My Wife in Vietnam (2)

By March of 1975, it was clear to me that South Vietnam would soon fall to the communist North Vietnamese. Even though the U.S. ambassador had forbidden me to do it, I evacuated my staff and their families under various ruses. In early April, I told my wife that it was no longer safe for her and children to remain in Vietnam. She was incredulous. That morning she had attended a coffee at the embassy, and officials had told her and other dependents that there was no substance to rumors that Saigon was about to be attacked. I couldn’t persuade her to leave.

Finally, she agreed to go on three conditions she laid down: First, she could choose her own date of departure. I said, fine, as long as it was within the next five days. Second, she and the children would tour the world on the way back to the states, taking a month, even two months, to go all through Asia and Europe. I agreed. Her third condition was that she could buy a brand-new Buick station wagon as soon as she got back to the U.S. Frantic, I said yes.

Desperate to have her and the children safely out of the country, I got them tickets for Bangkok on 9 April. But the day before, a renegade South Vietnamese pilot bombed the presidential palace, very near our villa. My wife and children were terrified. Now she was more than ready to go, but on the morning of 9 April as I drove my family from downtown Saigon out to the airport on the northern edge of the city at Tan Son Nhat, I ran into multiple roadblocks. The South Vietnamese government had declared a curfew in response to the attack of the previous day. I finally had to pull rank to get through all the obstacles and get my family on a plane out of the country.

More tomorrow.

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