Nguyen Thi Hung and Nguyen Thieu Anh stand with Nguyen Thi Tuyet Oanh and Phuong Van Hao, from left, during a double wedding ceremony at Camp Pendleton on May 22, 1975. (Photo by Sgt E.A.Manthey / USMC)
The camp would eventually reshape Southern California. Many stayed for the warm weather they were accustomed to in Vietnam. In central Orange County, refugees found cheap housing and plentiful jobs in Westminster, where they erected Vietnamese businesses along the strawberry and bean fields. Today, Orange County is home to 150,000 Vietnamese, the largest such population in the country.
In the summer of 1975, Vietnamese children sing and play Ring Around the Rosie while learning English words. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps.
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.