I just finished reading Losing Vietnam: How America Abandoned Southeast Asia by Major General Ira A. Hunt, USA (Ret) (University Press of Kentucky, 2013). The views expressed by General Hunt come very close to my own and to the story told in Last of the Annamese. Tomorrow I’ll recap his report on how Vietnam was lost. In this post, I want to discuss the only point on which we disagree: the performance of U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin.
General Hunt and I both knew Martin and worked with him. The general feels that Martin’s critics were too harsh. My sense is that they were too kind.
I’ve mentioned several times in this blog my warning to Martin that the North Vietnamese were preparing to attack Saigon. He was guided not by my signals intelligence but by the assurances of a representative of a communist government allied to North Vietnam, the Hungarian member of the ICCS (International Commission for Control and Supervision), that the communists had no intention of moving against Saigon. The result was the ambassador’s order forbidding me to evacuate my forty-three subordinates and their families. I blatantly disobeyed that command and got all my people out of the country safely. Another result was my continued presence in Saigon after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city and my escape under fire. And Martin’s failure to call for the evacuation caused many thousands of South Vietnamese who had worked with the U.S. to be captured or killed.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the consensus between me and General Hunt on the causes of the loss of Vietnam.