These days I find myself up to my ears in matters Vietnam. A friend sent me Last Flight from Saigon, an undated USAF Southeast Asia monograph about Operation FREQUENT WIND, the evacuation of South Vietnam as it fell to the North Vietnamese. I’m reading it with interest since FREQUENT WIND saved my life. I have just finished Jay Veith’s new book, Drawn Swords in a Distant Land (Encounter Books, 2021) about the defeat of South Vietnam. I did a Q&A with Jay that will be published shortly. And I have been reading Nghia M. Vo’s The ARVN and the Fight for South Vietnam which McFarland will bring out next August. Because Nghia and I have known each other for years, I won’t be doing a review of his book. Instead it will be a feature article. At the same time, I have been posting in my blog about my memories of April 1975 when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese.
Somehow, it all feels normal. Vietnam is in my blood. As readers of this blog know all too well, I spent more time there than in the states between 1962 and 1975 and escaped under fire when Saigon fell. I spoke Vietnamese constantly during those years, relying on Chinese and French when my interlocutors were more comfortable in those languages. Dwelling in a Vietnam-dominated world feels natural to me.
The capstone came several days ago when, after years of searching, I finally got the telephone number of one of the two men who was holed up with me in my office as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. After forty-six years, we spoke to each other again. We agreed that when the pandemic lockdown is over, we’ll get together and remember old times.
My absorption with Vietnam will loosen its grip soon as I move on to other matters. But my connection with that country will remain a dominant feature of my life as long as I live.