By Jim Tortolano
The path to the possible establishment of a memorial to “Black April” – the fall of South Vietnam to communist forces in 1975 – was made more clear at Tuesday’s meeting of the Garden Grove City Council.
What was described as an “ad hoc” process for determining how any memorial or monument might be established or placed in city parks or other public property was outlined and approved by the council on a 5-0 vote.
The idea of a “Black April and Vietnam Memorial” in Garden Grove Park was first raised by Councilman Phat Bui at the Sept. 27 council meeting. As originally conceived, it would have included busts of four generals and one colonel from the Army of Republic of Vietnam who committed suicide rather than surrender to the communists.
A memorial to people who had killed themselves drew criticism from some members of the public and the council. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Bui spoke of a somewhat scaled-down version. “This will no longer be a Vietnam War memorial,” he said. “It will be more about the suffering of refugees after Black April.”
A staff report, surveying the policies of other cities, suggested that any memorial begin with a letter of intent to the city, followed by a specific proposal being vetted by the city’s planning and parks departments, and then on to the recreation, arts and parks commission, with final approval resting with the city council.
That concept was approved by the council, and Bui assured his colleagues that no fund-raising for the project – intended to be paid for entirely with private funds – would begin until final approval was given.
The American phase of the Vietnam War ran from 1965 to 1973. American combat troops were withdrawn after the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty in 1973, but forces from the North – officially the Democratic Republic of Vietnam – invaded the south in an offensive that started on March 10, 1975.
Without American air support, the South Vietnamese forces were driven back. Historians say that the flight of refugees and disorderly retreat of ARVN forces made matters worse, and North Vietnamese forces made their final, successful push on Saigon – now officially Ho Chi Minh City – on April 29 and 30.
Meanwhile, American naval forces and Marine Corps units were rushed to the South China Sea to evacuate American civilians and some South Vietnamese officials. After the fall of Saigon and other non-communist governments in Lao and Cambodia, an estimated 3 million people fled those countries. Approximately 138,000 Vietnamese came to the United States in that first wave of evacuation and flight.
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