April 1975 in Vietnam (3)

Continuing from yesterday the quote from Wikipedia on the crash of the C5A Galaxy near Saigon on 4 April 1975:

Survivors struggled to extricate themselves from the wreckage. The crash site was in a muddy rice paddy near the Saigon River, one mile (1.6 km) from the nearest road. Fire engines could not reach the site, and helicopters had to set down some distance from the wreckage. About 100 South Vietnamese soldiers deployed around the site, which was near the site of an engagement with the Viet Cong the previous night. Out of 328 people on board, the death toll included 78 children, 35 Defense Attaché Office employees and 11 U.S. Air Force personnel; there were 173 survivors. All of the surviving orphans were eventually flown to the United States. The dead orphans were cremated and were interred at the cemetery of the St. Nikolaus Catholic Church in Pattaya, Thailand. The accident would also “stand as the single largest loss of life” in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s history until the September 11 attacks because among the crash fatalities were five female DIA employees.

End of quote. I had intended to send out my secretary on that flight. At the last minute, I decided not to. I don’t know why. She was later safely evacuated and is now a happy grandmother.

As the situation grew more desperate during the early days of April 1975, I was anxious to get all my subordinates and the families out of the country. On 5 April, I took my wife out to lunch at the Officers Club on Tan Son Nhat to break the news to her that she and our four children must leave the country immediately. She was incredulous. Just that morning she’d gone to a coffee at the embassy. Officials in attendance had advised the gathering to disregard news reports; we were all safe and had nothing to fear. Unpersuaded by my urging, she finally agreed to go on three conditions: she could choose the flight date, she and the children could tour the world on the way back to the states, and she could buy a new Buick station wagon as soon as she got home.

Because the ambassador forbade evacuations, I disguised my family’s departure as a vacation. The earliest I could get airline tickets for their departure was on 9 April. I bought the tickets and crossed my fingers that things would hold together long enough for them to escape.

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