The following is a quote from my article on the fall of Saigon (“Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon” Atticus Review, February 9, 2016). It describes events during the North Vietnamese attack on Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war.
“Not long before sunset on 28 April, I made a head run. The mammoth Pentagon East [that is, the Defense Attaché Office building on the northern edge of Saigon, which had housed the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) until 1973] was in shambles. Light bulbs were burned out, trash and broken furniture littered the halls, and the latrines were filthy and smelled disgusting. I came across men on stepladders running cables through the ceiling. They told me they were wiring the building for complete destruction. ‘Last man out lights the fuse and runs like hell,’ they joked.
“I went into the men’s room. I was standing at the urinal when the wall in front of me lunged toward me as if to swat me down, then slapped back into place. The sound of repeated explosions deafened me and nearly knocked me off my feet. Instead of sensibly taking cover, I left the men’s room and went to the closest exit at the end of a hall, unbolted it, and stepped into the shallow area between the western wall of the building and the security fence, a space of maybe ten to fifteen feet, now piled high with sandbags.
“The first thing I noticed was that the throngs of refugees had dispersed—no one was clamoring outside the barrier—presumably frightened away by the explosions. My ears picked up the whine of turbojets. I shaded my eyes from the setting sun and spotted five A-37 Dragonfly fighters circling above the Tan Son Nhat runways. They dove, dropped bombs, and pulled up. The resulting concussions sent me tumbling, but I was on my feet and running before the planes went into their next approach. Back in the office, I found out shortly that renegade pilots who had defected to the Communists were bombing Tan Son Nhat.”
End of quote. Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese the next day, 29 April 1975. I escaped under fire the night of 29 April after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city.
Nguyễn Thành Trung was again part of the air attack force. He was ever thereafter considered a hero by the North Vietnamese. He went on to become a pilot for Vietnam Airlines.
I’d certainly been through air attacks before during my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam, but I’d never before been on the side of those targeted. I hope I never am again.