The Military Order of the Carabao held its Annual Wallow in Washington, DC on February 4, 2017. This year’s Annual Wallow had a special surprise for attendees: a scale model of the USS Kirk. Artist Steven Dunn crafted the model from fiberglass and mounted it on a wooden base. The ship has a special meaning for Captain Paul Jacobs and Honorable Richard L. Armitage, Order of the Carabao members who served in Vietnam.
In 1975, Operation Frequent Wind used this Knox-class destroyer to evacuate Saigon, Vietnam before the city was overtaken by the North Vietnamese Army. From Saigon, Mr. Armitage directed the rushed evacuation of South Vietnamese aircraft to leave Saigon to attempt a rescue by the American fleet stationed in the South China Sea. The approach of these aircraft to the ship which had been prepared for a military fight but not a humanitarian operation has been described by Cpt. Jacobs, the Kirk’s Captain, as “…bees flying all over the place. And they were just going due east, trying to find someplace to land.” On the first two days alone, the ship received a cargo from 16 helicopters of nearly 200 refugees, the majority of whom were women and children. Over the course of weeks, the ship would subsequently help save tens of thousands arriving from South Vietnamese navy vessels. For many Vietnamese the Kirk was the first time they set foot upon US soil, a country they would later make their new home.
Many of the Vietnamese rescued by the Kirk and other ships in the naval fleet were settled in camps in the U.S. Some resettled in communities across the northeast US, including the Washington, DC metro. Mr. Minh Nguyen, CEO & President of Millennium Enterprise Corporation, an IT consulting firm located in Fairfax, Virginia, himself a Vietnamese refugee, maintains active participation in the local Vietnamese-American community. He graciously donated funds to help build the replica model ship to preserve a potent symbol of humanitarian aid to the Vietnamese-American community.
“I’m proud to be a part of preserving for future generations a key historical moment in the Vietnam War where US servicemen proved themselves to both courageous against a military opponent and compassionate towards the civilians affected by the war,” said Mr. Nguyen.
The ship’s harrowing rescues were featured in the 2010 film The Lucky Few. The model will be on tour for public viewing in 2017 before being installed at a permanent exhibition space.