Officer Recalls Finding the Girl Whom She Saved from a Plane Crash during Operation Babylift in 1975
An officer who rescued a little girl from a crash formed a sweet bond with the girl years after the crash and recently shared her experience.
In 1975, a U.S. Air Force cargo plane arrived in Saigon for what was termed Operation BabyLift, where 2000 orphans were evacuated from Vietnam to their new American families.
President Gerald Ford launched the project as a way of helping resolve the heavy effect of the war, which left thousands of children without their parents.
An officer, Regina Aune, 30 at the time, was saddled with the task of evacuating children under the age of two, and many years after, she met with one of the children she rescued.
Aune spoke to "Today" host Savannah Guthrie, recalling her experience during the 1975 project. Her mission was to take about 200 babies out of Saigon.
After the evacuation, the plane took off, and when it was at 23,000 feet, the locks on the rear cargo ramp failed, causing the back floors to burst open, causing a decompression.
After much turmoil, the plane crashed, and Aune recalled feeling her bones cracking even before the plane landed and burst into flames. The aircraft broke into four pieces.
More than anything else, the duo noted that they remain grateful to have been rescued.
1st Lt. Regina Aune, a @usairforce flight nurse and the medical crew director on a C-5 conducting the first #OperationBabylift mission to bring Vietnamese orphans to the U.S., when the flight took a tragic turn. #AirForce #NursesWeek— Air Force Medicine (@USAFMedicine) May 10, 2021
Her story: https://t.co/h3Uhm8fZWg
Despite her severe state, Aune put her training to good use and tried getting some of the babies to safety until she could no longer continue. Her injuries got the best of her, and she asked to be relieved of her duties.
The crash killed 138 passengers, including 78 children. Aune sustained severe body damages and wondered for years the whereabouts of the children she had rescued.
Back in 1975, the Vietnam War had just ended and President Ford launched Operation Babylift to evacuate orphans from Vietnam. Two women’s lives were forever linked by a tragic plane crash during the mission, and @SavannahGuthrie found out how they reunited years later. pic.twitter.com/F7Mit3P79P— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 10, 2021
Aryn Lockhart was one of the babies rescued by the valiant Aune. Her adopted parents informed her that she was rescued from the crash, and since then, she nursed it in her heart to one day meet her savior.
In the early days of the internet, the curious Lockhart looked up the crash and found Aune's number, and gave her a call to express her gratitude.
After that call, the duo met for dinner in Washington, and over the years, their bond grew deeper, and Lockhart began working for the Air Force.
Their bond grew so strong that Lockhart referred to Aune and her husband as mom and dad. From saving a baby, Aune experienced a different kind of motherhood.
A few years ago, two other babies who had survived the crash, Shane Dewey and photographer Adam Vance, met up to share their experiences as survivors. More than anything else, the duo noted that they remain grateful to have been rescued.