The End in Vietnam: Shelling

Bob, Gary, and I—the last three men in our Saigon office after the evacuation of all the others and the families at the end of April 1975—were subjected to North Vietnamese shelling starting just after sundown the night of 28 April. The North Vietnamese first used rockets against us. Then, about four in the morning on 29 April, the artillery started. A C-130 on the airstrip behind us was destroyed, the building next door blew up, and two Marine guards at our gate were killed.

Several passages in Last of the Annamese describe what the shelling was like. Here’s one:

The blast toppled Chuck to the deck. Troiano, on his hands and knees, was yelling, but Chuck couldn’t make out the words. The room shifted again. The coffee maker lifted into the air, bounced, tumbled to the floor. The telephone landed beside it. The room lurched from a third concussion. A hanging light fixture on the ceiling jumped and swung, one of its posts broken. Dust from the ceiling powdered Chuck’s neck. He and Troiano both crawled under desks.

Sparky lunged in from the hall. Another blast knocked his feet out from under him. As he hit the deck, the room jumped again. He snaked under a desk.

End of quote. The artillery attacks continued through the day of 29 April. I’ve never experienced anything like that since the fall of Saigon. The closest thing to it I’ve lived through was earthquakes in the San Francisco bay area in my childhood.

What made both earthquakes and shelling so terrifying was the helplessness—one could do nothing to defend oneself or escape the danger—and the randomness of the hits. That Bob, Gary, and I survived was pure chance.

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