By Tessa Faust
Lincoln High hosted a historic screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam in the Ted Sorensen Theatre on March 26. The room was packed full of Vietnam veterans and refugees. After showing a 30 minute clip of the documentary, there was a panel discussion which included two people featured in the film – U.S Navy commander Hugh Doyle and the Vietnamese captain in charge of combat operations Kiem Do.
The two were flown to Lincoln by PBS for the event. They addressed the audience and answered questions after the screening. Dau Nguyen, head of the Lincoln Vietnamese business community, was an officer in Saigon under Do during the last days of the Vietnam War. The two saw each other again for the first time since then. “It was a very good surprise for me. I wouldn’t expect to see him over here. A long long him he was young” Do said.
The documentary is about the final weeks in Vietnam at the end of the war, and how American servicemen helped evacuate as many friends and family members and South Vietnamese collaborators before Saigon fell. Do was able to lead over 30,000 people to safety on ships that were packed to overflowing. The plan to evacuate was secret. So secret that Captain Kiem Do couldn’t tell his family. “I lost my family in the process to keep it secret. I wouldn’t dare to let my family know, because I knew my wife would talk to her sister, her sister would talk to a cousin and then nothing would be secret” said Do.
“The biggest problem we had is how do you feed and care for 33,000 people,” said Doyle at the panel. His ships were only designed to carry a few hundred passengers. Out of the students who went many found it to be a very educating and rewarding experience. A lot wish to know more about Saigon and the Vietnam War in general. “I feel like the best part of it was them talking at the end. I thought it would be weird to ask them questions and I was scared of people asking them weird questions but the answers were really interesting,” said LHS sophomore Olivia Rask. “I haven’t learned much about the Vietnam war in the level I have the Revolutionary war or something like that in school so that really made me want to understand it better,” Rask said.