THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
their victory on May Day, and we were going. They may have
painted our choppers with their targeting systems, but they let
us go unimpeded. After a while, we landed under floodlights
on the USS
, a World War II vintage carrier. Those of us
with pistols handed them over. I slept for much of the five days'
journey to Subic Bay, the Philippines.
“Just a Few More”
The evacuation concluded in the early morning of April 30.
Amb. Martin admirably stretched out the evacuation to get out
every Vietnamese he could—“just a fewmore helicopters.” Sev-
eral inbound crews crashed from vertigo. The exasperated Navy
finally resorted to a direct presidential order for the ambassador
to get on a designated helicopter, just before dawn. That’s what it
Once the ambassador departed for the fleet, “Americans only”
for boarding was strictly enforced. In the process, some 400 Viet-
namese—including all mission firefighters who had volunteered
to stay to the end—were abandoned.
Captain Stuart Herrington, a Vietnamese-speaking DAO
officer, had kept the crowd under control by promising that he
would not leave until they left. He was utterly devastated to be
ordered—forced—to abandon those to whom he had given his
personal word. Retired Colonel Herrington deservedly serves
as the moral centerpiece of Rory Kennedy’s documentary, “Last
Days in Vietnam.”
I grabbed a nine-passenger van
with a full fuel tank and headed
out for the designated safe
house where political section
contacts were supposed to