The Big Read Blog (Archive)

The Things They Survived

Washington, DC

This spring Oceanside Public Library is presenting ?Big Read 2010: The Things They Carried,? one of 25 Big Reads taking place in the state of California. As part of the library's project, the Rancho Santa Margarita Ranch House National Historic Site at Camp Pendleton is hostingĀ  Images at War?s End, an exhibit documenting the camp?s emergency reception of nearly 18,000 Vietnamese immigrants at the end of the Vietnam War. The exhibit consists of photographs taken by Marine staff photographers and paintings by Colonel Charles Waterhouse.

Two days before the war ended---on April 30, 1975, when Saigon fell---Marine General Paul Graham received a call that Camp Pendleton was to be one of four military bases to receive a mass influx of Vietnamese immigrants. By the next morning the immigrants had begun to arrive and, in less than 24 hours, the base managed to construct temporary housing, in the form of tent cities, for 18,000 people. Most of the refugees brought only the clothes they were wearing.

?The response to the images has been overwhelming,? said Faye Jonason, Museum and History Officer at Camp Pendleton. ?We?ve had calls from everywhere and people driving long distances to see the exhibit. It?s been really nice to see retired Marines who helped with the effort and many of the refugees themselves return to see the exhibit. There have been some tearful and cheery moments.?

All photos courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps, from Images at War?s End

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