I just learned that the South Vietnamese General Lê Minh Đảo died in a Hartford, Connecticut hospital on 19 March 2020 at the age of 87. General Đảo commanded South Vietnamese forces at Xuân Lộc, some twenty miles northeast of Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam war. His 18th Infantry Division fought bravely from 9 to 21 April 1975 against three North Vietnamese divisions before being withdrawn to defend Saigon. Xuân Lộc was the last obstacle to the communists. After the North Vietnamese captured it, they surrounded Saigon. The city fell to the communists on 29 April 1975.
I was in my office at Tan Son Nhat on the northern edge of Saigon when the North Vietnamese captured Xuân Lộc. I was struggling to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their wives and children as the communist threat against Saigon grew. The fall of Xuân Lộc was Saigon’s death knell. By dint of sheer determination, I was able to get all my people safely out of the country before the final conquest. I escaped under fire on the night of 29 April.
General Đảo did not escape. After surrendering to the North Vietnamese on 9 May 1975, he was imprisoned for the next seventeen years. When he was finally released in 1992, he fled to the U.S.
The courage and self-sacrifice of General Đảo and others like him remain the unwritten story of the end of Vietnam. I am grateful for their acts of bravery.