April 1975 in Vietnam (11)

Continuing the story of my struggle to get people safely out of South Vietnam as the fall of Saigon loomed:

I made it my business to save two Vietnamese families.

One was well-to-do, living in an exclusive neighborhood. I went to their house, explained that I’d help them leave the country. They were insulted. They assured me that there was no danger and Saigon would not fall to the communists and sent me away. Months later, I ran into them in the U.S. They had escaped at the end and now upbraided me for not helping them.

The other was a poor family related to one of the servants in our villa. I hid them in my sedan—some in the trunk, others on the floor by the back seat, covered with a blanket—and drove onto the air base at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon, using my U.S.-issued pass to get through the gate manned by South Vietnamese police who would not have admitted them. I drove to the airstrip and let them out, telling them to get on any aircraft they could to escape the country. Months later, back in the U.S., they contacted me to thank me for saving their lives.

More tomorrow.

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