The Vietnam Operation Babylift during April, 1975 was an extraordinary humanitarian effort in which US military and civilian unsung heroes came together to evacuate over 2,500 Vietnamese War orphans to the United States and several other countries during the final weeks of the Vietnam War. This was just a part of the overall effort.
It was Easter Sunday in 1975, and life for Charlotte Behrendt became a series of events because of one phone call. Charlotte, twenty-eight years old, the only daughter of Edward J. Daly, listened to the anxious voice of Maria Eitz. She sounded alarmed and worried about the orphans in her care. Maria, a dedicated organizer of the Friends For All Children, an orphanage in Boulder Colorado, expressed to Charlotte her fears about the orphaned children in Saigon. DaNang had recently fallen to the Vietcong. Maria asked Charlotte for help in getting the orphans out of this now very dangerous place. There were over five hundred and fifty children in this orphanage. Maria and parents waiting in the United States for the children felt that they were in danger of being killed by the conquering forces.
They would not be alone on this flight as volunteers were willing to help. On this flight, four doctors and seventeen European, American and Australian nurses from the orphanage wanted to accompany the children to safety. As Daly sat in his hotel room, used now as his office, he counted the hundreds of dollar bills that lay on the desk in front of him. Rescuing people had become a part of his life and he enjoyed the planning process. Daly had already instructed his pilots and on many occasions flown with them to rescue men, women and children refugees from DaNang. In fact, from March 24 through March 26, 1975, World Airways rescued over 1000 refugees from DaNang to Saigon and Na Trang, using three 727 aircraft under a sub-contract with Air Vietnam, who then terminated the contract, as they felt that DaNang was too far out of control.
When they finally landed at Saigon the fuel tanks were almost empty. This flight was later referred to by CBS News as “The return flight from hell.” Now, Daly had another rescue to prepare for. He looked at Jan Wollett, she was standing near his desk awaiting instructions. Jan saw her boss counting the money to help buy supplies. She was a flight attendant who was also scheduled to take part in the rescue of the orphans. She smiled as she took the money from Daly and was sent to buy supplies needed for the flight.
The final result of this delay ended by World not flying out the five hundred and fifty orphans after all. (At least not at this time.) The World Airways crew were all extremely disappointed. But, Daly had the desire to find more orphans to take out of Saigon. Daly telephoned Mary Fisher, whose husband was in Saigon as the pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Daly told Mary that he needed babies and nurses. Mary was elated. She knew of six babies in the Seventh Day Adventist Orphanage who had been adopted and had papers to prove it. They just needed transportation to the United States. Mary even had Myma Fisher, a nurse, who was her husband’s niece.
“One of my greatest memories of this flight, happened when we were three or four hours out of Manila. I decided to go back and go down the steps to see how the doctors and the nurses were doing. Some of the infants were crying. I heard the voices of the crew. I never got down the stairway. By then the crew had changed diapers on each one of the infants, about three times. The plane was a nursery. I just thought I would let them continue what they were doing. Everything appeared alright. The air had a very strong odor of baby poo. But, I felt so good to know that the orphans were being cared for, no matter how much the plane smelled. Apparently, the people down there working with the orphans were getting accustomed to the aroma. I decided that I wasn’t going any further,” Healy, said smiling.
One morning Captain Healy was in his office? at World Airways in Oakland. A young man entered. He stood in front of his desk, and asked Healy a question. Their eyes met.
This article originally appeared on http://www.vietnambabylift.org/
A special “Thank You” to Lana Mae Noone, who contacted me about publishing this article and who provided all the information and links about this event and those listed below.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Should you have a question or comment about this article, then scroll down to the comment section below to leave your response.
If you want to learn more about the Vietnam War and its Warriors, then subscribe to this blog and get notified by email or your feed reader every time a new story, picture, video or changes occur on this website – the button is located at the top right of this page.
I‘ve also created a poll to help identify my website audience – before leaving, can you please click HERE and choose the one item that best describes you. Thank you in advance!