The Saigon Post
February 12, 1971
A RIDE TO THE AIRPORT
This is part of a true story that happened recently.
Mr A, an American, was hiding Mr X somewhere in Saigon for several days. Mr X is not American or Vietnamese. The two men are business associates. For Mr X's protection, Mr X was preparing to fly him out of the country. Mr X was in trouble because his honest business brought him into conflict with a grafting operation in Saigon. Members of this particular ring are all from Mr X's native country. Their activities also affected the American, Mr A.
Mr A planned to return to Saigon after this exodus and fight for his business rights. Mr X might return at a later date if it became safe for him.
Mr A asked if I could be there in the morning when they left for Tan Son Nhut airport. He was interested in getting pictures of himself and Mr X at the airport. He was also concerned that members of the ring might try to grab Mr X before he could reach American territory. Mr X not only failed to submit to these people. Following Mr A's advice, he also talked publicly about them.
"That's when he signed his death warrant," Mr A said.
Mr A could be melodramatic at times, but he was usually very logical.
Two big dogs were in the yard when I arrived in the morning. The hideout seemed fairly calm. A boy called the dogs off me. Mr X was a nice looking man. He was dressed in a business suit, packed and ready to go. He had already made a long distance telephone call to his wife in his native country. She would try to publicize his predicament in their country's national press.
Mr X looked calm but also troubled. Mr A, tending to last-minute business, was hard-driving as always. If he was worried, he didn't show it.
"A car with Embassy plates will pick us up," he said. "I don't think anyone will bother us in that."
The car would also be able to drive Mr X right onto the airstrip, while another man went through processing for him at the civilian air terminal. The car plates were not from the American Embassy.
Two major American television networks had been notified of this little event to take place at Tan Son Nhut that morning.
Both indicated that they would not be able to be there. It was decided not to bother with the third.
When the car arrived we drove downtown to the Pan Am office on Nguyen Hue. Mr A went in to pick up two tickets. He was gone a long time. Finally he appeared.
"I called them up yesterday," he said, "but the girl hadn't made out the tickets."
As we headed for Cong Ly he said he spotted an agent for the "ring" in the ticket office. He was sure he had been followed during the past several days. A car with more of Mr A's people followed us to Tan Son Nhut.
The civilian air terminal was filled as usual with tourists, businessmen, military personnel and some families. A very pretty American girl, brunette and tanned, wearing a red shawl and brief skirt, was talking to a Lieutenant. Mr A and his people lookd around but spotted nobody really suspicious.
Mr X waited with us in the car in the parking lot while somebody processed for him. Finally a man brought his ticket. It was decided he could walk through the regular passenger line instead of going the V.I.P. way. When the big jet was ready, Mr A smiled.
"First thing I'm doing when they close the door on that plane is sleep. Haven't had much this past week."
The big jet was ready. Mr A and Mr X took their small carry-on luggage and walked out to the strip. We waved to each other just before they got into the plane.