On April 18th, 2009, a symposium for pilots and veterans of Air America, along with some of the people they rescued or otherwise impacted upon during Air Americaâ€™s lifetime, was held at The University of Texas at Dallas Conference Center Auditorium. Its purpose was to acknowledge and commemorate Air America rescue efforts during the Vietnam War. The symposium was presented by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and The University of Texas at Dallas.
An Air America rescue effort that most Americans are familiar with is, of course, the evacuation of Americans and Vietnamese from the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975, and itâ€™s the cover photo on the symposiumâ€™s program, showing an Air America helicopter landing on the embassyâ€™s roof.
During the Vietnam War, Air America (AAM), a secretly owned air proprietary of the CIA, was the Agencyâ€™s indispensable instrument for clandestine missions. While some of its work may never be publicly acknowledged, much of AAMâ€™s critical role in wartime rescue missions can now be told, since thousands of pages of CIAâ€™s formerly highly classified documents have been recently released. This symposium provided the venue for the release of these documents. It also brought together AAM veterans with some of the men they rescued, and the CIAâ€™s other â€˜customersâ€™ who often placed their lives and missions in the hands of this formerly secret organization.
The over-arching bond of aviators is the Airmenâ€™s Bond, that they look out for one another, and go to the aid of one another regardless of circumstances, whenever possible. The AAM aircrews werenâ€™t required to monitor military emergency radio calls, nor fly to the location of military personnel in distress, nor place their lives at risk of enemy ground fire and possible capture. But they did. Not only were they not paid to do these things, they were done even when they lost wages to effect or assist in these rescues.