U.S. Marines and the Fall of Saigon (2)

Continuing the story of how our Marines got me and the two communicators who had volunteered to stay with me out of Saigon when the North Vietnamese attacked in April 1975:

The U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, had refused to call for an evacuation. He was persuaded by the Hungarian member of the ICCS (the International Commission for Control and Supervision set up in 1973 to monitor the cease-fire) that the North Vietnamese had no intention of attacking Saigon; they wanted to form a coalition government with “all patriotic forces” and rule jointly. The signals intelligence results I was responsible for made it unmistakably clear that the North Vietnamese were preparing to attack. The ambassador chose to not to accept my warning but to believe the assurances of a representative of a communist government allied to North Vietnam.

The bombardment of our compound began the evening of 28 April—first rockets, then about four in the morning on the 29th, the artillery attack started. The building next to us was destroyed, a C-130 transport aircraft on the runway behind us blew up, and two of the Marine guards at one of our compound gates were killed. As the artillery bombardment continued, we got in a message telling us that FREQUENT WIND PHASE FOUR had been declared. That was the code name for the evacuation. Washington—presumably President Ford—had countermanded the Ambassador.

The two communicators were evacuated around 1400 (2:00 p.m.) on the afternoon of 29 April. I went out that night on a little Air America Huey that had been drafted to help with the evacuation. Our helicopter took heavy ground fire, but we escaped. By the time we reached the 7th Fleet out in the South China Sea, it was pitch black and raining hard. The helicopter pilot circled and circled before landing on the flood-lit helipad of the U.S.S. Oklahoma City, the flag ship of the 7th Fleet. He told me afterwards that he, a civilian pilot working for Air America, had never before landed on a ship.

That was when the current commander of my American Legion Post, Ed Hall, and I first crossed paths. He was with the Marines who saved my life.

The article I quoted from earlier in this series of posts is “Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon.” You can read it at http://atticusreview.org/bitter-memories-the-fall-of-saigon/  When you reach the end of part 1, click the “2” to access the second part of the article.

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