THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
At the State Department, a small group of FSOs worked outside
normal channels to prevent a potential human tragedy.
BY PARKER W. BORG
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
South Vietnam’s Last Days
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
Courtesy of P. Borg