Friday, September 23, 2016

Operation Babylift

(Photo: Jean-Claude Francolon/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)
At the end of the Vietnam War in April 1975 the U.S. undertook an operation to evacuate thousands of orphaned children from Vietnam before the fall of Saigon. Planes were turned into makeshift nurseries for over 2,500 children who were slated to be adopted out to waiting U.S. families. Three processing centers were formed at military outposts on the West Coast where children were received before being placed.

San Francisco's Presidio was an army base at the time and a cavernous football field-sized building called Harmon Hall was transformed into a massive care facility. An April 6, 1975 San Francisco Chronicle article reported that there were “7,886 bottles of formula, at least 10,000 disposable diapers, 2,400 cotton tipped swabs and 750 cotton balls, 1,440 aspirin tablets, gallons of baby powder, ointment by the bushel, toothpaste and towels” on hand at the Presidio. The same article described a plane bound for Seattle “crammed with bassinets, diapers, bottles, and food including hot dogs.”

(Photo: Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives and Records Center)

Gradually information emerged that some of the children were not orphans. Lawsuits were filed on behalf of the children including one that sought to reunite adoptees with living relatives. Some have successfully formed relationships with biological family as adults while others are still searching.

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