Basis of Characters in Last of the Annamese

Last of the Annamese is historically accurate. The events I describe took place, including some not reported before because the information on them was classified until 2015. The principal characters, while not based on real individuals, are amalgams of people I knew during the fall of Saigon.

The one exception is the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Although I don’t give his name in the novel, he was Graham Martin, and the American ambassador described in the novel is as close as I can get to a portrait of Graham Martin. The briefing sessions between Chuck and the Ambassador in the novel are drawn directly from sessions I had with Graham Martin. Like Chuck in the story, I warned him about the imminent attack on Saigon, and he didn’t believe me.

One other character is close to the real person he was based on: General Tran van Tri, commander of II Corps (whom Chuck and Thanh visit during their trip to the highlands just before the highlands falls to the North Vietnamese in March, 1975) is based on Major General Pham van Phu, the real commander of II Corps when Vietnam fell. I talked to General Phu the last time during a visit to II Corps headquarters with my counterpart, a South Vietnamese general whose name, as far as I know, is still classified. That visit was during the second week of March, 1975. Like the character in my novel, General Phu chain-smoked throughout the visit and threw his lit cigarettes on the carpet of his office while lighting the next one. He treated us with contempt and refused to accept the intelligence that the North Vietnamese were about to attack Ban Me Thuot to his south. Ban Me Thuot fell within days, followed in short order by all of II Corps and I Corps.

In the novel, General Tri escapes to his villa in the French Riviera as Saigon falls, as so many real generals and high government officials actually did. The real General Phu was unable to escape and killed himself on 30 April 1975, the day Saigon fell.

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