In Memoriam

The Babylift Memorial Page is dedicated to all who died during Babylift or as
a result of Babylift.

We apologize for any names inadvertently left off this list.
We ask anyone having additional names to please contact Lana Noone at

"Now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will see face to face."

Someday we will all meet, in another realm.
Until that day, you will always remain in our hearts.

Memorial Service
April 4, 2002
Site of the C-5A crash
Outside of Saigon, Vietnam

By Sister Susan Carol McDonald

In late March / early April of 1975, commercial aircraft had all seats leaving Saigon already filled to capacity. The war was at a pitch where the airport sustained shelling from time to time and the main flights out were military cargo planes. Our agency, as well as others in Vietnam at the time who were responsible for children in their care, were looking for ways children could join awaiting families. The other option, of being returned to an overcrowded orphanage, we knew, would be choosing a probable death for the the child. Orphanages which ordinarily were used to meager resources now had very few means of acquiring medication and food.

The U.S. government was providing an airlift for some Vietnamese persons who worked for US agencies and, every half hour, a cargo C-131 or C-141 would fly over our orphanage on its way out to Guam or the Phillippines.

On April 3, 1975, we were notified by USAID (United States Aid to International Development) that three Medevac "Nightingale" planes were in the Phillippines and would be sent the next day to provide transportation for the children in our care.

Then, the following day, April 4, 1975, we were told that plans had changed; that one of the worlds largest planes, a cargo C-5A (which stood about six stories high) had landed at Tan Son Nhut and had off-loaded military supplies (the plane could carry four "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters, tanks, very large equipment). President Ford had heard of our request for transportation, had decided that the military would provide transportation, and called this effort Operation Babylift. The first of the Operation Babylift flights would be the C-5A cargo plane and would carry children in our care as well as wives and children of the US Defense Attache office, the embassy and other U.S. personnel.

When we realized the Medevac planes hadn't materialized, the decision was made to put mainly the oldest children on board, children aged three and above. Also, I was to send 22 of the strongest infants in my care, who could be strapped into seats in the troop compartment of the huge plane. None of the high risk children from New Haven or Hy Vong would go on the flight.

Each of the children had passports, documentation required for adoption and had been placed with adoptive families who were waiting for their arrival. The cargo hold of the C-5A was the size of a large gymnasium (it could hold more than 16 city buses parked side by side), had netting on the floor, and a few seats along the side of the plane. It was not configured for passengers, there were no seat belts, and no possibility for oxygen, should that be needed. Much later we learned that that specific plane had had trouble with its rear doors 17 times. Only later did we hear the tape (acquired by 20/20) with the pilot expressing his concern that if something should happen with decompressors, there would be no way to safeguard the passengers. However, the pilot was instructed by the board master to proceed.

Just 15 minutes after take off - as the plane approached cruising altitude just over the South China Sea - the back doors blew out and, along with them, some crew, staff and children. The rudder control for the plane was lost, but the pilot was skillful and somehow was able to turn the plane back toward Saigon, however, with no control over speed of descent. Just outside of Saigon, the plane impacted in a rice field at 350 m.p.h., bounced over the Saigon River and eventually came to rest in a rice paddy a few miles from the airport. The pilot was later given well-deserved credit that anyone survived. Nurses at Saigon Adventist Hospital (the old Third Field Military Hospital for those of you who were there) phoned me (I was back at the nursery) and asked me to send child care workers. "They are bringing in your babies wounded" was the message. Rosemary Taylor and I jumped in a taxi. We rode to the hospital in complete silence in a ride that seemed to last forever and arrived at the ambulance entrance along with trucks, jeeps, conveyances of all kinds which were bringing in adults and children, some living, some badly injured and others, dead.

In all, about 230 of our children and half of our staff had boarded the plane and at least 180 children, staff and US citizens were killed. One of our staff members, Christie Lievermann, survived, as well as some of the children, including the 22 I whom had boarded from New Haven. As I looked through body bags, attempting to identify persons, I became aware of the number of U.S. citizens, wives and children of American and U.S. government agencies who had also died on that plane.

At the site we will have a memorial service. Included also are the names of children and staff who died in the crash. We remember, too, the U.S. citizens, women, and children of the attache office who also died in the crash, as well as members of the plane crew.

- Susan Carol McDonald, Sister of Loretto.


U.S. Air Force

Lieutenant Colonel William S. Willis

"My dad was also on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans."

Submitted by Lt. Col. William S. Willis' daughter, Karen Willis Acree, August 23, 2004.

Captain Mary Therese Klinker

Capt. Klinker, a flight nurse assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans. This is known as the Operation Babylift crash. There are also US Air Force and Air Force Association web pages about Operation Babylift. From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Captain Edgar R. Melton

Capt. Melton died as a result of crash

Master Sergeant Joe Castro

Msgt. Castro was also on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans.

- Submitted by crew member Phil Wise on February 3, 2005

Master Sergeant Denning C. Johnson

Msgt. Johnson was also on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans.

- Submitted by his daughter, Yvonne Pickering, April 4, 2004

Master Sergeant Wendle L. Payne

Msgt. Payne died as a result of crash

Technical Sergeant Felizardo C. Aguillon

Tsgt. Aguillon died as a result of crash

Technical Sergeant William M. Parker

Tsgt. Parker died as a result of crash

Staff Sergeant Donald T. Dionne
Flight Engineer

Ssgt. Dionne died as a result of crash

Staff Sergeant Kenneth E. Nance

Ssgt. Nance was also on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans.

- Submitted by crew member Phil Wise on February 3, 2005

Staff Sergeant Michael G. Paget

Ssgt. Paget died as a result of crash


Operation Babylift

Barbara Adams
Ann Marie
Anne of Green Gables
Clara F. Bayot
Nova Bell
Micheal Bell
Hung BernardArleta Bertwell
Paul Nguyen Ngoc Bich
Jacques Binh
Helen Blackburn
Birgit Blanc
Ann Bottorff
Celeste Brown
David Bui
Dolly Bui
Michou Bui
Tina Bui
Vivienne Clark
Hai Cone
Juanita Creel
Mary Ann Crouch
Dorothy Curtiss
Kim Hoa Deborah
Tran Dinh
Theresa Drye
Helen Drye
Elisabeth Dung
Mary Lyn Eichen
Monique Ewald
Cuong Fitch
Elizabeth Fugino
Ruthanne Gasper
Tran Van Hai
Beverly Herbert
Penelope Hindman
Vera Hollibaugh
Dorothy Howard
Desmond Hung
Barbara Kauvulia
Khanh Quoc Kien
Mai Kristen
Sister Ursula Lee
C. S. Lewis
Thuy Linh
Bach Mai
Barbara Maier
Lee Makk
Diep Marie
Mark Paul
Rebecca Martin
Sarah Martini
Martha Middlebrook
Katherine Moore
Marta Moschkin
Margaret Moses
Do Xuan My
Pascal Nhan
Tran Tinh Nhu
Kim Oanh
Marion Polgrean
Bob Poulton
June Poulton Joan Pray
Sayonna Randall
Anne Reynolds
Helen Rosalie Drye
Diedre Roukema
Marjorie Snow
Laurie Stark
Barbara Stout
Carsten Tam
Anh Tinh
Tom Otterson
Hy Vong
Doris Jean Watkins
Sharon Wesley

We also remember and mourn the members of the plane crew. If you have any of their names please forward them to Lana Noone by email to

We share in the grief of the birth mothers and fathers of children who perished in the crash and the families who awaited the arrival of those children and family members.

Memorial at Fresno City College
Fresno, California

Adrian Joel Acosta died on November 19, 2005

"One of his most significant achievements, close to his heart, was his role as founder and chairman of the Veteran's Peace Memorial Monument and Court of Honor on the campus of Fresno City College, CA.

The monument honors America's veterans from all six brances of service and the countless men and women the'citiizen soldiers' who support the efforts of those who have sacrificed for our coutnry.

Adrian was responsible for honroing the Circle of Sisters at the the Peace Memorial at Fresno City College with the names of the civilian women who served and died in Vietnam."

- Sally Vinyard

"While only 8 military women died in Vietnam, 57 civilian women died there, and their names are insciribed on Adrian's Veterans Peace Memorial."

- Carolyn Tanaka

(Editor's note: 34 of the 57 women died in the C5A Vietnam Babylift plane crash, April 4, 1975)

Polly Oakley, Defense Attache Office, Memorial Statement...

July, 2006:

The Viet Nam Babylift community was saddened to learn of the recent death of Polly Oakley.

The following was written by Sally Vinyard in commemoration of Polly's service in Viet Nam:

"If it had not been for Polly saving the letter I wrote her from Vietnam listing the women who were killed on the C-5a we would not have a record of those names.

I sat down (I think the 12th of April, the original letter is with the Circle of Sister archives at the Univ of Denver) when I had a few moments and wrote to tell her of the tragedy and list the names and where they worked etc. If I remember correctly I had a copy of the manifest in front of me. This was the first opportunity I had to write her. Thirty four were friends of ours.

Years later when they were preparing the Vietnam Women's Memorial people suddenly realized we had no names. I wrote Polly and said do you remember ----- and in the return mail she sent me the letter, envelope and all. So we had an authentic record. I have blessed her many times for this and meant to write long before this time to give credit to Polly for keeping that letter.

Polly served a tour in Danang in the late 1960's (while I was with OICC in Saigon) but we did not meet until we both returned (at the call of our country) to Saigon in March 1973 when the Paris Peace Accords were signed.

We became friends when she moved into the billet where I lived and we became closer. We rode to and from work together each day. Learned to play pool from the "big boys" and even played in the Southeast Asia tournament one year. We supported each other during some very dire times. I doubt if either would have made it without the other.

Later, after we retired, we traveled together (over 40 countries) visited in each others homes and relatives homes, in China, Germany and United States.

When we were visiting my Grandson Aaron Vinyard and Family in Virginia and his young son was trying to figure out the relationship and I said, "well Aunt Polly is my friend but she is like a Sister" and little Connor said, "She is your Baby Sister" and she truly was.

If there is someway you can take some of this information to make a tribute to Polly I would be so grateful.


Sally Vinyard is an "unsung hero" of the Viet Nam Babylift, who's Viet Nam service during April, 1975 is documented in the chapter 'Last Woman Out" in "White Christmas in April", the story of the final days of the Viet Nam War.

Sally worked directly with General Homer G. Smith during Babylift, and their untiring commitment to Babylift was the primary reason for its success.

The website is honored for the oppportunity to commemorate the life of Polly Oakley and grateful for her Viet Nam service.

We extend our deepest sympathy and our gratitude to her family and friends.***