Chaos at the End (4)

Continuing the story of bedlam as Saigon fell in April 1975, quoted from my novel, Last of the Annamese:

By that afternoon, the eight-sixteen rule was already breaking down. Too much to do. Chuck and Sparky took turns sorting the incoming cables and passed the most urgent to Troiano, who briefed his boss, General Smith, in Smith’s office on the second floor. As if by habit, Chuck and Sparky posted positions of friendly and enemy forces on the wall maps and sent hourly situation summaries to the Embassy, General Smith, and Washington. They started through the file cabinets’ shredding everything until one of their three shredders conked out. Piles of burn bags filled with mangled ribbons of paper all but blocked the door to the external corridor. Sparky and Chuck alternated carrying the bags to the incinerator in the corner of the parking lot, burning them, and stirring the ashes to be certain that nothing legible was left. Sparky, who’d done the night shift, was near the end of his usefulness. Troiano sent him into the “dormitory”—his office—to get some rest. By 2000 hours, Troiano was getting flaky. Chuck respectfully suggested he, too, retire.

Left alone with the piles of incoming, Chuck . . . read and sorted, munched on crackers and olives [the only food he had—bar snacks scrounged from a hotel while he could still get out into the streets]. He had to stay rational until midnight when he’d waken Sparky to relieve him. Fighting roiled just north of them, and the North Vietnamese had begun an offensive in Long An and Hau Nghia Provinces on Saigon’s western flank. News reports from Phnom Penh told of public beheadings of former Cambodian government officials. The Intel Branch had been put on comms distribution for SPG [Special Planning Group, the in-country team preparing for the evacuation] traffic. The “special planning group,” code named ALAMO, had quietly activated the forward evacuation operations center, even though the Ambassador still hadn’t approved.

End of quote. More tomorrow.

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