Much of the world was caught up in the growing East-West struggle that had come to be known as the Cold War. Communism and capitalist democracies vied for the hearts and minds of the undecideds of the world, and the situation in Vietnam became what one observer described as a "podiatric plebiscite," meaning "an opportunity for people to vote with their feet."
And "vote" they did! Nearly a million people fled communist rule in the north, but fewer than 50,000 went the other way. While there were some extenuations involving religion, redeployment of guerilla forces, etc., the result was undeniably an early indication that communism would never be able to survive by people's choice—a principle made more "concrete" several years later, with the appearance of the Berlin Wall.
There are many heartwarming stories told by the refugees from the north, with gratitude the central theme. Henry Do was given a Snickers candy bar by an American Sailor and to this day cannot eat one without thinking about that Sailor and the "sweet taste of freedom."
Cuong Bui writes: "My father was on one of those ships, running from the communists in 1954 . . . . In 1975, he took me on another ship. This time we ended up in America, land of the free . . . . We are very grateful to America and all of its kind people."
Warren Carara and thousands of other American Sailors were some of those "kind people," proving that weapons are not the only means of serving a noble cause.