Early in the story of Last of the Annamese, Chuck Griffin learns of the fall of Phuoc Binh, the capital Phuoc Long Province, on 6 January 1975, as the province itself is conquered by the North Vietnamese. Never before during the entire Vietnam war had the North Vietnamese captured an entire province, including its provincial capital, and held it.
Even though it never rains during the dry season and January is in the middle of the dry season for Saigon, it rains. South Vietnamese Marine Colonel Thanh had warned Chuck that Phuoc Long would fall. “Then the highlands, then I Corps, then Saigon,” Thanh had said. Chuck goes to visit Thanh and finds him sitting in his garden in the rain:
“Thanh’s face turned upward again. His eyelids quivered as raindrops splashed down his forehead. ‘The Heaven.’ He pointed upward. ‘The Heaven weeps. An Nam no more. An Nam was. You listen to her weep now.’”
Thanh uses the name he prefers for his country. “An Nam” means “peace in the south.” “Vietnam,” the name given by the Chinese, means “troublemakers in the south.”
The story in the novel is once again drawn from what really happened. I remember the day Phuoc Binh fell. We all thought it odd to the point of being sinister that it rained that day, even though none of us could remember rain ever occurring during the dry season.
I waited for the U.S. to respond. When we signed the peace accords in 1973, we vowed to return in force if the North Vietnamese violated the terms of the agreement. The seizure of Phuoc Long was a gross violation of the agreement. The U.S. did nothing. With an uneasy shift in the pit of my stomach, I reviewed our evacuation plan. I knew the end was coming.