One of the final presentiments that Saigon was about to fall came on the night of 26 April 1975 when the North Vietnamese blew up the ammo dump at Bien Hoa just north of us in Saigon. By that time, I was sleeping in my office at Tan Son Nhat on the northern edge of the city. Here’s the way I described what happened in my article* on the fall of Saigon:
“During the night of 26 April, I was trying unsuccessfully to sleep when a blast threw me from my cot and slammed me to the floor. I ran to the comms center. The guys looked dazed, but everything was working and nobody was hurt. A bulletin arrived within minutes telling us that North Vietnamese sappers had blown up the ammo dump at Bien Hoa, just north of us. That meant, among other things, that panic in the streets would ramp up a couple of notches.”
The incident also appears in Last of the Annamese:
“Chuck’s ears registered the concussion first. It threw him from the rack and slammed him to the deck. Change and keys flew from the bureau. The walkie-talkie clattered to the floor. He listened through the ringing in his ears. Silence. He crawled to the window. Sliding up the wall until he was erect, he leaned to the side far enough for one eye to peer through the taped glass. Under the hostile glare of security flood lights, the city lay tense but unmoving. Something big had exploded . . . .
“Wednesday morning, Chuck learned from a Liberation Radio transcript that the explosion had been the mammoth ammo dump at Bien Hoa, less than eighteen miles northeast of them. Friendly after-action reports confirmed that enemy sappers had penetrated the perimeter. The airbase, the largest still in the hands of the South Vietnamese, had been hit the day before with rockets and artillery, and the runway had been closed for repairs. Meanwhile, the defense of Xuan Loc was over. Withdrawal had begun. The enemy’s pincers were closing.”
Xuan Loc was the last obstacle between the North Vietnamese and Saigon. Once they had occupied it, they surrounded Saigon. The end was at hand.