Evacuation of Refugees in Vietnam
Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines
Date/s: 4th September 1954
As a part of Operation Pasage to Freedom the aircraft carrier HMS WARRIOR was among those sent to evacuate non-Communist refugees from Haiphong, North Vietnam to Vung Tau, South Vietnam, transporting more than 3,221 people in two voyages, and being awarded a South Vietnamese Presidential Citation.
Refugees were transfered from a French LCT (landing craft tank) to HMS WARRIOR at the port of Haiphong
Royal Marines provided security and searched the belongings of those embarking the carrier.
Operation Passage to Freedom was a term used by the United States Navy to describe the propaganda effort and the assistance in transporting in 310,000 Vietnamese civilians, soldiers and non-Vietnamese members of the French Army from communist North Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) to non-communist South Vietnam (the State of Vietnam, later to become the Republic of Vietnam) between the years 1954 and 1955.
The French and other countries may have transported a further 500,000. In the wake of the French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Geneva Accords of 1954 decided the fate of French Indochina after eight years of war between the colonial French Union forces and the Viet Minh, which fought for Vietnamese independence. The accords resulted in the partition of Vietnam at the 17th parallel north, with Ho Chi Minh's communist Viet Minh in control of the north and the French-backed State of Vietnam in the south.
The agreements allowed a 300-day period of grace, ending on May 18, 1955, in which people could move freely between the two Vietnams before the border was sealed. The partition was intended to be temporary, pending elections in 1956 to reunify the country under a national government.
Between 600,000 and one million people moved south, including more than 200,000 French citizens and soldiers in the French army while between 14,000 and 45,000 civilians and approximately 100,000 Viet Minh fighters moved in the opposite direction.
A total of 555,037 passengers were recorded on 505 sea trips. The French Navy accounted for the vast majority of the naval evacuees, with 388 voyages, while the US Navy made 109. British, Taiwanese and Polish ships made two, two and four journeys respectively.