By Philip Tran
Every Vietnamese should know their family’s Black April story.
April 28, 1975. My dad told my mom she had 15 minutes to pack what she can in a bag and then they had to leave. He just came back from his office in Saigon. He wired his office full of C4 and his last order was “Do not let anyone into my office. If the Cộng sản, want in I left them a gift”.
After Tan Son Nhut closed to the general public, he took my mother, uncle, and what relatives were close and boarded a Chinook. They flew low so they couldn’t be detected in the sky. Mom said it was the most uncomfortable thing to ride because they had to sit on a floor with no padding and held onto the walls. When they hit the Cambodian border, they had to tread along the coastline till they hit Thailand. Dad knew the Khmer Rouge took over the countries two weeks earlier and flying over their airspace would be a death wish.
When they got to Thailand my dad secured 8 plane tickets to leave the country. He had military contacts in the Thai army since he did paratrooper training with them in the 60s.
They flew to Guam to get medical treatment because walking through Cambodia was tough. Tried landing in Ontario, CA but then Governor Jerry Brown did not want any refugees in CA. Eventually ended up in Ft Chaffee AK, and tried to live the American dream.
I keep this map of Vietnam from 1968 in my office. It reminds me of my roots and to keep my parents story alive. My dad actually kept his military IDs in his wallet until his passing. My dad passed away before I married. I never got to have him there in his dress whites and Crimson beret.
In his memory when I bought my wedding watch, I custom ordered a strap with his last command post and rank. Remember the communist only truly won when the stories and memories of the Republic fade away. As my mom appointed me family historian, every child and grandchild will know the story of the pig farmer who grew up to be a Colonel who fought the good fight for peace, humanity, and decency