WHEN SAIGON FELL
The following is from a log I kept. Much more extended notes are in my office files, partly for CBS TV reportage and audio work, kept during May 1975 , amounting to about 50 pages.
Saigon, Wed. April 23, 1975 The war, of course, is over. The North Vietnamese Communists have won. Saigon is virtually surrounded, Ford-Kissinger talk about negotiations. Everybody else does too. De riguer. Exactly how the Communists choose to finalize things remains to be seen. I suspect they'll go the political route now, so long as nobody resists. The US is humiliated.
Saigon, Thurs. April 24, 1975
The political moves keep moving. Entire 23-man Cabinet of Premier Nguyen Bu Can resigns. Can. a non-entity, was appointed by President Thieu 10 days ago to head the "War Cabinet". The French, quick to move into the vaccuum created by US retreat, seize diplomatic initiative, lend "good offices" to pave way for negotiations. Ambassador Jean Marie Merillon has met twice with interim half-blind old President Huong.
No need, it seems, for VC/NVA to smash their way into this place, even though Peter Arnett of AP writes that they've been "poised" for attack on Saigon for 48 hours now, with 150,000 troops around the capital.
During last few days at least a dozen Vietnamese or Chinese have approached me to help get them out of country. Piaster officially 725 to dollar. In black market it's at least 2500.
Saigon, Sunday, April 27, 1975 About six rockets hit Saigon last night. I heard a big bang. It must have been the one that slammed into new "VIP" room at Govt,-run Hotel Majestic. Battered pieces of tin roofing hanging over roof ledge facing Saigon River. First rocketing here since Jan, 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Apparently a message from VC/NVA: Get a new Government we'll negotiate with, and fast, or else.
Looks like National Assembly got the message. Today old President Huong out, neutralist "Big" Minh is in.
My friend Joe Donohue, Korean war vet and one of the last of the American retirees living here, to leave on DAO emergency evacuation flight tomorrow with his Vietnamese wife and kids. To land at Guam where a tent city for 50,000 has been set up.
Saigon, Monday April 28, 1975 Around 6:30 tonight it sounded like the "final solution" began. I had just gotten back from seeing off Joe Donohue and his Vietnamese family at bus taking them to Tan Son Nhut airport for evacuation to Guam. Suddenly a series of booms. Thunder from afternoon rain storm? Machine gun or automatic rifle or AA fire seemed to be breaking out all around Nguyen Hue Street. After it let up I ran over to UPI. Apparently Presidential Palace was buzzed just after "Big" Minh finished his Inauguration speech, And landing strips were bombed at Tan Son Nhut. Not good timing for Joe Donohue and his family. standing by for evacuation.
Saigon, Teusday, April 29, 1975
Consul Watanabe offered me refuge in the Japanese Embassy, I thanked him and declined, Later, about 4 in the morning, from my little room above the Chinese watch shop on Nguyen Hue, I heard the big BOOM! again, And again etc. That, I learn later, was the North Vietnamese, shelling Tan Son Nhut airbase with their big Russian .130 mm. guns. The gymnasium housing refugees was hit. Two very young US Marines on duty outside were killed. At UPI they said a VNAF C-130 was knocked down over Saigon with a SAM-7 missile. 7:30 am At
US Embassy nobody could or would say whether total Embassy evacuation would occur today. Entire US Seventh Fleet off coast of Vietnam. 24-hour curfew in effect since last night, I hear, but I walk the streets un-hassled. Lots of helicopters in the Saigon skies. So far, at least (0930) Saigon itself has not been shelled. AP says Communist infantrymen are attacking outskirts of Saigon, Phu Lam etc.
Saigon, Wednesday, April 30, 1975
The Communist Army entered Saigon today around noon. It was after President "Big" Minh announced a ceasefire and virtual surrender. Tanks, Molotova trucks, jeeps and uniformed Vietcong all over the city.
People are intensely curious, seem to be
accepting the swift and relatively bloodless capitulation. The 30-year war has ended. It will be interesting to see what happens here. Communism has never gone this far south.
Saigon, Thursday May 1, 1975
The CBS telex went dead yesterday afternoon, but not before we got stuff out to CBS, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Reuters and Eric's old Honolulu Advertiser. [CBS knew my Brit friend, Eric Cavaliero. He was their night man at the Bureau. Eric was never going to leave the Vietnam he had an almost religious-like romance with. The Communists didn't get him out till about a year later in 1976.]
We were told that the telex would come on again at 8 this morning. Then the word came that the telex would be cut for the next three days. Looks like a total news blackout, except for "specials" going through single band of Japanese and French Embassies. Relative order in the littered streets. French wearing tricolors very conspicuously. Curfew 1800-0600 hrs.
Had a very ugly scene here at the CBS Bureau in R, 206, Caravelle Hotel. The opium addict Mr. Don took great offense
when I told him that Eric reported money missing from the CBS safe. I didn't accuse him of anything, barely knew him, just wanted to see if he had any suggestions. At one point, freaking, he went into the closet and said he was looking for a gun to shoot me. But it didn't lead to a case of 'the last American casualty'. There was no gun around.
Vietnam/Kampuchea 1969--June 30, 1975