When Intelligence Contradicts Policy (3)

In Saigon in April 1975, because I knew—and reported repeatedly—that the North Vietnamese were about to attack the city, I disobeyed Ambassador Graham Martin’s orders not to evacuate my 43 guys and their families and did everything I could to get them safely out of the country before the attack began. To keep the ambassador from discovering what I was up to, I lied and cheated and stole. I sent my people out on phony business travel, fake vacations, and trumped-up home leave. By April 27, only three of the original 43 were left—a communicator who keep me in touch with NSA, a technician who keep the communications equipment working, and me. On April 29, I got my last two guys on a helicopter flight to the 7th Fleet cruising out in the South China Sea in the middle of the afternoon. I went out that night under fire. By then, Saigon was already in the hands of the North Vietnamese.

The ultimate defeat of the U.S. in Vietnam and particularly the fall of Saigon are lasting shames. It was the first war the U.S. ever lost, and our abandonment of Saigon to the North Vietnamese remains a disgraceful blemish, in part because we left behind so many South Vietnamese compatriots to die at the hands of the conquering North Vietnamese.

So I know up close and personal what it means when intelligence contradicts policy. It nearly cost me my life in 1975.

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