam War should have ended.

“The U.S. Military should have never lost that war,” Crecca said.

Crecca's F-4 Phantom was shot down over North Vietnam. He was captured and held at the prison camp known as the "Hanoi Hilton" for more than six years.

Joe Crecca was held captive for more than six years in North Vietnam. Photo provided by Crecca.

“The best group of Americans I ever met in my life were in a prison camp in Hanoi," Crecca recalled. "They could only compare to the ones I flew with before I got shot down.”

On this day, instead of focusing on the Fall of Saigon, Crecca preferred to talk about the bravery of the Americans who served alongside him.

“We were willing to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk," Crecca said. "We flew into the face of enemy fire and we did it willingly.”

A reminder for all of us, to continue to honor the courage, service, and sacrifice of those who fought in America’s “Lost War."