American Experience: Last Days in Vietnam - Free Preview

Last Days in Vietnam

Presented with the support of Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission and Cuyahoga Community College Veterans Initiative

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. at the Idea Center at Playhouse Square

Join WVIZ/PBS ideastream for a Free Screening of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE’S “Last Days in Vietnam.”

Sailors push a helicopter off a landing platform of the U.S.S. Kirk to clear room for more helicopters dropping off refugees.Courtesy of Craig Compiano, Courtesy of USS KIRK Association

WVIZ/PBS, in conjunction with Civic Commons ideastream, will hold a special screening on Wednesday, April 8 of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE’S “Last Days in Vietnam” documentary, which was recently nominated for an Academy Award. The screening, and premiere on WVIZ/PBS later in the month, coincide with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.

Last Days in Vietnam, produced and directed by Rory Kennedy, chronicles the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, American officers on the ground faced a moral dilemma:  Follow official policy and evacuate U.S. citizens and their dependents only, or ignore orders and save the men, women and children they had come to value and love in their years in Vietnam.

At the risk of their careers and possible court-martial, a handful of individuals took matters into their own hands. Engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations, they waged a desperate effort to evacuate as many South Vietnamese as possible.

“A masterpiece” (The New Yorker) 
“A documentary triumph” (NewsDay) 
“Astounding in its immediacy” (Variety)

Following the screening of the 90-minute documentary, there will be Q&A with veteran Commander Hugh Doyle, who was featured in the documentary film and other guests.


Commander Hugh Doyle, US Navy (retired) 
Commander Hugh J. Doyle, USN (Retired) served as a Surface Warfare Officer for more than twenty years.  After two assignments to amphibious ships and Main Propulsion Assistant in USS, he served a one year tour in-country in Vietnam as both a Psychological Operations Advisor to the South Vietnamese Navy, and as an officer on the staff of Naval Forces Vietnam.  Following his Vietnam tour, as a young Lieutenant, he served as Chief Engineer in USS KIRK .  In 1975, KIRK took part in “Operation Eagle Pull” (the evacuation of Cambodia), “Operation Frequent Wind” (the evacuation of Vietnam), and “Operation New Life” (the voyage of 32 vessels of the former South Vietnamese Navy, carrying more than 33,000 refugees from Vietnam to the Philippines).  Following his KIRK tour, he served as an exchange officer with the Royal New Zealand Navy.  He then served as Executive Officer in USS FANNING.  During a 1981 Western Pacific deployment FANNING rescued three separate boatloads of Vietnamese “Boat People,” escaping from Vietnam, with a total of more than one hundred refugees. 

Mary Reynolds Powell 
In 1970, 23 year-old Army nurse, Mary Reynolds Powell boarded a plane bound for Vietnam. Uncertain and alone, Mary had no idea what lay ahead. Almost 30 years later, Mary tells the story of that year in her life: a year of discomfort, fear and anger, as well as courage, hope and love in her book “A World of Hurt: Between Innocence and Arrogance in Vietnam.”

Leon Bibb 
Leon Bibb is a decorated military veteran of war who received a Bronze Star Medal for his service in Vietnam. Currently, he is the Anchor/Multimedia Journalist for WEWS NewsChannel 5. He has received several awards for his excellence in journalism, including induction into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and he’s a 5-time Emmy Award winner. Bibb has interviewed sitting presidents, covered the Persian Gulf War and flew in the backseat with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. 

The screening of Last Days in Vietnam is presented with the support of:

Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission Cuyahoga Community College


Civic Commons is ideastream’s community platform that engages Northeast Ohio residents and beyond in a broad range of discussions, both online at and on-the-ground.

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