Hallucinations

Returning again to my thoughts posted in this blog from more than two years ago, I write today about hallucinations I might have suffered from during and immediately after the fall of Saigon.

I spent 30 April 1975 on the Oklahoma City, the flagship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, sailing in the South China Sea. I had escaped under fire the night before from Saigon as it fell to the North Vietnamese. I slept most of that day, but when I was awake, I was badgered by recollections. I began to suspect that some of them were of things that didn’t happen.

The background: For the better part of a week toward the end of April 1975, I and two communicators who had agreed to stay with me to the end as the North Vietnamese laid siege to the city, Bob Hartley and Gary Hickman, had been isolated in our office suite at Tan Son Nhat on the northern edge of Saigon. We had run out of food and were on an alternating schedule of one guy resting for two hours while the other two worked. We couldn’t sleep because of the small arms fire and the shelling. Our compound was hit with rockets and artillery—the building next to us blew up and two Marine guards at our gate were killed.

After I got back to the states in mid-May, I was diagnosed with amoebic dysentery, ear damage, and pneumonia due to muscle fatigue, inadequate diet, and sleep deprivation. But at the time, all I knew was that I had to keep going. My driving motivation was to get Bob and Gary out alive. Nothing else mattered.

Bob and Gary were evacuated safely on the afternoon of 29 April. I went out that night in the pitch black and the pouring rain of a monsoon that struck early that year. The helicopter I was on was hit by ground fire, but we managed to escape.

I have memories I can’t verify. Were they waking nightmares or did they really happen?

I don’t write about them. All that gets recorded here and in my books and articles are events I’m sure really occurred. Yet these pseudo-memories still haunt me. They’ll remain with me for the rest of my life as leftovers from a brain sick from hunger and exhaustion.

I’ve never read of anyone else suffering from memories of things that might not have happened. I’m unique in a way that’s embarrassing.

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