The seizure of the city of Xuan Loc by the North Vietnamese on 21 April 1975, just eight days before the fall of Saigon, stands out in my memory as the death knell for South Vietnam. I was in the midst of the frantic evacuation of my 43 subordinates and their families. I was forced to fake the reasons for their departure because the U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, refused to allow an evacuation. He was convinced that the North Vietnamese would never attack Saigon.
Xuan Loc, the capital of Long Khanh Province, was just northeast of us. It was the last obstacle between the North Vietnamese and Saigon. It was defended by the South Vietnamese 18th Infantry Division in what can only be described as an heroic effort to save the country. The battle went on for more than ten days. The North Vietnamese threw unit after unit into the fray.
Last of the Annamese, set during the final days of Vietnam, tells the story of Xuan Loc as it happened. The protagonist, Chuck Griffin, tracks the advance of North Vietnamese forces day by day just as I did, starting in early April:
“The pile of incoming messages on his desk top had grown several inches since he left this morning [for a day of rest before the night shift]. He set his jaw and worked his way through the heap.
“The full impact of losses in the north was emerging. Whole units had disappeared in the fighting. A few stragglers had made it out of the captured territory, but the efforts to organize units from the survivors were crippled by lack of equipment and ammunition—a direct result of the cutoff of U.S. funds. Major battles were shaping up in the arc of provinces north of Saigon. Most disturbing was accumulating evidence of enemy intent to seize Xuan Loc, the capital of Long Khanh Province, less than forty miles northeast of Saigon, as close to the capital as Baltimore was to Washington. Elements of three North Vietnamese divisions were converging on the town. First attacks had been repulsed but more were to come. Chuck posted the location of friendly and enemy units on the Long Khanh map.”