April 1975 in Vietnam (8)

I resume my reminiscing about the last days in Saigon. On this date 43 years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was evacuated. Here’s the story as told in the internet’s This Day in History:

At 8:50 a.m. on April 12 [1975], an Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service HH-53 landed a four-man Air Force combat control team [at the embassy] to coordinate the operation. Three minutes later, it guided in a Marine Corps helicopter with the first element of the Marine security force. Marine and Air Force helicopters then carried 276 evacuees–including 82 Americans, 159 Cambodians, and 35 foreign nationals–to the safety of U.S. Navy assault carriers in the Gulf of Thailand. By 10 a.m., the Marine contingency force, the advance 11-man element, and the combat control team had been evacuated without any casualties.

End of quote. In the days that followed, as I hunkered down, isolated in my office on the northern edge of Saigon waiting for the North Vietnamese to attack, I waited for Phnom Penh to fall to the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists allied to North Vietnam. It happened five days later. I heard press reports of the beheadings of Cambodian official by the Khmer Rouge. For the first time in my life, I learned what terror tasted like.

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