“Bitter Memories” for Historians

Yesterday, I gave my presentation “Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon” at the U.S. Army Center for Military History at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. The small audience—all but one member was male—was attentive. Though everyone present was in civilian clothes, I suspect that the men were all army officers, as indicated by their bearing, haircut, and dress. None were old enough to be Vietnam veterans, but, as indicated by their questions, all were knowledgeable of Vietnam war history. It was refreshing and even bracing to have such an educated audience.

And yet much that I said surprised them. They didn’t know that the civilian side of the U.S. government (State Department, the president, the CIA) had clung to the belief that the North Vietnamese would not attack Saigon. My struggle to get my people out of the country before the fall despite the ambassador’s refusal to allow evacuation raised eyebrows. And I saw shocked looks when I told of the 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers we abandoned and South Vietnamese officers who killed their families and themselves rather than surrender to the communists.

But when I told of my rescue by Al Gray, all faces lit up. They knew who he is.

The experience with these military historians reinforced my satisfaction at having told the story of what happened during the fall of Saigon in Last of the Annamese. I’m making some headway in getting the truth known.

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