Graham Martin (2)

Why in 1975 did the top embassy officials in Saigon, led by Ambassador Graham Martin, insist on rejecting the irrefutable evidence that the attack on the city was at hand? In my article about the fall of Saigon (“Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon,”, I surmise that the leaders at the embassy were subject to a condition now called Groupthink Syndrome, defined as firm ideology, immune to fact, shared by all members of a coterie. Tom Polgar, the CIA chief of station, and other senior embassy officials, in other words, joined the ambassador in a fantasy contradicted by the facts. That Saigon would ever fall to the communists was, to them, unthinkable.

Ambassador Martin was the instigator of that fantasy. Readers ask me why he firmly believed that no attack was forthcoming. I conjecture that he was misled by his own conviction, almost a religious faith. To him, the very idea that the Vietnamese Communist flag would ever fly over Saigon was inconceivable. My guess is that he held that belief because his son had died in combat in Vietnam, and he could not countenance the notion that his son’s death had been in vain.

But that is no more than speculation. To this day I am left wondering why he acted as he did. His refusal to accept the evidence of a forthcoming attack and his failure to call for an evacuation resulted in multiple thousands of deaths. The 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers who had worked with my organization were abandoned when we Americans withdrew in chaos on 29 April 1975. They were all either killed or captured by the North Vietnamese. And because the ambassador refused to allow me or my men to be evacuated, I lied, cheated, and stole to get them and their wives and children all out safely. I myself escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city.

To this day, Martin’s reasoning remains a mystery.

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