April 1975: South Vietnamese Air Force Officers Demand Evacuation at Gunpoint

At the end of Last of the Annamese, three South Vietnamese Air Force officers force their way into the DAO Building at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon, and demand evacuation at gunpoint. They take Chuck Griffin hostage and threaten to shoot him if their demands are not met. Chuck at the behest of the officers negotiates with Marine Colonel Macintosh, the Ground Security Officer—the guy in charge—for the evacuation. The three officers relent, give up their weapons, and surrender to the Americans.

The event described did indeed take place. The three of us still in our office suite—Bob Hartley, Gary Hickman, and I—were waiting to be evacuated when I got a phone call telling me that the three officers were roaming the halls, guns drawn. We were to proceed at once to the evacuation staging area, another office secured by U.S. Marines. We sent our last message, quoted earlier in this blog, reporting that we were closing down, and hurried to the staging area. Later, I was told to wait alone in yet another office until it was my turn to be evacuated. I had to remain there, locked in, because the three renegade officers were still at large. They did take a hostage but eventually gave up their weapons and surrendered. What became of them after that I don’t know.

The Marine colonel who dealt with them and got me and my two communicators out alive was Al Gray, later Commandant of the Marine Corps. I owe him my life. I’ve never met a Marine who didn’t know about General Gray, even today a hero to Marines.

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