Getting People Out at the End (3)

During the last ten days of April 1975, as the North Vietnamese closed in around Saigon, the battlefield suddenly became quiet. Here’s my telling of those events in Last of the Annamese:

[Intelligence analyst Chuck Griffin] prepared himself for the grind through the mountains of incoming traffic, but for the first time he could remember the total take was less than an inch high. Nearly all the classified message traffic was code-word signals intelligence reports that had originated in the States. The rest was the usual screed from the Liberation News Agency and news reports from the wire services. What was going on? The Republic of Vietnam, its northern provinces ripped from it, lay quivering. The North Vietnamese watched and waited like a cat toying with a wounded bird. With little to post or report, Chuck, on Troiano’s orders, drafted a cable to Washington, info General Smith, updating the estimate he’d given General Weyand. In it he listed the sixteen North Vietnamese divisions known to be positioned and the two believed to be close by for a three-prong attack against Saigon.

He flipped on Sparky’s portable to get the latest ARS [American Radio Service] reporting on the war. He heard news about Hollywood films and debates in Congress followed by songs from Dionne Warwick and Al Martino. Nothing about Vietnam. Toward noon word arrived that the Embassy had commanded ARS to cease all reporting about the war. Troiano speculated that the Ambassador was afraid of panic.

The eerie calm prevailed. Analyses from stateside agencies surmised that the North Vietnamese were regrouping, but the embassy responded that the North Vietnamese were waiting for President Thieu to step down so that they could begin negotiations with the United States and the South Vietnamese. Monday afternoon, the embassy announced that President Thieu had left office and was fleeing the country. Troiano told Chuck that Thieu was flying with his family to exile in Taiwan.

End of quote. More next time.

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