Saigon’s Propaganda Banners (2)

Continuing my quotations from Last of the Annamese about Saigon propaganda banners:

A second passage on the banners describes a conversation between the two principal Vietnamese characters, South Vietnamese Marine Colonel Thanh and his wife, Tuyet:

Thanh scrubbed one shoulder with a large sponge. “Corruption and lying thrive in the stench of defeat. Had our leaders spent less energy on their villas and bank accounts, had they worked to help the people, the ending might have been different. Now it is too late. I travel to prepare my troops to be bold and brave, because I know the ending will be painful. Many, many will die. I do not tell them, like my superiors, that victory is only months away.”

“Do not allow defeatism to destroy us.”

Thanh laughed. “That’s what the banners stretched across the streets of Saigon say. ‘Be bold and stamp out the vermin Viet Cong.’ ‘Glory to the Republic.’

“Tuyet, time is slipping away. Don’t waste it in subterfuge. As the monks taught me, so I teach you: adversity is a gift to those who wish to grow. Make the most of it. And prepare yourself. The ending will be brutal.”

A third passage is toward the end of the book as the fall of Saigon comes closer:

The city was already writhing in the heat. Dust trailed after everything that moved. The canals and gutters that riddled the city had turned black, oozing with clots of human waste. The morning mist, suffused by exhaust and smoke from charcoal fires, hung in the blighted trees and discolored eaves. Orange and white banners sagged, some falling into the street. Refugees choked byways and alleys and spilled over the boulevards and parks. Chuck smelled the raw force of incipient panic.

End of quotes. I remember my sense of impending doom as I watched the banners droop and fall: the North Vietnamese would soon be in the streets.

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