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This claim lacks important context about Joe Biden’s stance on the Vietnam War when he was a senator. Biden’s priority was evacuating U.S. citizens and Vietnamese refugees.
Biden expressed concerns that providing military aid to the South Vietnam government could escalate the already tense situation in Vietnam.
After Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese military, Biden supported a resolution welcoming Vietnamese refugees to the U.S.
Last summer, when President Joe Biden evacuated the remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan — ending the longest war in the country’s history — many felt it paralleled President Gerald Ford’s exit from Vietnam.
More recently, Biden’s stance on the Vietnam War when he was a senator has been circulating on social media. A March 8 Facebook post claimed that in 1975, then-U.S. Sen. Biden opposed efforts by President Ford to aid South Vietnam and evacuate refugees.
"President Ford went to Congress for a relief package to allow American personnel and our allies to evacuate. However, there was ONE US SENATOR who opposed any such support," the post claimed. "THAT SENATOR WAS JOE BIDEN."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The Facebook post cites the source for this claim as the 2018 book, "When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency," written by Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s secretary of defense. In a chapter about the Vietnam War, Rumsfeld mentioned a meeting Ford had in April 1975 with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Biden, about extending aid to South Vietnam.
"Repeatedly, a number of Senate Democrats dissented, including the young outspoken Senator Joe Biden (D-DE). In the heat of the discussion, I detected a difference in the attitudes of some members of Congress toward the Vietnamese," Rumsfeld wrote in the book.
However, Rumsfeld himself was not present at this meeting, according to a meeting transcript that does not name him among the participants. He did not become Ford’s defense secretary until November 1975. His second-hand recollection of the meeting also does not completely capture Biden’s stance on Ford’s efforts in Vietnam.
During the meeting, Ford, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and the group of senators discussed emergency funding to evacuate U.S. citizens and Vietnamese refugees and provide military aid to South Vietnam. Biden pushed back against tying funding for military aid and the continued deployment of U.S. troops with evacuating U.S. citizens and Vietnamese refugees. Biden felt evacuation should be the priority as the situation in Vietnam worsened.
"We should focus on getting them out. Getting the Vietnamese out and military aid for the GVN (Government of South Vietnam) are totally different," Biden said at the meeting, according to a declassified transcript from the Ford Library Museum.
"I feel put upon in being presented an all-or-nothing number. I don’t want to have to vote to buy it all or not at all. I am not sure I can vote for an amount to put American troops in for one to six months to get the Vietnamese out. I will vote for any amount for getting the Americans out. I don’t want it mixed with getting the Vietnamese out," Biden also said during the meeting.
A little over a week after this meeting, Biden voted against the Vietnam Contingency Act of 1975, which would have provided emergency funds for evacuation and aid in Vietnam. Along with Biden, 16 other senators from both parties opposed the measure, which passed in the Senate. (A majority of the House of Representatives voted against the final version of the bill, so it failed to become law.)
In a speech on the Senate floor before the vote, Biden expressed concerns that the legislation would be used to fund military aid, rather than evacuate refugees. "There is no question in anybody’s mind … that the bill’s section 2, containing $100 million, labeled as a ‘contingency fund’ may not be, but clearly could be, used for military aid to the South Vietnamese government," he said.
Biden argued that the contingency fund was not a "diplomatic channel" and could even further aggravate the situation between North and South Vietnam.
Ford’s funding proposal received criticism from many members of Congress, not just Biden. "The pushback from Congress, and this was from the majority of Congress, especially the Democrats, was not about funding the evacuation, but rather it was a wish not to throw good money after bad in support of the Saigon regime that was clearly going down in defeat," said James Willbanks, a military adviser to the South Vietnamese in 1972 who has written several military history books on the Vietnam War.
After Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese military at the end of April 1975, Biden did support a resolution welcoming the first 130,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the U.S. Around the same time, Congress approved and Ford signed a separate measure authorizing funds to assist refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. Biden was not present to vote on this bill, but did give it a "favorable recommendation."
A Facebook post claims that in 1975, then-U.S. Sen. Biden opposed efforts by Ford to aid South Vietnam and evacuate refugees.
This claim is based on a second-hand account from Rumsfeld’s book that lacks context about Biden’s stance at the time. Biden stated at the time that his priority was evacuating U.S. citizens and Vietnamese refugees from South Vietnam. He expressed concerns over funding that could be used to provide military aid to South Vietnam, instead of evacuating U.S. citizens and Vietnamese refugees.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Facebook post, March 8, 2022
Snopes, "Did Biden Block Giving Aid and Admittance to Vietnamese Refugees in 1975?," Feb. 16, 2021
Donald Rumsfeld, "When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency," May 15, 2018
Ford Library Museum, "Memoranda of Conversation: April 14, 1975 - Ford, Kissinger, Schlesinger, Senate Foreign Relations Committee," April 14, 1975
GovTrack, "Vote record for H.R. 6096 (94th): Vietnam Humanitarian Assistance and Evacuation Act," April 25, 1975
GovTrack, "Vote record for S.Res. 148 (94th): A resolution to welcome the latest refugees to our shores," May 8, 1975
Politico, "Joe Biden’s Kabul Is Not Gerald Ford’s Saigon," Aug. 17, 2021
The Washington Post, "From Saigon to Kabul: Biden’s response to Vietnam echoes in his views of Afghanistan withdrawal," Aug. 15, 2021
Email interview, James Willbanks, former Director of the Department of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, March 25
Email interview, Mark Lawrence, professor of history, University of Texas-Austin, March 25
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