[The former Presidential Palace of South Vietnam, July, 2002]
It just occurred to me that today is a sad anniversary. It was 35 years ago today that North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace. (Bill Cooke and I visited it in 2002. It’s now a museum.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m not mooning over what might have been in terms of a U. S./South Vietnamese victory. I came to understand that it was indeed the original “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Still, it was sad to watch how it ended and to think of all the lives lost and the time and money wasted, not to mention the way we deserted the Vietnamese we had encouraged to depend on us.
Ironically, I was a newly commissioned second lieutenant going through the Basic School when Saigon fell. That same week, the C.O. of the Basic School summoned us all to a farewell reception for the ten South Vietnamese officers who were going through the program with us. They had suddenly become men without a country, and the State Department was sending them somewhere. (I know not where.) I remember our C.O. saying something about honoring them as allies and wishing them well. But it was anything but a smooth speech, and it was an awkward occasion—to say the least.
I wonder sometimes: What America be like today had our leaders had the foresight not to get involved in Vietnam? --EFP