Of Ladders And Letters

On the anniversary of Saigon's fall, a trove of documents sheds new light on old traumas

The owner of a chain of supercenters in Michigan would hardly seem a match for Henry Kissinger in a debate over the Vietnam War, but at the 1995 Gerald R. Ford Foundation board meeting, the former Secretary of State indeed lost a heated argument on the subject to one Fred Meijer of Grand Rapids. At issue was an 18-step metal ladder, utterly unremarkable except that in April 1975 thousands of desperate South Vietnamese, fleeing capture by the invading North Vietnamese for freedom in the U.S., had clambered up its sturdy steps onto the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon and...

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