March 1975 in Vietnam

As the end of March approaches, my mind returns to March 1975 in Vietnam. Two events stay in my memory. The first was Congress’s decision on 14 March not to appropriate funds for Vietnam, even though the South Vietnamese government was out of money to pay its troops and replace lost weapons as it battled the invading North Vietnamese. That decision was the death knell for South Vietnam.

The other event was my trip to the highlands with my counterpart, a South Vietnamese general, now deceased. His name is still classified, so I can’t tell you who he was. Here’s the description of that trip, from my article, “Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon”:

On 9 March, I flew north with my counterpart, a South Vietnamese general, on his C-47 to Phu Bai, near Hué in the far north; to Pleiku in the central highlands; and thence to Ban Me Thuot in the southern reach of the highlands. Our purpose was to visit units under the general’s command to prepare them for the coming onslaught. In Pleiku, during a courtesy call with the commander of II Corps, Major General Pham Van Phu, things turned sour. The general I was traveling with and the II Corps intelligence staff chief tried to persuade General Phu that Ban Me Thuot would be the first target of the Communist campaign in the highlands. Intercept of North Vietnamese communications made that clear. The II Corps Commander was unpersuaded. He doubted that the Communists were preparing to strike, and if they were, II Corps headquarters would be the logical focus of the offensive. After all, he was the most important man in the highlands, and he was at II Corps headquarters in Pleiku.

My counterpart cut short our trip, and we flew directly, that afternoon, to Ban Me Thuot.

End of quote. More tomorrow.

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