My Wife in Vietnam

On my two PCS (permanent change of station) tours I had in Vietnam, my wife, who spoke Vietnamese and French (we met at NSA where we were both analysts), and my children were with me on what were called “accompanied tours.” In between were many TDY (temporary duty) trips, usually four to six months in length. These trips I took alone.

On the first accompanied tour, originally intended to be from 1963 to 1965, I had only one child, my daughter, Susan. Halfway through that tour, in 1964, the U.S. committed large contingents of military forces to the war, and my wife and daughter were sent home because it was no longer deemed safe for them to be there.

My second accompanied tour, beginning in 1974, ended in April 1975 when I evacuated my wife and now four children surreptitiously because I knew that Saigon was about to fall to the North Vietnamese. I got my family out of the country under false pretenses because the U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin, had forbidden me to evacuate members of my staff or families—he didn’t believe that the North Vietnamese would attack Saigon even though I provided him conclusive evidence that an assault was imminent. I evacuated my 43 subordinates and their wives and children living in Saigon in the same way.

While my children for the most part disliked living in Vietnam, my wife loved it. On both tours, we had three servants (a cook, a housekeeper, and a nanny) which freed my wife from all duties. She attended coffees and teas and played tennis, visited with other dependents, and shopped to her heart’s content. On the second tour, when I was head of the covert National Security Agency (NSA) operation in South Vietnam, she was Mrs. Chief, a role she loved.

More tomorrow.

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