Exploding shells and rockets rattled me awake in the early hours of a misty Tuesday morning in Saigon. I scrambled to my hotel roof and watched as fireballs, smoke and debris burst across the city’s famous airport — once one of the busiest in the world, now shut down as thousands desperate to evacuate jammed the hangars. As dawn arrived, people rushed to the rooftops of nearby buildings, staring in shock at the sudden, savage attack from artillery encircling the city. Two older military transport planes made an attempt to climb into the sky, slowly twisting and turning to escape surface-to-air missiles. Clay pigeons in a shooting gallery, they both soon exploded in smoke and flames, crashing in pieces on the houses below. Within 24 hours, the whole city was engulfed in chaos as a new regime took over. It was April 1975.
This may be the fate that awaits Baghdad if the march of ISIS continues. The Sunni insurgency has already captured much of Iraq’s north (much as the Vietcong had) and is steadily pushing southward. If it reaches the city, what I saw unfold in Saigon nearly 40 years ago is probably a good proxy for what to expect. Here’s what it looked like.
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