Colonel Robert Kane
United States Army
In recognition of the unsung heroes of the Vietnam Babylift we present the following stories, journals, testimonials and accounts.
Excerpt from the Babylift Writings of Retired Colonel Robert Kane, Commanding Officer, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA-April, 1975:
Operation SPOVO-Support of Vietnmaese orphans...
On Tuesday, April 1, 1975, I happened to be standing in the outer office of the headquarters, Presidio of San Francisco, when my secretary said, "Hey boss, you have a call from an anxious female.
The lady on the other end of the line was indeed in a state. Her conversation went something like this:
"Colonel Kane, the Army simply has to help us. Ed Daly has a DC 8 in the air from Saigon to Manila with Vietnamese orphans on board. He'll be landing the plane at Oakland Airport Thursday evening, and I must find some agency that'll be willing to take care of them until they can be adopted. Nobody is willing to help us. Please do the right thing."
I thought for a moment and said to myself, "Why not?"
I responded, "We'll do it unless I get overruled by my parent headquarters. If you don't hear back from me in two hours, it'll be a go."
I then when back to my office and picked up the telephone. I was connected with a Senior Officer. I related the situation to him and the action I intended to take, without going into any real details. I told him if I didn't hear back in two hours, the operation would have to commence on schedule Thursday.
When I came back from lunch there was no reply. I told my secretary to assemble the staff at one o'clock.
A word of background:
The Presidio of San Francisco was a rather sleepy command on some of the most valuable land in the world. Our normal duties were administrative. Our staff did its work well, but was not used to emergency situations. Now, we had a real one on our hands.
The ladies and gentlemen from our various staff sections trooped into my office at the appointed time. I summarized the situation, telling them that this was a fine chance to show the world what a determined group of people could do. At the meeting people began to get truly inventive on how to handle the logistics of the situation. Our job would be to support and organzie the effort, something we were well qualified to do.
Somehow, we lived through the many meetings and little problems that came up. One question was where the money for the operation would come from. I told the staff they were not to wrory about monetary matters - that someone on high would provide the funds. At that point, I had not the slightest idea of what I was talking about - only that our higher headquarters wouldn't let us or the children starve.
When Thursday came, the buses were dispatched on time with enough volunteers, mostly women, to have one per child, a pattern we continued to follow for the next three weeks. Ed Daly's World Airways plane landed on schedule and the children made their trek to the Presidio and their new lives.
A word about the volunteers ;
They came from all over the Bay Area, male and female, old and young. Some were soldiers, some were grubby hippies and some were wives of military personnel. They came in droves with only one ambition in mind, to help us in any way they could.
The doctors and nurses came from all over the Bay Area to volunteer their time Because many of the children were ill when they arrived, the physicians were able to arrange bed space at their hospitals for the most seriously ill. Assisting these dedicated professionals was a small army of volunteers who performed invaluable service in cleaning up messes, feeding children, and generally making themselvers useful. I don't think I have ever seen so much love on display at any one time.
I met a 60-year-old Catholic priest tending one of the orphans. He had been there as a volunteer for the past three days. He said to me, "I've been through a number of wonderful experiences, but this is the greatest outpouring of human love I've ever seen."