Chuck Griffin, the protagonist of Last of the Annamese, faces the dilemma I faced during the final days in Saigon: knowing what was going to happen and being unable to persuade the U.S. Ambassador, the State Department, and the president. I’ve told that story before in this blog and don’t need to tell it again.
What’s worth dwelling on is the emotions that both Chuck and I suffered through—depression and frustration.
I don’t know how to describe to the reader the emotions approaching despondency that accompany the sure knowledge that disaster was about to strike and being unable to convince those in power of the need to prepare. That the North Vietnamese were ready to attack Saigon was unmistakable from the intercepted communications. That the Ambassador, the State Department, and the president failed to prepare was manifest. I wanted to weep for what I saw was going to happen. But weeping wouldn’t help.
My frustration approached rage. I wanted to smash things and scream obscenities. But to what end?
Instead, I channeled my emotions into getting out of the country everyone I could, even though that meant lying, deception, and violation of the rules that I held sacred. I got my 43 subordinates and their families out safely. I got one family of Vietnamese out by sneaking them into the air base at Tan Son Nhat. But the 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers who’d worked with the NSA organization over the years were left behind to be executed or imprisoned by the North Vietnamese. As long as I live, I’ll never stop grieving over them.
My depression and frustration are still with me. I guess some tragedies stay with you throughout life. I’m still sad and angry. I always will be.