April: Memories of the Fall of Saigon (4)

The rest of April 1975 was taken up with my frantic efforts to get my guys and their families safely out of the country and to persuade the ambassador and the U.S. government that the North Vietnamese really were about to attack Saigon. Toward the end, when I was no longer able to access funds to buy airplane tickets, I used money from my own pocket to buy a ticket for the last guy I wanted to evacuate. He flew out of Saigon on the last Pan Am flight from the city.

By April 27, I had gotten out all my subordinates and their families. The only ones left were Bob, Gary, and me. We closed down the office and moved into the comms center where we went on a schedule that allowed one of us to rest for two hours while the other two kept watch. Then the North Vietnamese started bombarding the city, first with rockets, then with artillery; sleep became impossible. All we had to eat was bar snacks we’d been able to scrounge while we could still get out into the streets. I learned that Vienna sausages could be eaten straight from the can and that pickle relish leavened with mustard could be eaten in quantity to stave off severe hunger. After that, it was increasing quantities of coffee—communicators always saw to it that they had lots of coffee on hand—chain smoking, nothing to eat, and no sleep.

We started receiving messages from men who had fathered children with Vietnamese women begging us to save the children. But it was too late. We no longer had access to cars, and we’d be sitting ducks if we left the compound.

We finally received a message telling us that FREQUENT WIND PHASE IV had been declared. That was the cover name for the evacuation. The Marines arrived in the compound. It was time to leave. So I sent my last message to NSA:

1. HAVE JUST RECEIVED WORD TO EVACUATE. AM NOW DESTROYING REMAINING CLASSIFIED MATERIAL. WILL CEASE TRANSMISSIONS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS MESSAGE.

2. WE’RE TIRED BUT OTHERWISE ALL RIGHT. LOOKS LIKE THE BATTLE FOR SAIGON IS ON FOR REAL.

3. 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.

More next time.

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