On April 29, 1975, Operation Frequent Wind saw the evacuation of those Americans who remained is Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history — an 18-hour operation that carried 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese to safety (or to escape the people’s justice, depending on your point of view).
Let’s talk about Roses weekend, and the associated difficulties getting to and from campus.
For those members of staff who use public transport, leaving campus last Friday was a fraught affair. Roses weekend necessitated (for whatever reason) the closure of Bigforth Drive, which meant that number 2 buses would not be running from the underpass. There was no indication as to where the buses WOULD run from (if at all), and no details of when the last bus would be setting off.
What to do? Your intrepid correspondent knew that such an exit would be complicated by the hold-ups on the A6 caused by the roadworks opposite the Health Innovation Campus building site. Should he leave shortly after arriving to avoid being trapped on Campus over the weekend? Or should he risk carrying on shredding confidential documents and deleting incriminating emails until the very last minute and be on that last bus leaving the University?
Instead of Jolly Green Giants, as the choppers out of Saigon were known, Stagecoach’s Big Red Double Deckers were our means of exodus. Travellers weren’t sure that Stagecoach staff would not be deployed, as U.S. Marines had been to smash the fingers of desperate Vietnamese trying to make it over the wall of the Embassy to safety, to restrict University staff trying to make it onto the overcrowded last bus.
When your correspondent managed to board one of the double-deckers, he found himself surrounded by evacuees nervously fingering their bags and frantically texting loved ones. As the bus left the underpass, thousands of people could be seen moving towards the road, as marshals (or marines – it was difficult to tell in the moment) closed in with barriers.
A few days later, news reached the subtext warehouse of further calamity as innocent visitors, having thought they were just ‘getting the number 2 to campus’, found themselves unceremoniously dumped outside Cartmel and told the bus wouldn’t be travelling any further.
subtext would like to hear any accounts from travellers caught in the thick of the operation. For this correspondent it was a close thing – something that could have been avoided by actually publishing the time of departure.