During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The United States has only a skeleton crew of diplomats and military operatives still in the country. As Communist victory becomes inevitable and the U.S. readies to withdraw, some Americans begin to consider the certain imprisonment and possible death of their South Vietnamese allies, co-workers, and friends. Meanwhile, the prospect of an official evacuation of South Vietnamese becomes terminally delayed by Congressional gridlock and the inexplicably optimistic U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of heroic Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible.
Note: In Last Days in Vietnam, subject Frank Snepp states, "The prearranged signal for the evacuation was broadcast on American radio in Saigon. The message was, 'The temperature is 105 and rising,' and then Bing Crosby’s 'White Christmas.' And sure enough, about ten o’clock in the morning…there was Bing Crosby on the airwaves." In many minds, this is how it is remembered, and this is what is reflected in the film. In reality, when the evacuation began the Americans running ARS were unable to find Bing Crosby's version in their music library so they broadcast the Tennessee Ernie's version of "White Christmas" instead.
THIS FILM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY
Exclusive corporate funding for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance. Major funding provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding for Last Days in Vietnam provided by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television Viewers. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
Special thanks to Naja Pham Lockwood for her generous support of Last Days in Vietnam at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.