Forbidden by the ambassador to evacuate my people, I did it anyway, putting them on flights out of the country for fake business travel, phony vacations, and trumped-up home leave. But I couldn’t help the 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers who had worked with the NSA organization. I struggled in vain to get them evacuated. They were all left to the carnal mercies of the victorious North Vietnamese who killed or imprisoned them when Saigon fell.
Meanwhile, I did all I could to get as many Vietnamese as possible safely out of the country. Thurston Clarke, in his Honorable Exit: How a few brave Americans risked all to save our Vietnamese allies at the end of the war (Doubleday, 2019), tells of some of my efforts. How he ever came to know of them is still a mystery to me.
The last week in Saigon was chaos incarnate. I’ve described elsewhere in the blog the horrific events that played out in a city gone berserk—the streets were impassable, mobbed with refugees jamming into the city to escape the communists. Our compound was surrounded by throngs pleading for evacuation. The hysterical crowds trampled to death those who fell. Death was already commonplace before the North Vietnamese set foot in the city.
After 41 of my subordinates and their families were safely evacuated, three of us were left—me, whom the ambassador had forbidden to leave, and two communicators who volunteered to stay with me to the end. On the afternoon of 29 April, I succeeded in getting my two communicators safely out. They flew via helicopter to a ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet that was cruising in the South China Sea. I escaped that night under fire.
Reading the two books Bloodstained Sea and Irreparable Harm force me to face afresh the scenes of those hideous days. Those bloodstained memories will never fade.