In April 1975, with the collapse of the South Vietnamese government looming, the United States prepared for withdrawal. President Gerald Ford announced that the United States would lead an operation khổng lồ evacuate orphans from Saigon. In what became known as Operation Babylift, infants & young children were brought khổng lồ new adoptive sầu families in the United States.

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And during this mission, a few evacuees rode aboard a plane owned by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. 

Despite the number of children successfully evacuated from Operation Babylift, the mission started with tragedy. On April 4, 1975, the first plane in Operation Babylift, a C-5A Galaxy, crashed near Tan Son Nhut Air Base, resulting in the deaths of 78 children and almost 50 adults. This bad start did not sway the Ford administration from continuing, and the rest of April saw more than 2,500 young orphans flown to lớn the United States. President Ford himself was there for the first plane’s arrival at the Presidio military base in San Francisco. 

National Archives & Records Administration

President Ford looking very happy, as though a plane didn"t just crash và kill 78 kids a few days ago.

Whether or not this entire operation was done with human interests in mind or was simply a publithành phố stunt is up for debate. The Vietphái mạnh War was incredibly unpopular, và with the imminent collapse of South Vietphái mạnh, it would make sense that the government would launch Operation Babylift to have the appearance of at least one good thing happening during the debacle. 

Actor Yul Brynner and his wife Jacqueline Brynner (yes, of course, Hollywood celebrities had lớn also get involved) were concerned about ensuring that every orphaned child from Operation Babylift made it to their new homes. Transporting that many passengers across the country would be a massive sầu endeavor, & large civilian planes could help. Knowing who ahy vọng them had a plane up for such a task, the celebrities called on Hugh Hefner & his personal jet, the Big Bunny, to assist in the operation.

The Playboy plane was responsible for taking 41 orphans from the processing facility in San Francisco to their new homes in New York. During the flight, Playboy Bunnies cared for the young children. 

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

This would come full circle when future Playmates would have lớn help change Hef"s diapers. 

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Operation Babylift happened during a chaotic time, and those involved in the rescue mission likely were not able lớn verify the status of every single person involved. During the evacuation, a translator involved discussed talking to children who said they were not orphans. The orphanages in Saigon that were involved in the operation were maintained by American organizations. Vietnamese families sometimes turned their children over to the orphanages, as they were safer than staying at home. Some of the children involved had since taken to lớn genealogy websites or non-profits in order to lớn reunite with their possible birth families.

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Just like many endeavors during the Vietnam War, Operation Babylift had flaws & was misguided by nature. Still, for all the questions it raised, it did undoubtedly save some lives. And along the way, Playboy models helped make part of it happen.

Top Image: National Archives & Records Administration

Related: 5 Lies About the Vietnam War You Probably Believe


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