In February 2017, I wrote in this blog about the attack by a renegade South Vietnamese F5E pilot on the presidential palace in Saigon on 8 April 1975. I reported that my wife and four children in our villa on Le van Duyet street, not far from the palace, were terrified. They were preparing to leave the country—their flight out was the next day. Their departure was part of the general evacuation I was pushing to get all my subordinates and their families out of the city which I knew would soon fall to the North Vietnamese.
I described the F5E attack in Last of the Annamese. Chuck, the protagonist, and Tuyet, the woman he loves, are in the square on Thong Nhat Boulevard, close to the palace and the American embassy, when the attack begins:
“A whine cut through the clatter of the city traffic. A turbojet engine, getting closer. Chuck looked up in time to see an F5E Tiger fighter dive like a raptor, its attention riveted on the palace. Chuck yelled to Tuyet, but the scream of the plane blocked his voice. The jet swooped low, left behind black smudges, and shrieked upwards.
“Chuck tackled Tuyet. As the grass met their bodies, the air imploded into his ears. The earth beneath them jerked. He looked up. The plane circled and came in for a second dive. Ear-shattering thunder, and the earth jumped again. Antiaircraft on the palace grounds spat tracers into the air. He covered his head with his arms, tried to push himself into the earth, then turned to look toward her. She was struggling to her knees, staring at the palace. He grabbed her, forced her down. As a section of the palace collapsed and burst into flame, he threw his body over hers. Gunfire split the air around them.
“The plane flew off. Silence. People sprang to their feet and ran in all directions. He was up, dragging her across the square toward Pasteur Street. They were three blocks up Pasteur when the firing erupted again. They fell to the pavement, arms over heads. When the shooting paused, he yanked her up. She struggled for breath, stumbled in her high heels. He caught her as she fell.”