Holed Up at the Office in Saigon

As I have noted here in earlier posts, I knew before the end of March 1975 that Saigon would soon fall to the North Vietnamese. As refugees fleeing the advancing communist forces streamed into Saigon, the streets of the city were becoming so clogged that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through much longer. After I got my wife and four children safely out of the country on 9 April, I moved out of the villa we had shared and slept in my office. I set up a cot in the front office of our suite—my office—and slept there between the two flags on each side of my desk, the stars and stripes and the gold-and-orange banner of the Republic of Vietnam. I kept a loaded .38 revolver under my pillow.

I spent full time getting my subordinates and their families out of the country. Because the U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, had forbidden me to evacuate my people, I had to do it on the sly. I used every ruse I could think of to get my 43 subordinates and their families out. By 27 April, only three of us were left, me and the two communicators who had volunteered to stay with me to the end.

All we had to eat was bar snacks we’d been able to scrounge from a hotel while we could still get out in the streets. That was no longer possible—our vehicles had been crammed up against the wall of the building to make room for the Marine helicopters from the U.S. 7th Fleet, cruising out of sight in the South China Sea. Besides, the mobs outside the perimeter fence of our compound were now ten to fifteen people deep, all demanding evacuation. We were stuck there. The ambassador, confident that the North Vietnamese would never attack Saigon, refused to call for an evacuation.

As the attacking forces got closer, we gave up trying to sleep. Our diet was olives, pickle relish, and crackers. I moved my cot and the .38 into the comms center, and the three of us went on a regimen of one guy resting for two hours while the other two worked.

More next time.

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