My Last Warning to the Ambassador

In Last of the Annamese, I recount, almost verbatim, my last briefing for U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin, during the last week before Saigon fell on 29 April 1975. I attribute to the novel’s protagonist, Chuck Griffin, my words and actions. The name of the ambassador is never mentioned in the book. But the savvy reader knows it was Martin.

Here, quoted from the book, is the play-by-play description of our last meeting:

Chuck opened the briefing book on the desk with the pages facing the Ambassador. He reviewed the status of North Vietnamese forces within striking range. “Sir, the situation is critical. The fall of Xuan Loc removed the last barrier to the North Vietnamese approach to Saigon. We know from signals intelligence that sixteen to eighteen North Vietnamese divisions now surround us, poised to invade Saigon. An intercepted message early this morning sent by an unidentified North Vietnamese unit two kilometers north of Tan Son Nhat told a subordinate to await the order to attack.”

The Ambassador glanced at his watch.

“Our best estimate,” Chuck went on, “is that the enemy won’t be completely ready to move against us for another two to three days. But the North Vietnamese are in no hurry. The South Vietnamese military is crumbling fast. We expect that when the attack begins, we’ll be hit first with rockets and mortars, then artillery as enemy troops enter the city.”

The Ambassador gave him a patient smile. “Anything else?”

More tomorrow.

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