My Last Warning to the Ambassador (3)

After my disastrous interview with the ambassador, during the last few days before Saigon fell, I went down the hall to the office of Tom Polgar, the CIA Chief of Station. Here’s my retelling of my discussion with Tom from Last of the Annamese. Since the book is fiction, I describe the scene from the point of view of the protagonist, Chuck Griffin:

For a moment, [Chuck] stood panting, then, on impulse, turned and hurried to the office of the CIA Chief of Station. The secretary took him immediately into the chief’s private office.

“Forgive, the interruption, sir,” Chuck panted. “I just briefed the Ambassador on the military situation and urged him to call for an evacuation. He cut me short.”

The chief smiled up from his desk. “He’s a busy man.”

Chuck’s desperation got the better of his sense of protocol. “Sir, we gotta get people out of here.”

The chief laughed. He opened a manila folder on his desk and handed Chuck a message printout. It was from the Ambassador to the president and Secretary of State, dated that morning. It declared that the North Vietnamese were using communications deception to mislead the Allied intercept effort. And they were trying to frighten the Republic of Vietnam into negotiations by transmitting false data.

Chuck’s mouth dropped open. He read the message again to be sure he got it right.

“What evidence do you have,” he said to the chief, “what evidence does the Ambassador have of communications deception?”

The chief laughed. “Tell you what. I’ll bet you a bottle of champagne, vintage and chateau of your choice, that a year from now you and I will both still be in Saigon, at our desks, following our usual routine.”

The man was serious. Chuck blinked, then turned and faltered from the room.

End of quote. Neither Tom Polgar nor the ambassador believed the compelling signals intelligence data that the North Vietnamese were about to attack Saigon. I recently learned that CIA agents at the embassy had plenty of evidence from their own sources that the assault was imminent. They weren’t believed, either. The attack several days later took U.S. officials by surprise.

More tomorrow.

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