Vietnam vets honoring those who didn't come back - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Vietnam vets honoring those who didn't come back

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The fall of Saigon in 1975 is known as the largest airlift military evacuation in history. Forty years later, a local film crew will honor the last two Americans who didn't make it home.

In April 1975 there was a mad scramble to airlift nearly 7,000 Americans and Vietnamese out of Saigon to the safety of the USS Midway.

"We knew Saigon was surrounded. We knew that there was approximately 100,000 North Vietnamese troops. It wasn't just a bunch of little guys coming out of the jungle in pajamas. They had tanks, they had artillery pieces," veteran Doug Potratz said.

To evacuate that many people that fast, troops had to push four helicopters off the side of the ship to clear space for incoming flights.

"I've never been in the military, my family isn't a military family, but I think the stories are so compelling," filmmaker Pat Clark said.

Clark will travel back to Vietnam with the same Marines who were the last to lift off from the U.S. Embassy roof in 1975.

"These are the last guys on the last helicopter off the roof on the last day of the Vietnam War," he said.

Nearly 60,000 Americans died during the Vietnam War. The documentary "A Return to the End" honors the last two combat casualties, Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge.

"They were evacuating people by airplane, and during that time Tan Son Nhut Airfield was hit by a rocket attack," Clark said.

Potratz says exactly 40 years to the minute after McMahon and Judge were killed, they will be honored with a commemorative plaque.

"So everybody will remember who gave the ultimate sacrifice and who were the last casualties of the Vietnam War," Potratz said.

Potratz, who has travelled back to Vietnam since the war, hopes the trip will be therapeutic for his fellow vets.

"It's like having a boogeyman in the closet when you're growing up. You always imagine that there's something bad in that closet, then you grow up. You can go to the closet, you can open the closet, you can see inside and you are not so afraid anymore," he said.

The film crew is asking for donations to help pay for travel expenses. If you'd like to help fund this project, CLICK HERE>>>.

"A Return to the End" is expected to be released on Veteran's Day this November.

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