- Sir Duncan
- Posts: 7207
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- Location: Wonder Why Central
Like the spoilt child she is, she will not be happy till she destroys herself from within and breaks your heart.
That was a monument to ARVN, the South Vietnamese army.
There are two photos I regret I did not take. Each time I could not bring myself to do it.
The first was in Phnom Penh in the final days before the Khmer Rouge. The second was in front of this statue about a week before Saigon also fell to the communists.
Since 1973 the Democrats had controlled both the US Senate and House. After Republican Nixon forced Hanoi into a Peace Agreement at the end of that year (a pact bitterly opposed by SV President Thieu), the Democrats strove to undermine the survival of Cambodia and South Vietnam.
In essence the Democrats betrayed those nations and their peoples to Pol Pot and the Hanoi Reds.
Now, late April 1975, and everyone in Saigon knew it was all over. A South Vietnamese soldier sat slumped on the steps at the base of that statue, his bowed head clasped in his hands. My instant thought was 'Photo!' but then I immediately pulled back. My sympathies were with ARVN, not Hanoi, and I found the spectacle just too sad.
It would have been an epic shot though, even if just with my $2 Instamatic camera.
It could have been interpreted as anything from hopeless despair to angst at how decades of ARVN sacrifice had been tossed aside by the treachery of American legislators pursuing an internal political agenda.
Just the night previous I'd bolted from my hotel room in Cholon, some kilometers from downtown Saigon. The 6pm BBC news had blared that an instant curfew had gone into effect in Saigon in advance of a televised 7pm address to the nation by President Thieu.
Fearing it might be an announcement of surrender, I contemplated the local rage at the American betrayal. Gut instinct warned of possible retribution, and having not seen another Westerner anywhere in my vicinity I knew I had to get to Tu Do Street.
Out the window I could see helter-skelter bedlam along the main drag back into Saigon.
I grabbed my literal handful of possessions and fled the scene. A young guy on a motorbike immediately pulled alongside and I queried 'Tu Do?' He nodded and roared me in. I gave a grateful massive tip then headed to a small hotel on Tu Do, making it inside only minutes before the entrance was closed and barricaded.
The small lobby was packed. Most seemed to be Western reporters and we drank beer as we awaited Thieu's address over the small black and white TV sitting in front of us.
When Thieu spoke it was apparent that he was both somber and angry. None of us could speak Vietnamese and we wondered just what was unfolding. A hostess at the front was absorbing Thieu's words with intent, and after 7 or 8 minutes someone tentatively asked her what Thieu was talking about.
She spun around, and her face and expression remain seared into my memory. "He say Americans no fucking good!!" she screamed at us.
The next day came news that an American had been murdered in Cholon.
On 21 April 1975, Thiệu, under intense political pressure, resigned as president after losing the confidence of his closest domestic allies. In his televised farewell speech during which he was close to tears ... rambling and incoherent (he attacked)
"our great ally, [the] leader of the free world" ... "The United States has not respected its promises" he declared. "It is inhumane. It is not trustworthy. It is irresponsible." He added, "The United States did not keep its word" ... "The United States did not keep its promise to help us fight for freedom ..."
Thiệu bemoaned the American funding cuts, which he equated to desertion, saying, "You don't fight by miracles, you need high morale and bravery. But even if you are brave, you can't just stand there and bite the enemy. And we are fighting against Russia and China. We're having to bargain for aid from the United States like haggling for fish in the market" ... He lambasted US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for signing the Paris Peace Accords, which the communists violated, and which he regarded as an American abandonment, stating "I never thought that such a good Secretary of State would produce a treaty that would bring us to our death".
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