Vietnamese refugees board LST 516 for their journey from Haiphong, North Vietnam, to Saigon, South Vietnam during Operation Passage to Freedom, October 1954
030630-N-0000X-001 Washington Navy Yard -- Vietnamese refugees board LST 516 for their journey from Haiphong, North Vietnam, to Saigon, South Vietnam during Operation Passage to Freedom, October 1954. This operation evacuated thousands of Vietnamese refugees from the then newly created Communist North Vietnam to the Democratic South Vietnam. By the end of the operation, the Navy had carried to freedom more then 293,000 immigrants, vehicles, and other cargo. The Naval Historical Center and Surface Navy Association are seeking Navy veterans and former Vietnamese refugees who witnessed and participated in this little known rescue. U.S. Navy photo. (RELEASED)
 
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Historical Center Seeks Veterans of Little Known Refugee Rescue
Story Number: NNS030630-20
Release Date: 7/1/2003 4:20:00 PM
 

By Anika Richburg, Naval Historical Center Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Naval Historical Center (NHC) and Surface Navy Association are seeking Navy veterans who witnessed and participated in the events of 1954’s Operation Passage to Freedom.

This operation evacuated thousands of Vietnamese refugees from the then newly created communist North Vietnam to the democratic South Vietnam.

As the French fought desperately to retain a foothold in North Vietnam, this operation was conducted by U.S. Navy Task Force 90 (TF 90) under Adm. Lorenzo S. Sabin from his flagship USS Estes (AGC-12). TF 90 evacuated refugees from Haiphon, North Vietnam, to Saigon, South Vietnam, Aug. 18, 1954, to May 20, 1955.

The ships involved were 74 Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs), transports, attack cargo ships, dock landing ships and other vessels. The Military Sea Transport Service (MSTS) provided an additional 39 transports, supplied and replenished by the Logistics Support Force, Western Pacific, stationed at Danang Bay, South Vietnam.

Fleet medical units and Naval Beach Group I elements helped the refugees encamped ashore at both ends of the transit route. By the end of the operation, the Navy had carried to freedom some 293,000 immigrants, vehicles and other cargo.

“From the evacuation of North Vietnam in 1954 to the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, U.S. naval operations were crucial in the Vietnam war. The Naval Historical Center wants to make sure the history and heritage of early operations, such as Operation Passage to Freedom, are preserved,” said Dr. William S. Dudley, director, NHC.

If you were one of the thousands of Sailors (enlisted and officers) who took part in this humanitarian operation, or know someone who did and are willing to talk about it, please contact Dr. William S. Dudley, Director, Naval Historical Center, Building 57, Washington, DC 20374 or (202) 433-2210 OR email William.Dudley@navy.mil.

For related news, visit the Naval Historical Center Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/navhist.