Faced with impending collapse, South Vietnam braced for the incoming communist army.
At Tan Son Nhut (Saigon) Airport, Pan American World Airways Station Manager's main concern was how to get the employees, their families and as many others, out of Vietnam.
Scrambling for legal paperwork, aircraft, crews, a destination, and a plan, the airport Station Manager coordinated the evacuation of more than 300 Vietnamese Pan Am employees and their families on April 24, 1975. The week before, he helped coordinate Operation Baby Lift evacuating over 600 orphaned babies.
On May 1st, 1975, Saigon fell.
Pan American World Airways Saigon Station Manager Mr Al Topping and a few of his Vietnamese staff honored at Pan Am Museum’s 2019 Gala. Mr Topping was involved with Operation Babylift and we encourage you to watch the based on actual events movie, about that Pan Am flight on April 25, 1975, the “Last Flight Out”. Mr Topping is played by James Earl Jones.
A yellowed & faded image of Pan American World Airways Stewardess (Purser) Ms Mary Butterworth was carefully placed in a scrapbook. When asked, the memory of her was not faded, it was crisp and fresh like a winter morning.
She was a co-worker, she was beautiful, she was a wonderful woman, she...she...she... The man’s eye’s swelled with tears.
Ms Mary Butterworth went down with Pan American World Airways Flight 812 on April 22, 1974. The Boeing 707 crashed into the mountainous region of Indonesia, just some miles from the airport. The area was inaccessible, the rescue and recovery was hampered. No one survived and not everyone’s remains were recovered.
In 2014, a Pan American Memorial was restored and rededicated to the victims of the crash. It is in Padang Galak. Ms Mary Butterworth, and the others, are not forgotten.
A FRIEND AND FELLOW PAN AMERS MEMORY:
Margie Perry "Thank you for honoring the crew on flight 812 and posting this story. I want to share my story with you. I was flying for Pan Am out of Los Angeles as Purser. There were two Pursers on each flight (in charge of each cabin). We would fly together for a month and could “team bid.” You became good friends quickly. LAX was small and many Pursers and Flight Attendants flew together often. In 1974, My cabin crew and I went up the side of our 707 on a scaffolding type of stairs. When we got to the top there was already a crew onboard. The crew were my good friends. I had just flown a month with the Chief Purser, Mary Butterworth. I said, “You’re on my plane, are you going to London with us???” “No, this is our plane, we’re going to Hong Kong.” After a few minutes of talking and laughing I realized we were on the wrong plane. We hugged goodbye, wished each other a good trip and looked forward to seeing each other again in two weeks.
Mary, the Chief Purser on the HKG flight was engaged to marry her fiancé, a lawyer. I was to be at the wedding.
Several days later people started calling me, “Are you OK? “ I was but my dear friends were not. Their flight slammed into a mountain in Bali and they were all killed. For the next year I flew to Bali. Not because I chose it, but because I was junior and nobody wanted to go there. Every trip I would stand on the tarmac and talk to the “trees” and tell them how angry I was that they left me. To this day, I see their smiling faces in the FICL door. I will always miss them, and I will always have them in my heart. I think of them so often, to this day, and I’m thankful they were part of my life. I will never forget, and my heart is heavy when I think of them. I tear up so easily. But, I try to focus on the fabulous trips and layovers we shared. Friends forever."