My post on Easter reminded me of all the painful memories that go with the month of April for me. April 29, 1975 was the day Saigon, the capitol of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), fell to the invading North Vietnamese. I had spent the entire month of April doing everything possible to get all my 43 subordinates and their families safely out of the country before the North Vietnamese invaders attacked the city. I succeeded, but it meant that I had to stay until the last minute—I escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese invaders were already in the streets of Saigon.
The American Ambassador, Graham Martin, didn’t believe my warnings about the imminent attack on Saigon and refused to call for an evacuation. My concern was the 2,700 South Vietnamese who had worked with me intercepting and exploiting the radio communications of the North Vietnamese. By the time Washington reversed the ambassador’s decision not to evacuate in the early hours of the morning of April 30, it was too late to save those men. They were all either killed or captured by the North Vietnamese. I knew personally so many of those men. They had invited me to their homes where I met their wives and children. To this day, I grieve over their loss.
And then there were those killed on April 4 when a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, carrying out the first mission of Operation Babylift, crashed at Tan Son Nhat on the northern edge of Saigon. That was the first flight of the president’s effort to evacuate orphans from South Vietnam. I had intended to send my secretary, Suzie, out on that flight, but at the last minute, some unidentifiable impulse urged me not to put her on the plane. So, thank God, I didn’t. I knew several people who died in that crash which also killed numerous orphans.
So April is and remains a sad month for me. I am cheered by its gradually warming days, promising hot weather ahead. But my memories of the tragedies 48 years ago are too prominent for me to enjoy the month.