Do What You Have to Do (2)

The hardest part came at the very end, in April 1975, after the withdrawal of American military forces, when it was incumbent upon me to get my 43 subordinates and their families safely out of the country before the North Vietnamese attacked Saigon. To do that, I had to stay in place until the attack was underway. I had to lie, cheat, and steal to get my people on flights because the U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin, forbade me to evacuate them. A representative of the government of Hungary, a communist nation allied to North Vietnam, had assured him that the North Vietnamese had no intention of attacking Saigon. Signals intelligence—my job and the job of all my guys—made it blatantly clear that the North Vietnamese were about to launch a blitzkrieg against the city. The ambassador believed the communist representative instead of acting on the validated intelligence I was giving him.

The result was the worst days of my life. At the very end, I and two communicators who had agreed to stay with me to the end were isolated at our office during the final assault against the city. The enemy used rockets and artillery against us as they prepared to seize Saigon. The building we were in was hit repeatedly. The building next to us was destroyed, and two Marines at our gate were killed. On the afternoon of 29 April, my two communicators were finally extracted safely. I escaped that night under fire.

I’m justifiably proud of my service to my country and especially of my willingness to stay to the end during the fall of Saigon to assure that none of my guys or their wives and children were killed. I understand from President Trump’s perspective, that makes me a close kin to those who died in war—suckers and losers.

Maybe so. I did what I had to do, whatever it took.

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