As the head of the covert NSA operation in Vietnam and the tenant resident, along with my wife and children, of a fine villa in Saigon, it was incumbent upon me to host parties for my subordinates and associates as often as practical. Many of the 43 guys who worked for me were in Vietnam without their families. And the others, who had their wives and children with them, had few chances to socialize with others like them. So at every opportunity, my wife and I hosted gatherings. We had three servants who could manage the work load, and with hazardous duty pay, I could afford the cost. I saw entertaining my guys and their families and one of my duties.
Holidays were the most important. Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1974 will stay in my memory for life. The gatherings were so large that the Saigon police sent extra men to keep watch on my villa lest a VC activist toss a grenade over the walls surrounding our villa. We even hired extra guards to work inside the villa grounds to assure the safety of the guests.
By March, 1975, the gatherings were becoming rare. As the impending attack on Saigon came closer, we had less and less time away from the office, and the danger of a guerrilla attack on the villa caused me to reduce the size and frequency of the gatherings. That same month, I began sending my subordinates and their families out of Vietnam as the threat to the Saigon grew. By April, we had stopped all celebrations. I got my wife and children out of the country on 9 April. The remaining families were gone about the same time. Then came to struggle to get my remaining subordinates out, discussed elsewhere in this blog. By 27 April, only three of us remained, me and the two communicators who had volunteered to stay until the end with me. The city fell two days later, and we were evacuated.
For all that, I remember the gatherings at our villa fondly. Granted, we all felt the unease of growing danger. But the men who worked for me were the finest crew I’ve ever come across. I had enormous respect for their devotion to duty and the skill they brought to bear. Though I never would have used the word with them, I loved them every one. I’ll always be grateful that, in the midst of the tragedy of the fall of Vietnam, we shared a bond of brotherhood and devotion to each other.