Snub Nose Pistol

Toward the end of my novel Last of the Annamese, as the North Vietnamese draw closer to Saigon in April 1975, Chuck Griffin worries about the survival of Tuyet, the woman he loves, and her husband, South Vietnamese Marine Colonel Pham Ngoc Thanh. He gives Tuyet a snub-nose .38 pistol to defend herself and Thanh against the invaders. She accepts the weapon with hesitation.

As Saigon falls, Chuck awaits evacuation by helicopter from the compound of the Defense Attaché Office building at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon. He learns that a Vietnamese woman with hair cut short and dressed in a military uniform and accompanied by a small child has flown out before him. He had instructed Tuyet to disguise herself as a soldier and crop her hair to escape. Her son, Thu, was to escape with her. Chuck believes that his plan has succeeded.

Chuck is evacuated by helicopter to a ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet cruising in the South China Sea. Once there, he learns that the woman who escaped with a child was not Tuyet but Thanh’s niece, Lan. The Liberation News Agency, a North Vietnamese propaganda broadcast, reports that Tuyet has used the snub-nose pistol to kill Thanh and herself rather than be captured by the North Vietnamese.

The story of Tuyet and Thanh’s deaths is fiction based on fact. One South Vietnamese officer I worked with in Vietnam told me that if he could not escape when Saigon fell, he would shoot his three children, his wife, and himself rather than allow the communists to capture himself and his family. He didn’t escape at the end. I have no doubt he carried out his plan because so many other South Vietnamese officers did precisely what he said he would do.

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