National Geographic : 1955 Jun
863 Wide World The French Air Force Flew Thousands to Safety. A Plane Loads at Nam Dinh jected to pressure and propaganda from both sides. The Communists told them that they would be thrown off boats, have their hands cut off, or suffer epidemic disease if they left their villages; the other side warned the vil lagers about their fate as Catholics if they stayed north under communism. More im portant than the propaganda, the priests, knowing how the Reds would treat the Church, were the prime movers in saving their flocks. By August 10, 1954, an estimated 200,000 refugees were awaiting evacuation from Hanoi and Haiphong. Most had sold all their worldly goods; camping in the streets, many were robbed or mobbed by pro-Reds. In what became known as "Operation Exo dus," four nations shared the humanitarian effort to lift the refugees out of their misery: the Vietnamese created reception centers and provided some basic amenities; the French supplied ships and planes; the British pro vided an aircraft carrier; the United States organized Navy Task Force 90, comprising more than 50 ships, to aid the evacuation. Paradox in Saigon The exodus by sea was from Haiphong, chief port of North Viet Nam, to Saigon, capi tal and biggest port in the south. The num ber who moved south was larger, staggeringly larger, than the South Viet Nam Government had expected. The number who wanted to move north was tiny by comparison: reliable estimates put the civilian total at about 40.