Those Who Died

Toward the end of Last of the Annamese, the protagonist Chuck Griffin, evacuated to a ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet during the fall of Saigon, thinks back over those who have died in the conflagration that was the end of the Vietnam war. He remembers those killed in the Operation Baby Lift crash on 4 April 1975—his friend, Molly, the nurse accompanying the orphans on the flight, and the orphans themselves, among them Philippe and Angelique, Amerasian children given French names by the nuns who cared for them. He recalls those caught at the end in Saigon and those who stayed behind and refused evacuation to face the conquering North Vietnamese. His grief disables him.

As one review of Annamese noted, the book is fiction in name only. The scarring experiences I attributed to Chuck throughout the novel are those I went through myself. I wrote the story as fiction in part because that’s my genre and in part because I wanted to show the fall of Saigon from multiple points of view, both Vietnamese and American. I wanted to convey to an American audience the full range of tragedies that resulted from the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and our abandonment of those who had fought by our side.

I grieve, even today, over those we left to the mercy of the victorious North Vietnamese. Most of them were killed outright. Others died in “re-education camps,” really concentration camps equal in cruelty to those of the Nazis in World War II.

Our shame stays with us, undiluted by time.

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