When Saigon fell on 29 April 1975, we left behind to the harsh mercies of the North Vietnamese tens of thousands of South Vietnamese who had labored by our side to fight the enemy. Among them were 2700 Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) soldiers who worked with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), my employer.
I knew these men. I had tramped through the jungles with them, shared meals with them in their homes, celebrated the birth of their children, mourned when one of them died. They addressed me as anh, older brother. I had with them the same kind of bond I had with American fighting men on the battlefield: we were brothers in arms.
I did everything I was capable of to get these men and their families safely out of the country when it became obvious that Saigon was going to fall. But no U.S. government funds had been allotted to the evacuation of non-Americans. The U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin, was confident that the North Vietnamese would want to establish a coalition government with the South Vietnamese. He rejected my warnings, based on intercept of North Vietnamese radio communications, that the enemy was preparing to attack Saigon. And he never called for evacuations. By the time he was countermanded from Washington in the pre-dawn hours of 29 April, it was too late. The North Vietnamese were already in the streets of Saigon, and we couldn’t reach any of the 2700.
All of them were killed or captured by the North Vietnamese. Those who survived were sent to so-called reeducation camps, really concentration camps, where the death rate was high.
In sum, we betrayed our loyal friends and abandoned them. I have never stopped grieving over their loss.