Paul Jacobs, retired captain of the USS Kirk, reunites with the Le family, who were helped by the men on his ship 35 years ago when he led a rescue mission that saved 20,000 to 30,000 Vietnamese refugees. Joseph Shapiro/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Joseph Shapiro/NPR

The South Vietnamese fleet follows the USS Kirk to Subic Bay in the Philippines. The Kirk's final mission at the end of the Vietnam War was to bring the remnants of the South's navy to safety in the Philippines. Hugh Doyle hide caption

itoggle caption Hugh Doyle

On April 29, 1975, as Saigon was falling to Communist North Vietnamese forces, a small U.S. Navy destroyer escort ship, the USS Kirk, played a dramatic but almost forgotten role in rescuing up to 30,000 South Vietnamese. Here, a member of the USS Kirk's crew tends to a Vietnamese baby. Hugh Doyle hide caption

itoggle caption Hugh Doyle

Ba Nguyen (right), here with his wife, Nho, was able to maneuver his helicopter so his passengers — including his 10-month-old daughter — could drop to safety on the Kirk. He then flew the Chinook over the ocean and jumped out while the helicopter crashed. In July, Kirk crew members honored Nguyen with an Air Medal, the award the U.S. military gives for heroic feats while flying. Though he is afflicted with advanced Alzheimer's, he saluted upon receiving the award. David Deal for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Deal for NPR

On April 29, 1975, as Saigon was falling to Communist North Vietnamese forces, a small U.S. Navy destroyer escort ship, the USS Kirk, played a dramatic but almost forgotten role in rescuing up to 30,000 South Vietnamese. Here, a member of the USS Kirk's crew tends to a Vietnamese baby. Hugh Doyle hide caption

itoggle caption Hugh Doyle