On April 30, 1975, Saigon, capital of the Republic of Vietnam, falls to Communist troops from North Vietnam, marking the end of the Vietnam War. Active U.S. involvement in the conflict had ended in 1973 with a cease-fire agreement between the parties, but fighting continued between North and South Vietnam. The last two American combat deaths are two Marines who cover the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.
The last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam in 1973 as part of the peace accords. The U.S. stopped all aid to the South Vietnamese regime in August 1974 and a concerted North Vietnamese offensive started afterwards. On April 17, 1975, as the North Vietnamese closed in on Saigon, the Communist-led Khmer Rouge captured the Cambodian capital of Pnomh Penh. The following year, Vietnam was reunified as the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
In Seattle, Joe R. Hooper, the most decorated U.S. soldier in the war (Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars, eight Purple Hearts) stated, "For the first time it dawned on me that it was possibly a waste and a loss ... I am still proud of how I and my men fought. We proved we could still fight when our hands were tied" (Seattle P-I). Hooper worked as a counselor for the Veterans Administration.
At the University of Washington, 75 demonstrators held a Vietnam victory celebration in front of the Student Union Building. Another 400 students present "appeared bent on enjoying the warm spring weather rather than demonstrating" (Seattle P-I).
As the Saigon regime fell, thousands of Indochinese -- Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hmong, Meo, and other ethnic groups -- fled Communist rule, many to Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Many of these refugees were "closely identified with the American enterprise," and feared for their lives from the victorious troops. A common route of escape was by sea, earning the refugees the title of boat people. The day after Saigon fell, 13 Cambodian families arrived in Seattle from refugee camps as the first of a wave of the Indochinese migration to Washington state.
More than 58,000 Americans died in the war. Vietnamese deaths, military and civilian, North and South, are estimated at 2.1 million.