The Banishment of Brigadier General Baughn from Saigon

Toward the end in Saigon, the Defense Attaché, U.S. Army Brigadier General Homer D. Smith, named his deputy, Air Force Brigadier General Richard M. Baughn, to set up, control, and run the evacuation. His organization included the Evacuation Control Center, the Evacuation Processing Center, and the Evacuation Council. Around the middle of April, when the crowds of refugees thickened outside the Defense Attaché Office (DAO) compound at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon, General Baughn cabled a request for additional security. Furious, the Ambassador, Graham Martin, ordered Baughn to leave the country.

As a result, the Special Planning Group (SPG), set up to oversee the evacuation of the DAO compound, “went black,” that is, proceeded with its work in strict secret from everybody save General Smith and his immediate evacuation planners. Despite the Ambassador, the preparations General Smith ordered for the evacuation continued.

The episode, including the SPG’s secret callsign, ALAMO, are reported in Last of the Annamese. Like Chuck in the novel, I was unaware that moves were underway to get us out of Saigon safely. I learned what was afoot during the final days when Marine Colonel Al Gray appeared at my office door one night in mufti (civilian clothes). He’d flown in from the 7th Fleet, operating in the South China Sea.

I am eternally grateful that General Smith in effect disobeyed the Ambassador and that the military side of the U.S. government—the Department of Defense and Command-in-Chief, Pacific—harbored no illusions about what was happening Vietnam. They took action. Had they not, my two communicators and I would at worst have been killed and at best been taken prisoner.

9 thoughts on “The Banishment of Brigadier General Baughn from Saigon”

  1. I ENJOY YOUR THOUGHT PROCESSES AND WOULD LIKE TO INFORM YOU THAT I’M ONE CLOSER TO 96 AND STILL VETRICAL. AN OLD MAN TOLD ME YEARS AGO, “DON’T LET THE BASTARDS WEAR YOU DOWN.” MUCH OF AGING IS A STATE OF MIND.

    Like

  2. General, I m more than flattered by your response. I’m with you on aging. I’m now 82 and in better shape and more active than any of my contemporaries. I now have four books and 17 short stories in print with two more books coming out next year.

    Thank you, sir. I’m in your debt.

    Like

    1. TOM, I TOO HAVE DONE SOME WRITING, A BOOK ABOUT 40 MAGAZINE ARTICLES. GOT A LATE START WHEN I TURNED 84.
      THE ANCIENT FIGHTER PILOT,
      DICK

      Like

    1. Looking closely before I send or submit is one of my cardinal rules, sir, but I still miss typos and the like. When I was in high school, boys were not allowed to take typing courses, so I learned then and still use today the hunt-and-peck method.

      Unlike you, I started writing when I was six years old, but when I matured, I learned that writing doesn’t pay well. I got married, had four children, and I needed a regular paycheck. So I became a spy. That’s a profession that pays well.

      I spent the next thirteen years, on and off, in Vietnam and, as you know, escaped under fire when Saigon fell. My work after 1975 is still classified, so most of my writing is about Vietnam. For decades, many Americans considered Vietnam a dirty and shameful war, so my writing didn’t sell. Then, a half-dozen ears ago, attitudes started changing. I now have four books and 17 short stories in print with two more books coming out next year.

      Needless to say, Vietnam shaped my life. It’s still the focus of my writing.

      I’d appreciate knowing the name of your book, sir. I’ll certainly get it,

      Like

      1. IT’S TITLED, “THE HELLISH VORTEX: BETWEEN BREAKFAST AND DINNER.” IT’S A HISTORICAL NOVEL ABOUT A 19 YEAR OLD FIGHTER PILOT WITH THE 8TH AIR FORCE IN BRITAIN DURING WWII AND IS 95% FACT. UNTIL THEY DIED, THREE HISTORY PROFESSORS (OHIO STATE, SAN JOSE STATE AND THE AIR UNIVERSITY) USED IT AS REQUIRED OUTSIDE READING FOR THEIR WWII COURSES. LIKE MOST IT’S ON AMAZON. HOPE YOU ENJOY IT.
        DICK
        PS
        OUR LEADERS SHOULD HAVE PAID MORE ATTENTION TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE, INSTEAD THEIR ATTEMPTS AT DIPLOMACY.

        Like

  3. Thank you, sir. I know I’ll enjoy the book. Reviewers of my Vietnam books call them fiction in name only. Last of the Annamese (2017) tells the story of the fall of Saigon. I wrote it as a novel so that I could tell the story from five different points of view, three American and two Vietnamese. Everything in the story, except the romance, really happened. I put the protagonist through all the agonies I went through. I even had him brief the ambassador, as I did, warning him multiple times that the North Vietnamese were about to attack Saigon. The ambassador dismisses him, suggesting that he has other sources. In short, he doesn’t believe the intelligence and does nothing to prepare. His other sources turned out to be the Hungarian member of the ICCS who assured him that the North Vietnamese had no intention of attacking the city.

    I also wrote a non-fiction article. I’m in the middle of moving and don’t have access to my desktop computer (I’m using my little laptop). When I’m settled, I’ll send you the URL for the article.

    Like

    1. One more note: just out is Thurston Clarke’s “Honorable Exit,” the story of how we Americans struggled to save our South Vietnamese allies during the last six weeks of the Vietnam war. I could barely read it without tears. I did an interview with Thurston. When I’m settled, I’ll send the URL for the interview.

      Like

Leave a Reply to tomglenn3 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s