Memories of a Vietnamese Sailor #4

Discussion in 'The VMBB True Story Tellers' started by Guest, Feb 26, 2003.

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    (6/9/01 6:41:12 am)
    | Del All Memories of a Vietnamese Sailor #4
    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

    May inner peace be with all of us.

    (To be Continued).....