One of the men who was with me in Saigon was an intelligence analyst I’d worked with for years. He was a friend of my family, a favorite of my children who were still quite small back then. He enjoyed playing with them and showed an unusual understanding of what charmed them. A good-looking guy, he was in his thirties at that point but had never married and had no apparent connections with women. I wondered privately at the time if maybe he was gay.
This man, along with me, was among the earliest to see that Vietnam was lost to the communists. It was he who lived out for real the scene I later attributed to the character of Sparky in Last of the Annamese:
Sparky’s eyelids stretched and blinked. “Da Nang fell yesterday. I Corps is in rout. And the safe haven on the coast where all those people tried to flee from highlands? Tuy Hoa. It’s under enemy fire. A hundred thousand refugees are stranded along Route 7B between Pleiku and the coast. No food, no water, no medicine, nothing. Jesus, Chuck.” He ran his hands through his hair. “Did it have to end like this? After 58,000 American military dead, at least a million Communist soldiers, and who knows how many million civilians? Chuck, what the hell have we done?”
End of quote. This man, whom I’m leaving unnamed, resigned from NSA not long after we were evacuated during the fall of Saigon. Sometime later, we got word that he was dead. He’d fallen from a window in a Los Angeles hotel. I concluded then and still believe that his death was suicide.
His death hurt. He’s among the men who served with me who have died. I grieve for them still.