Two days ago, I quoted from Last of the Annamese a passage about South Vietnamese Marine Colonel Thanh and his quiet resilience in the face of defeat. Throughout the book, I use the character of the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, as a vehicle to describe what I went through during the fall of Saigon. But in this case, the character of Thanh stood in my stead.
The key sentence in the quote is, “He longed to go home and replenish his spirit, but he had no home.”
As Saigon fell on 29 April 1975, I escaped under fire to the flag ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, the Oklahoma City, cruising in the South China Sea. While the 7th Fleet circled off the coast of Vietnam and then sailed for the Philippines, I was sleeping more than twelve hours a day due to lack of sleep and food I’d endured during the week prior to the escape. When I got to Subic Bay, I booked a flight for Honolulu because I knew I had to go to Pearl Harbor to brief CINCPAC, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific. The briefing didn’t go well. I had no voice, kept coughing, had trouble focusing my eyes. When I sat down after the trying to speak, I passed out. Clearly, I was suffering from something more than exhaustion. Despite all my sleep, I was getting worse.