Term of Award

Spring 1977

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of History

Committee Chair

Robert D. Ward

Abstract

Few events in recent American History have elicited as much emotionalism and controversy as the fall of South Vietnam. Although American troops had not fought in the country since 1973, Americans in the spring of 1975 were acutely sensitive to the rapidly declining military situation and the plight of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. In March and April, efforts by President Gerald R. Ford to secure emergency military aid for the Saigon government created a furor among politicians and the public. Polls showed that a majority of Americans felt further military aid to Saigon would only prolong the suffering of millions of indifferent Vietnamese who did not care if they lived under communism. Following the fall of Saigon on 29 April, the President's decision to resettle thousands of "high risk" and other Vietnamese throughout the nation again caused many Americans to react in a way which the President said did not seem appropriate for a nation of refugees. Although difficult to discern because of their closeness, historians cannot overlook nor avoid the events of 1975. Basically, it can be generalized that political factors and public opinion played important roles in the aid, evacuation and refugee issues. Public opinion greatly limited the options of the President, State Department, Defense Department and the Congress in foreign policy making, in evacuation planning, in the debate over military aid to Saigon and in planning for the refugee resettlement program.

The writing of this "instant history" encountered numerous obstacles. In many cases, primary sources were not available and many sources that were used obviously were not the most reliable. With these limitations in mind, this writer hopes to have illustrated how public opinion to a degree influenced the policy making process of the American government by placing constraints upon the complex political system.

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