April 1975: The Evacuation of Saigon (3)

Today, I resume my reminiscences of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

I’ve posted here over the last year and a half the story of what happened to me in April of that year following my escape under fire from Saigon after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. Let me briefly recap.

After I landed on the Oklahoma City, the flagship of the 7th Fleet, the ships of the fleet continued to circle in the South China Sea. I don’t know how many days they tarried there, and I don’t know why. Although I wasn’t diagnosed until I got back to the states, I was suffering from ear damage (due to the artillery attacks), amoebic dysentery, and pneumonia. My physical state was due to the extended period with no food and no sleep during the last days in Saigon. So I was in no shape to grasp what the fleet was up to.

We finally set sail for the Philippines. When I got to Subic Bay, I booked a flight immediately for Honolulu because I knew I had to get to Pearl Harbor to brief Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) on what had happened in Saigon. My predecessor in Saigon, now chief of the NSA Pacific office, met me at the airport when I arrived in the middle of May. I was still wearing the clothes I’d been evacuated in and was a physical wreck. Rather than greet me or ask how I was, he took one look at me and said, “You can’t be seen around here looking like that.”

One of his subordinates took me to a men’s store and a barber and got me looking presentable. Nevertheless, the briefing didn’t go well. I kept coughing and couldn’t talk. I was having trouble focussing my eyes. I was perspiring. I felt like I was running a fever. Then, when I sat down, I lost consciousness.

More tomorrow.

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