In talking to my children now that they are adults, I have learned what they felt about being in Vietnam. My youngest, Paul, doesn’t remember much—he was a toddler. But Meghan, my second youngest, remembers everything clearly. She didn’t like Vietnam. She was keenly aware of the poverty and remembers seeing wounded South Vietnamese soldiers on the streets, some of them beggars missing limbs. My oldest, Susan, was a teenager and enjoyed being with the other American teens in Saigon. But she, too, was revolted by the beggary and destitution.
The oldest three all remember the day before they left Saigon. On 8 April 1975, a renegade pilot dropped bombs on the presidential palace, close to our house. My family, busy packing to depart Vietnam the next day, watched the attack, horrified. They were ready to leave as soon as possible. They boarded a plane for Bangkok the next day, on the first step of a grand trip around the world. They toured Asia and Europe before arriving back in the states in May, about the same time I did.
My children left Saigon twenty days before it fell to the North Vietnamese—even though the U.S. Ambassador had forbidden me to evacuate my employees and their families. I sent everybody out on false pretenses. My family was officially going for a vacation trip to Thailand.
To this day, I’m grateful that I got my wife and children out before the final collapse. I’m so thankful they didn’t have to endure what I went through during the last days of South Vietnam.