Chaos at the End (5)

More about the bedlam in Saigon as the North Vietnamese surrounded the city:

The Ambassador, persuaded that the North Vietnamese would never attack Saigon, threw every roadblock he could think of into the path of those getting ready for the evacuation. He inanely clung to the specifications of the 1973 peace agreement with the North Vietnamese that no more than fifty members of the U.S. military could be in Vietnam at any given time. He insisted that the U.S. not violate the agreement even though the North Vietnamese had obviously abandoned any pretense of abiding by it. They had already seized two-thirds of South Vietnam by military force and had surrounded Saigon with eighteen divisions.

I have described several times in this blog the final three days during the fall of Saigon before I and my two communicators escaped under fire. We were holed up in the comms center of my office. Although we couldn’t get out to see it happening, chaos in the streets of Saigon had become rampant. The mobs were everywhere and had surrounded our compound. They were now ten to fifteen people deep, becoming more unruly by the hour, demanding evacuation.

Bob and Gary and I gave up trying to sleep. We had little food left. It was snacks we’d been able to cadge from a hotel bar while we could still get out into the streets. Starting on Monday, 28 April, the North Vietnamese shelled us. A C-130 transport aircraft on the airstrip behind the building blew up. The building next door to us was destroyed. Two Marine guards at our gate were killed. The shelling continued on and off through next day as Marine helicopters flew in from the U.S. 7th Fleet cruising out of sight from land in the South China Sea. Bob and Gary went out by chopper the afternoon of Tuesday, 29 April. I went out that night in the pouring rain, after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. I was later diagnosed with amoebic dysentery, ear damage, pneumonia from lack of sleep and inadequate diet, and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).

The chaos ended the next day, Wednesday, 30 April, when the North Vietnamese completed their conquest of South Vietnam and occupied Saigon. The 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers who had worked with my organization over my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam were all killed or captured by the North Vietnamese.

The chaos was over everywhere but in the souls of those of us who lived through those infamous days. The chaos continues in me. My PTSI will be always with me.

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