Twice in April 1975, as Saigon was falling to the North Vietnamese, their pilots attacked the city from the air.
The first time, on 8 April 1975, a South Vietnamese pilot, who was secretly a North Vietnamese agent, flew his F4E Phantom fighter jet out of the formation that had just taken off and headed into Saigon. He bombed the Dinh Độc Lập (Presidential Palace), not far from our villa.
My wife was at that time preparing herself and my four children to leave South Vietnam. It was already clear to me that the North Vietnamese would assault Saigon soon as the last step in their conquest of South Vietnam, and I was rushing to evacuate all my subordinates and their families as well as my own wife and children. Our villa was close to the Presidential Palace in downtown Saigon. My wife and the children were terrified. I got them on a plane out of the country the next day.
As I learned much later. the pilot who did the bombing was Nguyễn Thành Trung. He was a North Vietnamese plant in the South Vietnamese Air Force. He had trained in the U.S. All through his time in service he was waiting for an opportunity to avenge the death of his father at the hands of South Vietnamese troops. After bombing the palace, he escaped to a safe zone held by North Vietnamese troops in Phước Long Province.
The second bombing was on 28 April 1975 as the fall of Saigon reached its conclusion. When it happened, I was holed up in my office at Tan Son Nhat adjacent to the airport runways, on the northern edge of Saigon. In my article on the fall of Saigon, I described the attack. I’ll quote from that article in my next post.
More next time.