Document Type: 
Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
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Document Creation Date: 
December 22, 2016
Document Release Date: 
January 25, 2012
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Publication Date: 
April 28, 1985
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PDF icon CIA-RDP90-00965R000200970002-5.pdf81.93 KB
Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/25: CIA-RDP90-00965R000200970002-5 Y ~t i.t , `:r: BOSTON GLOBE 28 April, 1985 SHE END OF THE GAME he collapse of South Viet-, nam, so often discussed, pre- dicted, yet always averted, arrived unexpectedly in late April 1975. North Vietnamese regulars struck hard in the Central Highlands during ear- Iv March. Banmethout fell easily on the 10th, and President. Nguyen Van Thieu ordered a complete withdrawal to the coast: Saigon mattered, not the north. But nothing had been prepared; neither key officers nor the Americans were con- sulted: some commanders abandoned their men; soldiers deserted to save their families; refugees clogged the roads: and the Communists attacked from the flanks. In 1972, American advisers and air- power had helped repel a Communist of- fensive; now they were gone. Discipline and cohesion vanished in 1975, with the stampeding army disintegrating into a mob, as had the Italians in 1917 and the French in 1940. The ARVN troopers spread panic around them. brawling and pillaging, infecting fresh units, and fight- ing only to board planes for Saigon. Hue fell on the March 25, Danang on the 30th, and Camranh Bay on April 4, as the country was rolled up from the north. Only during mid-April did ARVN units fight well northeast of Saigon, but they were too few. Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, fell on April 17, the Americans having fled by helicopter. Cambodia had been sucked into the war since 1970 by outsid- ers - the United States included - to whom it meant little. Now the Khmer Rouge took over, eager to smash the old i order. Saigon itself was panicking by mid- April. The Americans had been in South Vietnam politically for 21 years. militari- lv for 10; now they were leaving within days. Power, the ultimate aphrodisiac in, an autocracy, had gained them thou- sands of friends, admirers, agents, politi- cal proteges, female camp followers, em- plovees past and present. Historians write of "the great fear" that swept France in 1789: fear also terrified these Americanized Vietnamese (though the predicted Communist bloodbath - as op- posed to systematic repression - never materialized). Cash and contacts became decisive, as deals were struck everywhere. Many offi- cials made a killing selling documents, and some Americans joined in to sponsor refugees - for a price. After resigning, Thieu was unobtrusively escorted to Tan Son Nhut airport by armed CIA men and by aides bearing huge suitcases from which, Frank Snepp has written, "the clink of metal on metal broke through the stillness like muffled wind chimes." The flamboyant airman, Nguyen Cao Ky. spent the month plotting against Thieu before helicoptering away at the end. The bloated machinery of American power, only partially dismantled since 1973, was crumbling overnight, with the incin- erators working incessantly and lines of people snaking toward the planes. Still, for Saigon to leave the Western orbit, as Shanghai had in 1949 and Ha- noi in 1954, and as Tehran and Beirut were eventually to do, seemed unthink- able. Ambassador Graham Martin, argu- ing that Vietnamese morale depended on the American presence, dragged his feet: his wife stayed until the end. The CIA sta- tion chief. Thomas Polgar. trained in the Agency tradition of deals. fixes and bar- gains. could not realize that Hanoi held all the cards. In Washington, Henry Kis- singer and Gerald Ford were more con- cerned with shifting the blame to Con- gress (whose cuts in aid to Saigon still left very large military stockpiles), than in stirring a public outcry by sending the B52s against Hanoi. With Kissinger's stratagems rendered irrelevant, the helicopters were sent in to pluck frightened people from Saigon roof- tops while the unlucky raged in the streets below. - LEONARD BUSHKOFF Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/25: CIA-RDP90-00965R000200970002-5