Marine General Al Gray (2)

Continuing the quote from my article about General Al Gray’s appearance at my door in Saigon as the city was about to fall:

“In my office, I told him [Al Gray] everything I knew about the military situation, but he knew more than I did. What he didn’t know in detail was what was going on with the friendlies. I told him about the unruly, desperate crowds jamming the streets and now ten to fifteen people deep outside the perimeter fence of our compound and my worry that the fence might not hold. He explained to me that he’d been named the Ground Security Officer—the man in charge—for the evacuation of Saigon once it was ordered.

“But the Ambassador was doing everything he could to throw roadblocks in Al’s way. He wouldn’t allow Al’s Marines to dress in uniform, fly their own helicopters into the country, or stay overnight. So Al and his troops, in civilian clothes, had to fly in and out each day from the 7th Fleet, cruising in the South China Sea, via Air America slicks, the little Hueys, the UH-1 choppers that could only carry eight to fourteen people.

“It didn’t matter. Ambassador or no Ambassador, the Marines had landed. They’d be ready for the evacuation the instant it was ordered.”

End of quote. The Ambassador had also forbidden me to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their families—he didn’t believe the overwhelming evidence that the North Vietnamese were about to attack Saigon. So I used every ruse I could think of to get my people safely out of the country. Before the end of April, all of them were gone except for the two communicators who had volunteered to stay with me to the end.

The evacuation of the remaining Americans and some Vietnamese started around 27 April. Al and his Marines, now in uniform and using Marine helicopters, flew in from the 7th Fleet and rescued us. That’s how Al Gray saved my life.

More tomorrow.

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