Lisa Le doesn’t remember who took the photo. No one does. In the black-and-white image, she crouches on the deck of the USS Blue Ridge with her mother and brother—one just an infant, the other 9 years old, and Lisa just 5. In the top right-hand corner, a U.S. soldier crouches with them, weapon in hand. At 5 years old, no one conceives of war, or what it means to leave home in secret, to have her father hijack a broken-down helicopter for his family’s last chance at escape from Saigon. When the camera flashes, Lisa’s father, a lieutenant colonel in the South Vietnamese air force, has not yet returned from sinking the helicopter in the sea—although he will—and when the blades of the copter cease to turn and crash with the water into the ship, no one knows whether the boom is just another familiar sound of Viet Cong artillery, which fell so hard on Saigon that day that by the next morning, April 30, 1975, the city’s conquerors will have given it a new name.
Today, with her family’s faces immortalized in a photo in textbooks, magazines, and news outlets, Le—now a pediatrician in Gonzales, one of many successes achieved by her family in the United States—searches for the identity of the unknown soldier who helped them on their journey.
To learn more about Le’s incredible story and her continuing hunt for the crew of the USS Blue Ridge, check out our story in the January issue of inRegister, available on newsstands now.