Marine General Al Gray (3)

After the fall of Saigon, Al Gray continued his service to the corps, and in 1987, he was named Commandant of the Marine Corps. His reputation among the Marines spread, and ordinary people began to hear about him. Two of the three volumes of his biography by Scott Laidig are now in print. His close ties with the National Security Agency (NSA), my employer, became stronger. And in July 2018, Leatherneck, the “magazine of the Marines,” honored him with a cover story about his life of service. In that article, he is quoted as remembering the fall of Saigon as “some of the worst moments of my career.” You can read it at

Meanwhile, General Gray had made it his business to stay in touch with me through all these years since the fall of Saigon. In 2016, when I was severely ill with lung cancer that nearly cost me my life, he sent me a note saying that he was rooting for me.

Then, last Friday, on 7 September, he was given a party to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. The invitation to me to attend came so late that I couldn’t accept—I was preparing to participate in the Maryland Public Television Flea Market the next day—but I sent him an autographed copy of Last of the Annamese. I wrote, “I’m alive today because you saved my life on 29 April 1975.”

The retired Marine officer who took the book to him, Ed Hall, called me on Saturday to tell me what happened when General Gray read my autograph. According to Ed, the general was so moved he was almost in tears.

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