Details/Information for Canadian Forces (CF) Operation MAGNET

CF Overseas Operations have most often operated within the construct of an international mandate. As such, the International Information is presented first in order to provide the context of the Canadian Operation (displayed second). Eventually, all rotations associated with the particular Canadian operation will also be displayed.

Vietnam Baby Lift

International Information

International Operation Name: Operation MAGNET

International Mission Name: Operation MAGNET

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Asia

Location: Vietnam

Mission Date: 24 November 1978 - 9 December 1978

Mission Mandate:

To assist in the movement and processing of Vietnamese refugees on the freighter Hai Hong from Malaysia to Canada.

Mission/Operation Notes:

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, significant numbers of Indochinese (predominately Vietnamese, Laotian and Kampuchean) citizens fled the region for fear of retribution from the new Communist regimes. The result was a refugee crisis, which garnered world attention.

Of particular international interest was the case of the freighter Hai Hong, a dilapidated cargo ship that arrived off the coast of Malaysia in 1978 carrying some 2500 Indochinese refugees. The Malaysian government, already beleaguered by waves of refugees since 1975, refused requests by the Hai Hong to dock and disembark, though it was allowed to remain in Kuala Lumpur harbour.

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Canadian Forces (CF) Information (MAGNET)

CF Mission/Operation Notes:

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, having re-written the Canadian Immigration Act in 1977 to include special 'humanitarian' categories for refugees in emergency situations, reacted quickly to this international crisis, agreeing to welcome 600 persons from the Hai Hong into Canada as refugees. The government called upon the Canadian Forces to assist in the transport and processing of Hai Hong refugees, and dubbed the tasking Operation MAGNET, officially starting on 24 November 1978.

Op MAGNET would be placed under the command of the Longue Pointe Garrison at CFB Montreal, augmented by personnel from 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, 5 Field Ambulance and CFB Valcartier. Their task was to turn Longue Pointe into an accommodations and processing centre for incoming refugees, who would then be dispersed to 13 major centres across Canada to complete the refugee application process. A CF Medical Evacuation Team would also be sent to the Canadian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to record and perform medical checks on all refugees before transport.

The first flight of refugees arrived at Montreal's Dorval Airport from Kuala Lumpur (via USAFB Yakota, Japan and USAFB Elmendorf, Alaska) on 25 November 1978 on board a CC-137 (Boeing 707) aircraft from 426 Transport Squadron, based at CFB Trenton. In total, 4 CC-137's would complete 4 round-trip flights, ferrying 604 Hai Hong refugees to Canada. The final refugees were processed in early December 1978. Op MAGNET would officially cease on 09 December 1978.