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An American 1st Air Cavalry helicopter airlifts supplies into a Marine outpost during Operation Pegasus in Vietnam in 1968.
An American 1st Air Cavalry helicopter airlifts supplies into a Marine outpost during Operation Pegasus in Vietnam in 1968.Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
An American 1st Air Cavalry helicopter airlifts supplies into a Marine outpost during Operation Pegasus in Vietnam in 1968.
The Reverend Thich Quang Duc, a 73-year-old Buddhist monk, soaked himself in petrol before setting himself on fire to himself and burning in front of thousands of onlookers at a main highway intersection in Saigon on June 11, 1963.
American jets drop napalm on Viet Cong positions early in the Vietnam conflict in 1963.
Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into the tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in March 1965.
Newly-landed U.S. Marines make their way through the sands of Red Beach at Da Nang, on their way to reinforce the air base as South Vietnamese Rangers battled guerrillas about three miles south, on April 10, 1965.
A Vietnamese mother and her children wade across a river, fleeing a bombing raid on Qui Nhon by United States aircraft on Sept. 7, 1965.
A mortally wounded comrade at his feet, Lance Cpl. James C. Farley, helicopter crew chief, yells to his pilot after a firefight in Vietnam, 1965.
A Viet Cong prisoner captured during Cape Batangan battle awaits transfer to a US POW compound in 1965.
The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter in War Zone C in Vietnam on May 14, 1966.
American Marines during Operation Prairie near the DMZ in Vietnam in Oct.1966.
Wounded Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie (center, with bandaged head) reaches toward a stricken comrade after a fierce firefight south of the DMZ in Vietnam in Oct. 1966.
Jan Rose Kasmir confronts the American National Guard outside the Pentagon during the 1967 anti-Vietnam march in Washington on Oct. 21, 1967.
South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the National Police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968.
A grieving widow cries over a plastic bag containing remains of her husband which were found in mass grave. He was killed in Feb. 1968 during the Tet offensive.
The battle for Saigon in 1968.
As fellow troopers aid wounded comrades, the first sergeant of A Company, 101st Airborne Division, guides a medevac helicopter through the jungle foliage to pick up casualties suffered during a five-day patrol near Hue in Vietnam in April 1968.
A wounded U.S. paratrooper grimaces in pain as he awaits medical evacuation at base camp in the A Shau Valley near the Laos border in South Vietnam on May 19, 1969.
South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc (center) as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972.
Released prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., as he returns home from the Vietnam War on March 17, 1973.
A North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, signifying the fall of South Vietnam, on April 30, 1975.
A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy on Apr. 25, 1975.
An American 1st Air Cavalry helicopter airlifts supplies into a Marine outpost during Operation Pegasus in Vietnam in 19
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Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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See 21 Iconic Photos of the Vietnam War

Apr 30, 2015

It has been 40 years since the spring day when the last U.S. helicopters lifted up and, shortly after, the North Vietnamese army entered Saigon, deciding a conflict that had raged for years. News photographs from the time showed the world what was going on, from a country full of death in all its gruesome forms to peaceful protests across the ocean. Despite their age, those images have not lost their impact.

Read more: Former TIME staffers recall their evacuation from Saigon in 1975

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