Thursday, 21 June 2007
Adieu Saigon. South Vietnam
Above is a photo of myself just before I returned to England. This should be compared to the photo on the right taken at Van Kiep when I had just arrrived in South Vietnam in 1965.The years had taken their toll.
When the communists launched their offensive in March 1975 I was not unduly perturbed as I didn't think the main effort would take place until the following year. I believe that was what the communists also intended. This was just a softening up process and to test the state of the South Vietnamese army and the United States response.
When President Thieu made the disastrous mistake, suicidal really, to abandon the central highlands the writing was on the wall. There would never be any question of retaking such an area. The utter confusion which accompanied this rout helped precipitate the unfolding disaster. The lack of an American response was the coup de grace or final nail in the coffin.
I won't go into the military details of this disaster, others can do it far better than I can. How many people remember the ship crowded with refugees that left Da Nang for Vung Tau? It had the chief of police of Da Nang onboard with his wife and daughter. The captain barricaded himself on the bridge. Drunken South Vietnamese soldiers ran rampant. The wife and daughter of the chief of police were raped, all three murdered and their bodies thrown overboard. On arrival in Vung Tau a number of South Vietnamese soldiers were shot by firing squad.
I desperately wanted to return. I went to the South Vietnamese embassy in London. I needed a visa of all things! I went to see the family in Paris. I was still very tired and events were unfolding too quickly and I never did make it back in time. I no longer had the energy of 1965 or 1968 when I never let minor details like communist offensives or sickness get in my way.
Our house was sacked by the poor coming out of the slums of Xam Chua. All the laquer work, paintings, my beer mug, much of our paperwork and documents, everything in fact, stolen. My brother in law who was meant to be looking after it didn't have a pair of chop sticks to eat with nor a chair to sit on.
All of this left me very bitter. It also left me stranded in Europe with no prospect of return to Saigon. Too many friends lost many never to be heard of again.