We have now received some news and know that South Vietnam has surrendered. Wednesday, April 30, 1975

[Martindale, continued]

Wednesday, April 30, 1975

         After a pretty good night’s sleep, I was up at 7:00 A.M. Men have the head for the first 30 minutes of every hour (7:00-7:30) and women and children the second 30 minutes. We heard that all Vietnamese would eat breakfast first because they would be flown by helicopter to other ships, possibly even landing craft that would go directly to Guam or Wake Island. It was about 9:00 A.M. before we could go to eat. Everywhere we go, we have to be escorted. For breakfast , I had scrambled eggs, shrimp, sweet roll, plums, with Sprite and coffee to drink.

         The Captain came by before we ate. He said some Marines from the Embassy compound had been withdrawn. Ambassador Martin had been evacuated and the evacuation was about over in Saigon. During the morning, we heard that the Embassy had been hit pretty hard after everyone left and was on fire. It seems that about 20 minutes after we were lifted off last night, there was a riot in front of the Embassy and resulted in Marines fighting ARVN soldiers. We heard that 5 marines had been killed but don’t know where or how. Of course, it could only be a rumor (Apparently, it was a rumor).

         This morning, several S. Vietnamese helicopters landed bringing the families of crew members. We probably evacuated a lot of Generals’ families, so I guess its every man for himself. After landing, some of the helicopters were pushed over the side for lack of room. I heard of only one who went back to Saigon to evacuate more.

Since 1:30 p.m., we have been having some excitement. A Cessna with a Vietnamese major, his wife and 4 or 5 children on board, wants to land on this carrier. The ship is speeding up to give him more landing room. As many as can crowd into a small room in our quarters area are watching deck action on a closed circuit TV.

         Now he has made it O.K. The ship sped up so he was going only about 15 knots over the deck. Late today several South Vietnamese helicopters, including Chinooks, have landed. We have now received some news and know that South Vietnam has surrendered. Where we earlier thought the helicopter pilots had deserted, we now know they got away from the North Vietnamese with their copters

         All kinds of rumors of where we are going–one rumor says we will stay on this ship and go to Subic Bay, Philippines, about 3 days away. Another says we will be transferred by helicopter to another ship, probably a cruiser, that will get to Subic faster.

        Wednesday night and all the Vietnamese have been transferred to other ships, supposedly to go directly to Guam or Wake Island. And now we have been told to go up for boarding helicopters to go somewhere. Everyone lined up once and then, in about 5 minutes were told to fall out. We were told to report ot the foksel (that seems to be how the sailors pronounce it; as an ex-air force pilot I don’t know what it is. But I vaguely remember reading in various books of a word, something like Fo’c’sle, which I took to mean forecastle). At about 11:00 p.m. everyone lined up again. Bill Rice and I have been after the medics to get a stretcher for Clarence Combs, because of his bad feet, and we said we would wait for him. It was just as well because most of the line moved out toward the flight deck, and then everyone was sent back in again. And flight operations have shut down for the night. Apparently something was “Fokked up” on the “FOKSEL”. We thought the weather (rain) might be the reason but found later that it apparently was not. We have now been told that we will get off tomorrow, Thursday, and should indicate our choice of (1) helicopter to a commercial ship for passage to Guam or Wake Island; (2) Stay on the ship as it goes south, past Vietnam, and then go with the Air Force helicopters to their base in Thailand, or (3) Stay on board the ship until it reaches Subic Bay. We decided that all AID people should go to Bangkok.  Incidentally, all five of our ADFM people are on this ship. In Bangkok, we can get travel orders and take a week’s TDY somewhere to buy clothes and rest. If Jennie* left Bangkok, as scheduled, on Wednesday, I may go by way of Guam on my way home. Anyway, another late meal, about 12:30 a.m.

*Tom’s wife