[NOTE OF EXPLANATION: Duong Van Mai Elliott’s book, The Sacred Willow, is a well-researched account of her family’s long history in Vietnam. Particularly interesting for me are the historical narratives of political intrigue and corruption that rooted themselves in the Republic of South Vietnam. The following excerpt from Elliott’s book recounts the general situation during the last several years of President Nguyen Van Thieu’s regime (1967-1975). Bold is my emphasis.]


At this hour when the survival of their regime was on the line, none of the political and military leaders had the stomach for a last stand. It was everyone for himself. Those leaders who had not already fled now scrambled to get out. The CIA flew Nguyen Khac Binh, the chief of police, to the Philippines. Other high-ranking Vietnamese flocked to the American embassy, hoping to be evacuated. General Cao Van Vien, the head of the Joint General Staff, sneaked into the embassy through a back entrance and wrangled a helicopter ride to their airport. General Dang Van Quang, national security advisor to Thieu, pushed his way through the sea of Vietnamese mobbing the embassy and was let in by a Marine guard at the order of the CIA station chief. Others were less circumspect. Some armed senior officers showed up at the DAO compound — where the secret flights were being carried out — and demanded to be flown out of the country. Air Marshal Ky, who had called those leaving cowards and traitors (but whohad evacuated his family to Guam) flew out in his own helicopter, taking General Ngo Quang Truong, the commander of what was once Military Region I, with him. There were scattered individual acts of defiance and courage, like the few pilots who flew their last missions against the communists. But no one was left to give orders. The whole command structure had collapsed as the Joint General Staff personnel abandoned their posts and fled.