A reader points out that in recent posts I talked about what my children went through as a result of my time in Vietnam, but I made no mention of my wife. That was intentional.
Here’s the story. While my children suffered from their time in Vietnam, my wife enjoyed it. My absence didn’t trouble her, and during the two tours she was with me in Vietnam, she had servants who did all the housework and cared for the children. She was free to play tennis, go to coffees and lunches and teas, and shop as much as she wanted. She even took advantage of the limousine and driver assigned to me.
During her second tour in 1974 and 1975, she played the role of Mrs. Chief to the hilt. She enjoyed being first among the dependents there. While the children were uncomfortable with the poverty and the presence of war-wounded, my wife remained impervious. When I told her that she and the children must leave Saigon because the North Vietnamese would soon attack the city, she rejected my warning. At an embassy coffee, officials had told her and other dependents that there was no danger—we would not be attacked. She finally agreed to leave on three conditions: she could choose her own date of departure, she and the children would tour the world on the way home—travelling all through Asia and Europe for as long as she wanted— and she could buy a new Buick station wagon when she got back to the states.
I agreed with all her conditions and got her and the children tickets for departure on 9 April. The day before, a renegade South Vietnamese pilot bombed the presidential palace, near our villa, and defected to the North Vietnamese. Now she was more than willing to go. But when I drove my family to the airport on 9 April, I ran into many roadblocks. The South Vietnamese government had declared a curfew in the wake of the previous day’s attack. I finally had to pull rank to get my wife and children to the airport on onto a plane.