On April 24, 1975, Pan Am’s Allan Topping faced down armed South Vietnamese soldiers to bring 463 passengers to freedom. The next day, Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces.
In the days leading up to the last flight, Topping spent many sleepless nights anxious to figure out a way to evacuate his Vietnamese staff. As the Pan Am Director for Vietnam and Cambodia, he had successfully managed flights for Operation Babylift just a week prior, evacuating orphaned children out of South Vietnam.
In an effort to save his staff, Topping devised a strategy and convinced the South Vietnamese government of a plan that would allow him to get his staff, and their immediate family members, out of the country.
Despite FAA mandated cessation of all U.S. commercial air service to-and-from South Vietnam, Topping managed to arrange for one last emergency charter flight out of Saigon.
A Pan Am Boeing 747, packed with 463 passengers and desperate to escape communist forces, took off for Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Here, the evacuees were offloaded and transferred via a charter flight to Guam where they would be processed and eventually sent to the United States.
Wings of Freedom is a true tale of long, desperate hours, gut-wrenching decisions, brutality and heroism. Topping’s efforts to ensure the safety and resettling of his Vietnamese staff and their family members demanded extraordinary courage, out-of-the-box thinking and the help of committed and courageous people who risked all to save the refugees. Wings of Freedom is a testimony to the bravery and commitment of Pan American World Airways and its people.
- Publisher : Bluewaterpress LLC (March 10, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 152 pages