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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

APRIL 2015

33

At the State Department, a small group of FSOs worked outside

normal channels to prevent a potential human tragedy.

BY PARKER W. BORG

I

mages of the final days of the

American presence in South

Vietnam 40 years ago remain

vivid in the minds of everyone

who lived through those tur-

bulent years, or saw last year’s

documentary, “Last Days in

Vietnam.” Less is known, how-

ever, about what was happening

then at the Department of State.

In addition to what history books have

recorded about the role of Secretary of

State Henry Kissinger and the Bureau

of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, a small

group of Foreign Service personnel without

responsibilities for Vietnam began working

outside normal channels to address the

end game there. Their success illustrates

what’s possible when a small, determined

group mobilizes to deal with a crisis.

When North Vietnamese forces took the town of Ban Me

Thuot in March 1975, many of us who had previously served at

Embassy Saigon or in the provinces believed South Vietnam’s end

was just around the corner. Yet EAP seemed preoccupied with

efforts to obtain supplemental funds from Congress to support

past commitments to Vietnam, while our ambassador in Saigon,

GrahamMartin, was focused on keeping the country together

Mobilizing for

South Vietnam’s Last Days

FOCUS

ON THE FOREIGN SERVICE IN VIETNAM

Parker Borg, at right, with one of his counterparts in Bing Dinh, circa 1969.

and was unwilling to consider any form of evacuation.

Ambassador Martin argued that even contingency plan-

ning would undermine the confidence of South Vietnamese

authorities, triggering the very crisis we were trying to avoid. We

remained convinced, however, that the potential human tragedy

from the collapse made planning essential. This was our primary

concern.

Courtesy of P. Borg