Getting People Out at The End

As the fall of Saigon loomed, I was frantic to evacuate not only the 43 guys working for me and their families but also the Vietnamese who had thrown their lot in with us against the communists. In the end, my American subordinates and their wives and children escaped, but I failed the Vietnamese—they were all still there when the North Vietnamese took the city.

One passage in my novel Last of the Annamese describes the chaos created by the ambassador at the end:

“The Embassy’s dragging its feet,” Troiano said. “The Ambassador thinks there’s going to be some kind of cease-fire to negotiate the formation of a coalition government. But we haven’t been idle. Ever hear of the DAO Special Planning Group? Don’t let the name fool you. The SPG’s the forward evacuation coordinator. It’s been quietly working with the Marines flying in from ships off the coast to get everything ready. But the Ambassador is doing everything he can to throw obstacles in their path. He won’t allow the Marines to wear uniforms, fly in on Marine helicopters, or stay overnight. Because we’re expecting mobs outside the gate, the deputy DAO, General Baughn, sent a message to higher ups requesting additional security guards when the evacuation begins. The Ambassador was furious—ordered Baughn out of the country. So now all the preps are sub rosa. Trouble is, the city is already rolling toward panic. That’s going to make it rough.”

“So the servants at the houses, the chauffeurs—”

Troiano wilted. “If the Embassy had faced the facts and started evacuating people other than high-risk Viets, we could have gotten many of them out. As it is . . .” He shook his head.

“What will we do, sir?”

“When I find out, I’ll tell you.”

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