April 1975 in Vietnam (6)

More on April 1975 in Vietnam:

On 9 April 1975, my wife and four children departed Vietnam for Bangkok on the first leg of their journey to the U.S. Making that trip happen took some doing.

The U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, had forbidden me to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their families. He had been reassured by the Hungarian member of the International Commission for Control and Supervision (ICCS) that the North Vietnamese had no intenti0n of attacking Saigon. The ICCS was a group established as part of the 1973 Paris Peace Agreement; its function was to monitor the supposed cease-fire.

Martin, in other words, was persuaded by a representative of a communist nation allied to North Vietnam that the North Vietnamese would not attack Saigon. Meanwhile, I was daily sending him irrefutable evidence that the North Vietnamese were about to assault the city.

At a coffee for dependents at the U.S. embassy, my wife had been assured that no strike against the city was in the offing. She enjoyed living in Saigon and brushed aside my entreaties for her and children to leave as soon as possible. She finally agreed to go under three conditions: she could choose her date of departure, she and the children would tour the world on the way back to the states, and, when she got back, she would buy a brand-new Buick station wagon.

I got my family tickets out—supposedly for a holiday in Bangkok—on 9 April. The day before that. a renegade South Vietnamese pilot bombed the presidential palace, near our villa. Now my wife was more than ready to leave Vietnam. But on the morning of 9 April as I tried to drive my family to the airport at Tan Son Nhat, we were repeatedly stopped at police roadblocks. The South Vietnamese government had declared a curfew as a result of the previous day’s bombing. I finally had to pull rank to get through the roadblocks and get my family on an airplane out of the country.

As soon as my family was safely gone, I moved out of the villa we had shared. I put a cot in front my desk in the front office of our office suite (my office) in the DAO building at Tan Son Nhat and slept there with a .38 revolver under my pillow.

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