BLACK APRIL '75THE COLLAPSE AND FALL OF THE SOUTH
The end as I could see it started on the 4th of March, with a probing offensive into the central highlands (our direct involvement started here in 1965). Being well aware of the domestic problems following the Watergate Scandal and Nixon’s resignation, the North Vietnamese highly doubted the U.S. would respond. When we did not, this triggered the larger offensive.
South Vietnamese officers used helicopters to take their families and flee the country. This reduced morale amongst the South Vietnamese troops.
Additionally a mass exodus of South Vietnamese citizens flooded the roadways and distracted troops as they tried to seek out their families and take them to safety. (Most ARVN units lived in the areas they were assigned & fought, their families being fairly nearby). On the 18th of March, (The Convoy of Tears), the Republic of Vietnam announces the evacuation of three highland provinces. Names where fearsome battles had been fought years before like Ban Me Thuot, Cheo Reo, A Shau, Pleiku, Kontum and Dalat (site of the ARVN’s military academy), fall. The ARVN suffer ruinous losses, the 22nd and 23rd Infantry Divisions are destroyed.
I’m called back, from Okinawa, while recovering from a broken rib, (where at that time America was dismantling the 1st Special Forces Group, we’d only just returned the Ryukyu’s to Japan). The Montagnard tribes and other aboriginal groups who had wholeheartedly supported the Americans are left to their fate, as a quarter-to-half a million civilians attempt to get to the coastal provinces in “The Convoy of Tears”. Route 7 is lined with piles of corpses, perhaps 50,000 died. The northern liberators again slaughtered women and children in stalled columns fleeing the Central Highlands on Highway 21, another “Trail of Tears,” where as many as half die. The 22nd & 23rd infantry divisions remnants are evacuated from coastal enclaves, like Tuy Hoa, after gallantly fighting to hold the passes to the coast.
The 5 carriers of the 7th fleet dump millions of dollars worth of aircraft overboard to make room in the hangars for the thousands of fleeing refugees. All my personal effects & gear were left, i had my web-gear, weapons & the uniform on my back. I land on the Blue Ridge, for a quick debrief with some ‘spook’ assets. I’m chopper'ed shortly after to the carrier Hancock. The Marines on the Hancock graciously lend me a couple sets of their fatigues, & drawers, (they don’t get much space at all for their stuff on a ‘float’), for the trip to Subic. Got a lot of good natured ribbing as a dogface living with jarheads. 8^)
Only bright spot during a spectacularly nightmare-ish time.
All Active Military went to 'debrief' one-at-a-time, on the way to Subic Bay, with the legend, COL Harry Summers, who wrote a book about it. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War.
What a sorry armada it was making their way to Subic (where Ferdinand Marcos insists that only 2500 refugees can stay at a time, necessitating further jockeying and flights with limited resources), and on to the refugee camps on Guam, Wake, Yokota AFB Japan, and eventual resettlement in the states and elsewhere.