On the morning of 29 April 1975, I and the two men who volunteered to stay with to the end struggled to find a way to escape from Saigon as the North Vietnamese attacked. We’d already received word that the ambassador had been countermanded from Washington and an evacuation had been ordered.
I telephoned the embassy. “The evacuation is on. Get us out of here!”
The lady I talked to was polite, even gracious. She explained to me, as one does to child, that the embassy could do nothing for us—we were too far away, and, although I probably didn’t know it, the people in the streets were rioting. Of course I knew it; I could see them. I uttered an unprintable curse. She responded, “You’re welcome.”
By that time, the Marines from the 7th Fleet, which was cruising out of sight in the South China Sea, had landed. I tracked down Marine Colonel Al Gray and asked if he could evacuate us with his guys. He assured me he would.
We got word that armed South Vietnamese air force officers had forced their way into the building and were on the loose, demanding evacuation at gun point. Offices were to be emptied and locked. We were to proceed at once to the evacuation staging area, an office the Marines had secured. We sent our last message announcing we were closing down. It was a personal message from me to my boss, General Lew Allen, Director of NSA:
- HAVE JUST RECEIVED WORD TO EVACUATE. AM NOW DESTROYING REMAINING CLASSIFIED MATERIAL. WILL CEASE TRANSMISSIONS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS MESSAGE.
- WE’RE TIRED BUT OTHERWISE ALL RIGHT. LOOKS LIKE THE BATTLE FOR SAIGON IS ON FOR REAL.
- FROM GLENN: I COMMEND TO YOU MY PEOPLE WHO DESERVE THE BEST NSA CAN GIVE THEM FOR WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN THROUGH BUT ESPECIALLY FOR WHAT THEY HAVE ACHIEVED.
Even though the message was from me to General Allen, I still began the third paragraph with the words “FROM GLENN.” I wanted to be sure he knew it was me speaking.