In Last of the Annamese, my novel about the fall of Vietnam, South Vietnamese Marine Colonel Thanh observes that as the war grew closer to Saigon, the birds forsook the city.
I remember it. Toward the end, as North Vietnamese shelling came closer, I noticed the eerie silence between bombardments. I looked up into the trees. No birds. I remember at the time thinking that no omen could be more grim.
The birds’ twittering and calling to one another was so much a part of life in South Vietnam and we were so used to it that we were not even aware of it at the conscious level. In Saigon, it was part of the background noise, along with traffic sounds and the calling of street vendors.
I recall the chill I felt when I realized the birds were gone. They were wise, those birds. Death and destruction were only days away.