The first 120,000 refugees who escaped from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon arrived in Guam and Wake Island for processing
before heading to the U.S. mainland and other countries worldwide.
Operation New Life
Operation New Life was launched on April 23, 1975 (and ended on October 16, 1975) with the goal of resettling the refugees.
Refugees arriving by planes during the last week of April-well connected and/or rich people-were bused first to the staging
area where they could rest and complete their paperwork. Distributed "K" rations that consisted of ham, crackers, jelly and
peanut butter as well as sanitary kits softened their hunger and discomfort. Once rested and fed, they went through a brief
physical examination before being sent to the customs. They were later shuttled to the galvanized Quonset huts of the "Tin
City" on the grounds of Anderson AFB (Air Force Base).
When they landed in Guam, some first-vawe evacuees were reported to have brought gold plates sewn into coat linings through
customs. Others who tripped the airport metal detector were found to have gold bullions shaped into cylinders hidden in their
As the Saigon government refused to grant exit permits, the only way to get out was to have an American connection. Some
desperate Vietnamese had offered bribes, ranging from $600 to as much as $7,000, to Americans to help them escape the war.
Others frantically drove around the city to look for alternatives. As the Tân Sơn Nhứt airport was
disabled by enemy rockets, they turned their sight to the Vietnamese Navy or commercial boats. Others just used whatever
floated such as sampans, barges, fishing boats, ferries to make their escape. Some drove all the way to the coastal
village of Vũng Tàu, seventy miles east of Saigon, to catch a fishing boat.