April 1975: The Evacuation of Saigon (4)

Resuming the story of what happened to me after my escape from Saigon as it fell in 1975:

Passing out at the briefing for CINCPAC (May 1975) should have made me realize that I needed to see a doctor. I knew I was sick, but in my befuddled state, I attributed my physical problems to exhaustion. I should have realized that I had a disease. After all, the whole time the 7th Fleet had been circling in the South China Sea, I’d been sleeping. But I wasn’t getting better. I was getting worse.

I didn’t seek medical help. I wanted to go home. I can’t tell you how I yearned just to go home. I booked a flight to Baltimore with a stopover in San Francisco. Between flights I tried to find a doctor, but there was a doctors’ strike in progress in San Francisco, and no physician would see me. I flew on to Baltimore. The next day I finally got a physical check-up. The doctor diagnosed me with dysentery and pneumonia and pointed out that “Heavy smokers are more susceptible to pneumonia than normal people.”

By this time, it was nearing the end of May. My wife and children had completed their tour of the world while Saigon was falling and were in Massachusetts staying with her father. I telephone her and begged her to come to Maryland. I told her I was ill and needed her. She said no.

She and the children would not return to Maryland, she said, until I got our house back from the family that had leased it while we were in Saigon. That lease had another year to go. I contacted the family and paid them to move out and return the house to me. By the time my family returned to Maryland, it was July.

The grim truth was now before my eyes. Whatever this woman felt for me, it wasn’t love. That was the beginning of the end of the marriage.

More tomorrow.

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