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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Last Days in Vietnam producer Rory Kennedy; Vietnamese refugees

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Apr 22, 2015 4:04 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, April 23, 2015:

"Last Days in Vietnam," the Oscar-nominated film directed and produced by Rory Kennedy, chronicles a story that many Americans don't know, have forgotten, or don't want to know about the final days of the Vietnam War. April 30, 2015 is the 40th anniversary of the fall of the South Vietnamese capitol of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War.

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Rory Kennedy

With a reduced number of American troops in Vietnam by 1975, North Vietnamese forces had Saigon surrounded and many South Vietnamese were desperate to evacuate.

Only U.S. citizens and their dependents were officially permitted to evacuate Vietnam but some American service members feared for the well-being of their South Vietnamese allies and friends, helping them get to safety in the United States. At the last minute on April 30, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Graham Martin helped to airlift thousands of South Vietnamese from the U.S. embassy.

Rory Kennedy, producer and director of "Last Days of Vietnam" joins us on Thursday to discuss the film and the importance of remembering the events of those last days. American Experience will air the film Tuesday, April 28 on WITF-TV and PBS.

When South Vietnamese evacuated as refugees to the United States they needed places to stay. Over 140,000 refugees of the Vietnam War were housed in the U.S., including 22,000 Vietnamese and Cambodians here in Pennsylvania at Fort Indiantown Gap. There were 74 weddings, 128 births and 10 deaths during the integration process at Fort Indiantown Gap, and many of the refugees settled in the local area.

Joining us on the program Thursday are retired Air Force Colonel David Smoker, his mother, Kathleen Smoker, a volunteer at Ft. Indiantown Gap when the refugees arrived, and Loi Phong, one of the refugees who stayed there.

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David Smoker, Kathleen Smoker, Loi Phong

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  • jjones img 2015-04-23 08:21

    I understand, too, that President Ford and Henry Kissinger did not want to evacuate people until rather late in this; the Ambassador would therefore not have been able to call for such without the President's approval, which he argued for early, but it took awhile for Ford and Kissinger to agree there was no other way...

  • dtyson img 2015-04-23 08:57

    I've always wondered what happened to my friend, Wong, the Vietnamese navy interpreter assigned to our boat crew. I'm sure I'll never know, and it disturbs me to this day.

  • Ann Raley img 2015-04-23 14:20

    By very good fortune, I was able to hear all of the program this morning. I have been working with Cumberland County Historical Society on plans to work with a Dickinson College professor and her students to gather the oral histories of a number or Vietnamese refugees who resettled in our area with the help of several churches and Lutheran Social Services. I plan to be at the follow-up discussion Saturday at USAWC and would appreciate contact with any Cumberland County former refugees. I would also appreciate it if my name and contact information could be announced at the beginning of the program tomorrow a.m.
    Thank you for a wonderful program.