VBA and Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) researchers recently discovered military records confirming the participation of Air Force personnel who deployed to Vietnam for Operation Babylift.

Since many Veterans’ personnel files didn’t include participation in this operation, these Veterans could not prove Republic of Vietnam service. The discovery has led to VA awarding retroactive benefits to eligible Operation Babylift participants and survivors.

A service member bottlefeeds a baby at Clark AFB during Operation Babylift.

Evacuating Saigon

Operation Babylift began during the evacuation of Saigon from April to June 1975. Hundreds of Air Force security, police and other service members went on temporary duty (TDY) orders to travel from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines to Tan Son Nhut, to evacuate US, Vietnamese and other third-country nationals at the end of the Vietnam War.

Clara Beheler, a VBA Quality Review Specialist at the Roanoke Regional Office, was working a claim for an Air Force Veteran who stated that he was sent TDY to Vietnam in support of these operations. She was unable to verify the Veteran’s participation based on the documents in his personnel file, service treatment records, or through extensive online research.

Beheler, however, was not deterred. She contacted Barry Spink, a researcher from AFHRA at Maxwell AFB, Ala., to assist her in finding records for this event. After an exhaustive search of archival records that lasted many months, Spink found the records that confirmed participation.

“I was so excited for all of the Veterans and survivors that I knew would be helped by finding these records,” Beheler said. “Whenever I can find information that places a Veteran in Vietnam, it makes my whole day.”

Above and beyond

The TDY orders that Beheler and Spink found didn’t just confirm Vietnam service for the Veteran whose claim she was working, it also confirmed in-country service for hundreds of other Veterans–many of whom had claims previously denied due to a lack of documentation. The list included the names of 296 security forces personnel that supported Saigon airlift operations.

A C-141 loaded with orphans and their boxes for transport from Saigon to Clark AFB, April 1975.

As a result of the find, VBA was able to grant the first claim. It paid benefits to the 87-year-old surviving spouse who was previously denied Dependency and Indemnity Compensation in 1988. Ironically, the spouse had also participated in Operation Babylift. She lived at Clark AFB at the time and greeted the women and children as they stopped there on their way to the United States.

Beheler’s team didn’t stop there. With this new-found information, the records research team began examining other similar claims.

“Finding these records are life changing for so many people,” Beheler said.

To date, VBA has awarded nearly half a million dollars in retroactive benefits to 16 Veterans or survivors–with more coming in the next few months.

Paul Shute is the chief of operational innovation at VBA’s Compensation Service.

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Published on Dec. 23, 2019

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

Views to date: 418


  1. SFC Kenny Verser January 20, 2020 at 10:46 pm

    We were involver in both operations “new life” & “baby lift”. We were the 303rd field detachment from the 21st General Hospital in Clark AB, Philippines. We were TDY to Wake Island checking people in, treating them, and flying them on to new a life.

  2. Gery Bastiani January 10, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    What about the Seabees of MCB4 that built and maintained Tent City on Guam. That housed the refugees enroute to the States.

  3. fredrick davis January 2, 2020 at 7:02 am

    discuss routing to increase boots on the ground service ratings/consult/refer as needed stat

  4. Nan Good December 31, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    A list of 296 security personnel was mentioned in the article. How can one locate a copy of this list. Researching for “boots on the ground” for my husband. He’s been denied due to “No records” of his service there.

  5. EASE December 30, 2019 at 6:32 am

    What benefits would they be entitled to?

  6. rick gallaher December 26, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Please who is the author of this article

    [Editor: the author’s byline is listed at the bottom of the blog.]

  7. rick gallaher December 26, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    On the ground — an no one will acknowledge it

    yes me and 20 there were there as “TDY” and the Army nor veteran service will acknowledge it

  8. Eugene Mosley December 26, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Wow. I’m amazing to hear some of these “History” of My follow Brothers & Sister!!!
    I myself join the Army after the Vietnam War. However I had 3 brothers who served doing this time. All whom have passed on.
    I have issues that I’ve been “Denied” benefits… I received 10% for my left knee issues but not my right? And my right knee is worst than the left. They both has the same issue. Hummmm?
    God Bless You All Family

  9. Alice Moultry Grinkley December 24, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    I’m a “Widow,” of a Vietnam Solder;
    Who is deceased now!!! However, my husband John Henry Grinkley; came how with his “Face twisted.” Thus, I think I should be compensated, for being expose to whatever, my was exposed to… Further, my husband died from; a condition relating to his kidney’s. Please reply at your earliest convenience… Thanking you in advance for your cooperation… Season Greetings.

  10. USMarine December 24, 2019 at 8:25 am

    What benefits would they be entitled to?

  11. David Uhrich December 24, 2019 at 12:32 am

    A topic I have not seen covered by the VA concerning the VA home loan and eligibility. Many veterans with the VA home loan in the 2006-2009 ish housing bubble with over valued homes and then the market crashed putting many veterans under water in their home loans. Many reasons may have caused default, short sale and bankruptcy resulting in the loss of future COE for a VA home loan. This artificial housing bubble caused by big banks, Wall Street and greed have stripped a well deserved benefit from many veterans. There have been many debts forgiven by the government for veterans and I wanted to bring this issue to the VA and government in hopes someone of influence could write a bill of forgiveness for those veterans affected by the housing bubble/over valued homes and reinstate the well earned and deserved COE for a VA home loan.

    Dave Uhrich
    US Army, Major (Ret)

  12. Victor Sellers December 23, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    I guess we will see if there is any truth in this or not. I had boots on ground service in Vietnam and was hospitalized there for a month due to urticaria, rashes, abdominal pain, bone pain, racing heart at rest, urinating blood, ate up by mosquitoes, and misdiagnosed as having a chloroquine allergy causing all that, plus having “undetermined organisms “ in my lungs and blood, CAD with palpitations and chest pain, bone disease, spinal stenosis, migraines, insomnia, soaking night sweats, a stroke, and a comatose state for days. I was denied even basic medical care and all service connection, plus deceived and my medical records intentionally withheld all my life after military service. I was deprived of all medical treatment records, showing the diseases, injuries, and illnesses from Agent Orange Exposure acquired in Vietnam and in all military service period. Even my service medals were withheld to keep it all a secret in order to deny me and my dependents of all the benefits we deserved. I nearly expired while on duty several times and every medical record after Vietnam from June 1971 to January 10, 1972 is still being withheld, almost 50 years of deprivation of the facts. Why?

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