[Only then] did it occur to me that there had been underlying tension in Saigon during those last days. May 25, 1975

Martindale, continued

May 25, 1975

         During the last days of Saigon, things seemed to be normal in the city. There did seem to be more people and more Hondas to be sure, but the mood of the people going about their daily business appeared to belie the danger that had progressed to just a few miles from the city.

         Only after I reached Manila, a week after leaving Saigon, did it occur to me that there had been underlying tension in Saigon during those last days. The people were not as carefree and there were not nearly as many children in the streets as before. It struck me when I encountered the carefree attitude of the Filipinos in Manila.

         At first I thought how fortunate these people are compared to the Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese who remained face such uncertainties, families have been separated, thousands of additional people are jobless, all facing survival as a first priority. And there is a complete stream of South  Vietnamese refugees extending across the Pacific Ocean into the United States. How much unhappiness these once happy people must be experiencing. And here in Manila is an altogether different world.

         While I was thinking about how fortunate these people are, it dawned on me what trying times they themselves had faced thirty some add years ago. During the early 1940’s they had been occupied by the Japanese armed forces. But those years are beyond the memory of so many of the Filipinos you encounter in Manila today.

         A tourist first encounters the hustlers at the airport. For instance a taxi fare is “$15 only.” Beware of that word “only.” The regular taxi fare is less than $3. I quickly learned to shy away from anyone using the word “only.” It always indicates price-hiking.

         Around the tourist hotels on Roxas Boulevard are droves of hustlers. They hit you the minute you emerge from the hotel with old coins, pearls, taxis, newspapers, shoeshines, jewelry, and offers of pretty girls for the night. The taxi drivers are all pushing girls. It’s almost impossible to get a conversation-free taxi ride. But the taxis are dirt-cheap.

         I took a short walk through the open park along Roxas Boulevard. Here were a lot of children, some with their families, some without, but playing together with other children. Here I heard a greeting I remember from another era: “Hello, Joe.” Apparently they recognized me as an American but obviously Japanese and other tourists outnumber Americans in Manila today. Had they learned this greeting from their parents or has the oldtime call to American GI’s lingered on? While I was reveling in the joys of this remembrance of previous pleasant greetings and the present apparent happiness  and smiles of these children I was brought down to earth by their next greeting: “You give me money?” Was this the same old Filipino hustler? But after further meditation, I recall that that was also the second part of the old greeting to the GI’s, worldwide. That just goes to show how we tend to remember the pleasant and forget  the unpleasant aspects of the “good old days.”

Saturday Night, April 19

[Martindale, continued]

Saturday Night, April 19

         We had a small get-together for drinks and food at Bill Rice’s apartment, starting at 5:00 P.M. due to the 8:00 P.M. curfew. Dave Lockhart brought letters, addressed to various Americans, from either the Director or the Ambassador. Rice left and delivered those addressed to Americans in Financial ManagementOffice (ADFM). These were to all remaining Americans in ADFM, except the 5 who were to remain (Rice, Martindale, Kostamo, Combs and McClure). All, except for Phil Radcliffe had been notified already, and were planning to leave soon anyway. This letter was notifying them to leave by Tuesday, April 22nd.

         Yeomansleft on Sunday, Mary Viszneki on Monday, Carbonel on Wednesday. Jack Murphy wasdue to leave Saturday, then Sunday, but I don’t believe he left before Monday.Phil Radcliffe and his wife, Richie (Ambassador Martin’s wife’s socialsecretary), left Thursday, April 24th. We had been reduced from 18 to 5Americans in about two weeks.

Martindale, Short Intro

Thomas Kinton Martindale (1921-2000) was born in Tennessee. He flew “The Hump” in the Army Air Corps during WWII. The GI Bill helped put him through the University of Michigan and there he took a bachelor’s and master’s in accounting and secured his CPA. After some accounting jobs in the mid-west, he joined the U.S. State Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID) where he worked until retirement. He was controller in the mission in Saigon and was there as South Vietnam collapsed under the advance of the North. Martindale remained in Saigon until the last day and participated in evacuation efforts.

In following posts, I will transcribe notes about the final days, notes that he wrote for his family, notes that are now archived and of interest to more than his family alone.