Bài này được viết theo sự yêu cầu của Mr. Hugh Doyle, cơ khí trưởng chiến hạm USS KIRK, chiến hạm đã cưu mang những người việt tị nạn đầu tiên trong tháng Tư buồn 1975.
Một sự tình cờ tôi được ông liên lạc qua đứa con trai làm việc tại Washington DC, ông muốn tôi viết lại cảm nghĩ của chuyến hải hành cuối cùng sau 30/4/75.
Khi đoàn tàu tị nạn gần đến cảng Subic Bay, thì cũng chính chiến hạm USS KIRK đã cho hai quân nhân Mỹ lên từng chiến hạm VNCH, để tiếp tế lương thực cũng như cố vấn, phải làm gì khi vào lãnh hải của Phillippine.
Ông Hugh Doyle giờ đã về hưu và được giữ chức vụ bão quản thư viện của USS KIRK, trông coi những tài liệu hải trình của chiến hạm này.
Bài này cũng muốn cho các cháu nhỏ của các thế hệ mai sau đọc, để trả lời một phần nào tại sao các cháu lại phải lưu lạc đến đây?
Hi Mr. Hugh Doyle,
My name is Truong Buu Giam. My son, Paul Truong, is the young man you contacted for writing histories of the USS KIRK and about the Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam War.
I was born in 1948. I graduated from South Viet Nam “Ecole Superieure” of Fine Arts, Saigon, 1970. I also graduated from South VN Navy Academy in 1972. I served as a SVN Navy Officer from 1972 to April 30, 1975, on board the HQ-229.
Since you are interested in recording some memories from Vietnamese refugees, let’s see where I should start.
Just go back in time before the VN war.
I wasn’t born at the right time. World War II had ended. In America all the children born at that time were Golden Children, the “Baby Boomers”.
I, like many young men at that time (between 1945-1975), either Vietnamese or American, was involved in a wrong war, the war we had to fight but we were not allowed to win. We are not to be blamed. I felt sorry for the young American soldiers who had been involved in the VN war. They were mistreated by the American media. They were portrayed as senseless “killers”. Some Americans called this war a Vietnamese “civil war”. NO, this is not a VN civil war. This is a war between America and the two big communist blocks at that time: Russia and China, using the Vietnamese people, both South and North, as tools.
Now let’s talk about the end of the VN war. I was a navy officer and also a cruise member of the HQ-229 at that time. My job was to help the chief engineer to keep the ship run smoothly technically. And I was also a chief fire fighter and supply officer.
My ship used to patrol the shore line and escort the supply ship to any South VN navy base down into the Mekong delta.
About three weeks before the War ends, my HQ-229 received order to go north to Da Nang, this is an unusual order. My territory was the Mekong delta only, Da Nang was the front line of the War at that time.
Then, you know what has happened next.
Finally on April 28, my ship came back to Vung Tau, my home town. The ship anchored far from shore. I’m ready to swim to shore by myself trying to get home to get to my family. Luckily the HQ 802 allowed my Captain to go to shore. So I was allowed to come along.
I came back home in the afternoon on April 28, 1975. The City was messy and in bad security. All Vietnamese marines are ready to fight for the last battle.
At home I found out my family was gone to the capital, Saigon, a couple of days before, because the VC had started to send rockets into here. Only my two younger brothers who study in a nearby city came home later that afternoon, so I decided to take them back to my ship that evening.
That night my Captain tried to go to Saigon but it’s too late. I can see the sky light up like fireworks when we enter the Saigon river. America helicopter Chinook and others try to escape. I can see clearly, even at night.
April 29th on the morning, my ship received order go to near shore to fire over the big mountain of Vung Tau to destroy the main bridge leading to Vung Tau, in order to prevent communist forces to enter Vung Tau. At noon we left to go farther from shore, anchor and just wait for order.
April 30th 1975, about before noon, the “3-day President” Duong Van Minh announced a surrender and the war had ended…
That afternoon my ship sailed to Con Son Island and wait…
On May 1st my ship, joining with other ships, just left Viet Nam, all headed East and went to . . . nowhere. At that time my ship still had the order to sail at the end of the group, to escort other ships and the Vietnamese refugees.
Going nowhere, just heading East and left behind my beloved country, family, friends.
After a few days, we reached near the Subic Bay in the Philippines. At that time, we received food and supply from an American ship.
At that time we are no longer recognized for who we are. We are now lonely, a people with no country. All guns and ammunitions had to be thrown into the sea. We are not allowed to keep our flag, the South Viet Nam flag when we enter Subic Bay Philippine.
We had a last ceremony to take the South VN flag down. I will never forget how it was when I faced that moment, heart broken, humiliation, … what was going on? what’s next? what are we going to do?
As a man, I can’t defend my country. I feel ashamed, dishonored and I have to live with this feeling for the rest of my life. I feel so bad and sad. I don’t have the gut to commit suicide like others, a man who lived without his honor, what do you live for? I felt ashamed and continue living like a hermit crab.
It’s almost forty years. I still have that feeling like yesterday, since April 30, 1975.
My Dad died in 1989 but I did not have a chance to see him before he died. Since 1974, I had been on board the HQ-229, doing my duties as a soldier, I did not have a chance to go home to visit him.
Up to now I haven’t come back to my homeland. The bad guy had won the war and they are still there, ruling my country, and they are about to sell my country for a second time, to China, like Henry Kissinger and the allies had sold my country to China since 1973 at the signature of the Paris Peace Accords. That Paris Peace Accords is a shameful document. It betrays the South Vietnamese people. How can we defend our country? That Accords stated that we only fire back after being fired on by the communists. As a supply officer, I fully understand the situation. You have to bring back the empty shell in order to get new ammunition to replace whatever that you had fired.
Who I should blame for? The only thing I have to blame is that I was born in a small country that was used by a superpower to further its interests in the world. The war is a chess game where the big countries use small countries, like Viet Nam, in their quest for powers.
Many tears, many hard times … either here in the US or in South VN. My people have learned many lessons to survive. We had fought the Chinese for 1000 years. We fought 100 years against the control of the French, and 30 years fighting against the International Communists. My beloved country, my people only got all tears, hunger and humiliation in communist re-education, concentration camps (prisons). Many people, either civil or military, who had some involvement with the South VN government, were separated either in concentration camps, death or seeking freedom by fleeing Viet Nam, “the boat people”.
I still remember some TV comedian here laugh and joke about “Vietnamese boat people” leaving their country to come here for “Coca Cola”. How many “boat people” were lucky enough to get safely to the freedom shore? Facing mother nature in the open sea, the pirates in the Gulf of Siam. If you stayed and you were a soldier, or who ever had worked for South VN government, you were imprisoned into “re-education camps”. Your family members were chased out into “new economy zones”, unproductive land where people scratch dirt to eat, while the Vietnamese communists in power will appropriate all the wealths in the country for themselves. Worst than that, their purpose is to destroy a whole generation of the South Vietnamese, like Polpot had done in Cambodia getting rid of a million Cambodians. Same doctrine, same practice, building their “socialist paradise”. But the Vietnamese communist is more subtle, they “kill softly”, that will not stir up world opinion. Making people die slowly, so people will end up thinking it’s better to die than to live.
After almost 40 years those bandit communists have converted Viet Nam, used to be one of the best countries in Southeast Asia, used to be called “The Pearl of Far East”, into one of the poorest and most backward countries in the world.
Many thanks to the American citizens who allow us to live among them, who harbor us and help us live in this free country. I just hate the politics. Three American Presidents had promised to defend South Viet Nam from Communist aggression. But that promise was not honored. The Bad Guy had won the war.
Truong Buu Giam