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dreamcatcher27371
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(6/9/01 6:41:12 am)
| Del All Memories of a Vietnamese Sailor #4
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I violated the security order by helping my high
school friends to get off An Thoi (no evacuated
soldier was allowed to leave An Thoi); only navy
personnel who were on special missions were allowed to
leave. During this time there was no fly out of An
Thoi. One had to ride fishing boat to Rach Gia (Kien
Giang) and take a commercial bus ride to Saigon. I
gave my friends my Navy uniforms and lead them to the
commercial fishing boat area (where Nuoc Mam was
made). The security guys did not bother my friends
and me for I am a bit well known in An Thoi. So my
high school friends were able to go "home".

After the bombing of Tan Son Nhat airport and the
presidential palace, we were on the verge of going
crazy because we received no direct order from anyone.
On April 29, 1975 radar at An Thoi picked up two
un-scheduled airplanes heading toward An Thoi. We
knew from the speed on the radar that one was a bomber
(going faster, it was an AD6) and one was a
transporter (going slower, it was a Caribou). We
immediately went into battle stations, PCF, PGM,
Yabuta, and frigate all took off and got into battle
formation. I served on the base so I took my assigned
position at the 20 MM anti-aircraft.

When the bomber reached An Thoi airwave the pilot
asked for permission to land; we refused the request.
Guess what, it landed anyway despite the threat that
our Boats would shoot it down. The bomber was an AD-6
(one propeller bomber) that took off from Saigon,
landed in Can Tho (Binh Thuy) to refuel and was en
route to Thailand when it ran out of fuel. There were
12 people loaded on that AD-6 (amazing huh?). All of
them were high-ranking officers of the Vietnamese
airborne and air force; the lowest rank was a second
major. They told us that it was over, that we lost,
that Saigon was a mess, that Saigon was chaotic.
Their telling did not help us a bit; it made us even
angrier, crazier, and more frustrated.

At this time there was an empty freighter anchored 15
miles of An Thoi. This freighter carried a full
contingent of a radio station financed by the US to An
Thoi and unloaded the personnel on An Thoi. The name
of the freighter was "Challenger". On the night of
April 29, 1975 I went down to the power station and
asked the guys there for 5 litters of diesel. I sold
the diesel and use the money to purchase some food
for my group (about 10 of us). We stayed up all night
and loaded a dozen M16 with all tracers. Each M16 had
400 round of tracers. I still remember what I told my
group "We will fight to the bitter end, and beside
shooting the hell out of them, I want them burned too,
that's why I loaded our M16 with all tracers. As a
last desperate effort we'd blow up the ammo depot so
that they will get nothing out of it".

April 30, 1975 at 10:00 AM. I sat with my group in my
little office and we were having some fish soup (from
the money that I sold the 5 litters of diesel fuel).
We knew that big Ming was the president and deep
inside we knew that it spelled trouble because big
Ming never proved to be a tough guy. We were
listening to our military radio station and they kept
telling us to stay tune for important announcement
from the president. I personally thought and hoped
that big Minh would say this: Guys, fight on, no
matter what the cost. Yeah, there was (I guess still
is) a deep hatred for communist inside me. Instead
Minh came on the air at 11:45 AM and asked us to lay
down our weapons and to surrender. All of us burst
out crying and cussing. Suddenly, another friend of
mine who served on a frigate came in my office; he was
already drunk. This guy said: Toi, my boat left me
(the frigate left immediately after president Minh's
announcement) so now I am alone in An Thoi (the
frigate was from Saigon). I said: you're fine, man.
We are with you; you're in our group. This guy then
asked me for an M16, I said fine go right into the
room and get one, make sure that you grab the one on
the top left rack for they're special (all tracers).
He got the M16, walked out to where we were eating.
He loaded the gun and pointed it right to my temple
with his finger on the trigger (remember he was
drunk). I asked the man what he was doing and he
said: Toi, if you're leaving, I am going to blow your
f------ head off. I said, Khang (his name), look man,
I am not wearing shoes, I am not wearing uniform, we
are eating and we already made the decision to stay to
fight to the bitter end so take it easy, sit down and
have lunch with us. He did.

I then cried and said: Buddies, we committed to stay
and fight; I know some of us will die and some will
survive and be captured. Please take a long hard look
at each other for our memory and try to memorize each
other's home address so that the survived ones will be
able to inform family members that "so and so die
valiantly". I also said: I know for sure the survived
ones will be put in hard labor camp. If I am one
amongst the group that survived the fight, I promise
that during the "march" to camp" or "hard-labor" work
and I see one of us fall, I promise to lift my brother
up. I ask that we do it for each other. More crying
.

1:30 PM, April 30, 1975 the commandant of the base
called a general meeting. He said: It's all over now
fellows. I know some of you want to leave, and some
want to stay. It's perfectly okay either way because
I (the commandant) understand each one of us has
different situation and commitment. There are LCM and
other boats at the dock for the ones who want to leave
and there is an American freighter anchoring 15 miles
out of An Thoi, you can get there and Board the
freighter. I do not know where it will go but at
least it is going somewhere. I (the commandant) ask
the ones who stay one last favor: Please go to the
perimeter and guard so that the ones who are leaving
will be safe. At this time there were small gunfire
going off outside of the base. The ones who stayed
did go to the perimeter.

About 2:30 PM, April 30, 1975 a lieutenant in charge
of security came to my office and said: Toi, come to
the dock (where Swift and other boats were) to say
farewell to the people who leave. I said yes and went
with this officer to the dock. There was an LCM with
engine running and a full-load of people (all high
ranking officers of the Navy, Air Force, and
Airborne). The lieutenant said: Toi, this LCM is
going somewhere safe for it carries a lot of big
shots. He shoved me down the LCM and jumped in right
after me. The LCM immediately took off to the
freighter. We boarded the freighter and I witness a
lot of PCF, Yabuta, and other boats came to the
freighter. PCF, Yabuta, and other boats were then
abandoned, with water-cooling valves open; running
full speed on An Thoi Sea, some were set afire. Some
slowly sank, at least two PCF were hauled back to base
by one SOB (an OinC). So I know for sure that uncle
Ho's wicked nephews got at least 4 Swifts in An Thoi.
One was on the skid, one was steering by the OinC SOB,
and two were hauled back by the same SOB. I must
admit that my heart sank to see PCF going down that
way for we used to be kings of Gulf of Thailand, so to
witness our beloved Swifts' final and fatal fate was
pretty hard for me to swallow.

Hah, I am reliving with April 30, 1975. Yeah, it was
chaotic, it was emotional, it was anger, it was
frustration, it was tearful, it was depressing, and it
was frustration. Yeah, tears are in my eyes now.
Certain degree of anger creeps up because we lost the
war that we should have won but somehow, someway we
lost it. I feel betrayed by my leaders, I feel guilty
because I left my group behind. I never had a chance
to run back to my office to get my group after I was
shoved down an LCM. I've been back to Vietnam 9 time,
yes nine times. Each time I looked for any member of
the group but I have not been able to locate any one.
Tremendous guilt has been on my shoulder for the last
25 years.

Well, the rest of the story speaks for itself. I
appreciate your asking; because of your asking, I
muster my courage to write, and I feel much relief,
now that I put my feelings down in writing. I am
still on the road to recovery and perhaps discovery.
I do not discuss the story much with my wife. I do
talk with her a little but never in detail. I still
have nightmares, I have problem sleeping at night, I
have dream that I was captured by "them". I scream so
loud in some of my sleep that I wake up the whole
household.

May inner peace be with all of us.

(To be Continued).....
 
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