On 9 April 1975 in Saigon, I loaded my wife and four children onto a plane headed for Bangkok. They were supposedly off for a vacation in Thailand. In fact, they were headed back to the U.S.
I was forced to employ the vacation ruse because the U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, had forbidden me to evacuate my people. He insisted that no evacuations were necessary despite the overwhelming evidence I was supplying him from intercepted North Vietnamese radio communications that an attack on Saigon was imminent. The Hungarian member of the International Commission for Control and Supervision (ICCS) had told the ambassador that the North Vietnamese had no desire to assault the city. They wished, he assured Martin, to form a coalition government with all patriotic forces in South Vietnam and rule jointly. The ambassador believed the Hungarian representative and rejected my incontrovertible intelligence of a looming assault even though the Hungarian was a representative of a communist government allied to North Vietnam.
Prohibited by the ambassador from evacuating my 43 subordinates and their wives and children, I was determined to do it anyway lest they be killed when the attack on the city was launched. I used every ploy I could think of to get them out. I sent my people out on phony business travel, fake home leave, and imaginary vacations. By the end of April, I had evacuated 41 subordinates and their families. The last two of my guys were still with me. They were communicators who had volunteered to stay with me to the end.
My wife didn’t want to leave Saigon. She enjoyed to the hilt the role of Mrs. Chief (I was the head of the NSA clandestine operation in South Vietnam). Because we had servants, including an amah to look after the children, she was free to go to coffees and teas, shop, and play tennis full time. She even used my limousine and chauffeur. When I first told her in early April that she and the children must leave, she was not persuaded. That morning, she had been to a coffee at the embassy. Officials has assured her and the other dependents that rumors of a forthcoming on Saigon were false.
She finally agreed to go on three conditions she named: 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 children would tour the world on the way back to the states—take a month, two months, however long she wanted. I agreed. Third, when she got home, she wanted to buy a brand new Buick station wagon. Once again, I agreed.
When I saw that plane carrying my family headed out of Saigon on 9 April 1975, I was greatly relieved. My wife and children were safe. I turned my full attention to facing the fall of Saigon.
I’ll post more as we move through April.