As April progresses, I’ll be continuing my recounting of the events of April 1975 when I lived through the fall of Saigon. This post is the second of my remembrances.
After I evacuated my wife and four children on 9 April, I paid the three servants we’d had (a maid, a cook, and a nanny for the children) multiple times the wages due them and suggested they move out. I knew that, with the city under siege, none of us would be safe in a residential villa. First I moved to the Brinks Batchelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) in downtown Saigon but soon realized I’d need to be with my men at my office around the clock. The office was in the DAO Building on the northern edge of the city. So I moved there. I set up a cot in the front office (my office) of our office suite. The cot sat between the two flags that stood beside my desk, the stars and stripes and the orange and gold flag of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
Freed from the time-consuming commute through the city now mobbed by refugees as the North Vietnamese came closer each day, I spent full time arranging for my 43 subordinates and their families to leave Vietnam. American Ambassador Graham Martin, the final authority for all Americans in Vietnam, refused to call for an evacuation. The Hungarian member of the ICCS (International Commission for Control and Supervision, a group set up to monitor the so-called cease fire supposedly in effect) had persuaded him that the North Vietnamese had no intentions of attacking Saigon. Rather, they wanted to form a coalition government “with all patriotic forces” and rule jointly. This from a representative of a communist government allied to North Vietnam. I repeatedly told hm of the overwhelming evidence from the intercept of North Vietnamese communications that an attack was imminent and urged him to start an evacuation as soon as possible. He refused to believe my warnings and forbade me to send my people out of country.
I disobeyed him and flagrantly violated his orders. To safely evacuate my people, I lied and cheated and stole to find ways to get them on planes flying out of Vietnam. Some I sent out on fake vacations, others on phony business travel, still others on bogus home leave.
More next time.