The Consulate and "The Roof"
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I am pasting here an email I sent to my list.  Our visit to the Consulate Grounds was almost a spiritual one.  I am not one for "God and Country" rhetoric.  I just do not believe the United States is "the chosen one".  But, having said that, I came away from this experience humbled by the greatness of our country, awed by the people who want to get here, and thankful that through an accident of birth, I am grateful and proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. 

This page has three sections: 

the first are my thoughts on the Consulate grounds located on the former U.S. Embassy property,;

The second is of the flag as it flew from the original flag pole; and 

the third is "The Roof" from which the last Americans were evacuated in 1975.

These trees remain silent witnesses to the breaching of the wall by the Viet Cong, the surrender of the South Vietnamese Government and the demolition of our Embassy in what was then--Saigon.




On Hallowed Ground I

Today is Monday (June 30).  It's about 6:30 p.m.

This morning we walked the grounds of the Consulate of the United States of America.  We had arrangements made to get in easily.  

Outside the wall at the point of breach, a 10 foot monolith stands commemorating the V.C. who fell that day that changed the course of the war and America's attitude towards it.  We won the field of battle during Tet all over Vietnam effectively putting an end to the Viet Cong war structure, but eventually bringing in Soviet and Chinese supplied NVA and American public opinion.

We have built a consulate on the same grounds.  Today hundreds of people waited across the street as loved ones, friends, or associates were inside applying for a VISA to visit or work in the United States of America.  The Embassy is now in Hanoi, the capital of the country.

 I feel blessed to have stood on the grounds that represented our efforts in the words of President John Kennedy:

 "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty". 

You could feel the sense of standing on sacred ground.  From one spot, I took pictures of two bangor trees which remain the last in country witnesses on the grounds to see the Viet Cong breech the wall and be fended off by Army Military Police, United States Marines, American civilians and their Vietnamese counterparts.  Where I am standing was the Embassy.  I even took pictures of the ground where I was standing.

There are pictures of a simple black plaque with the names of the five soldiers and Marine who died defending an Embassy, considered the soil of the nation to which it belongs.

Outside the wall is a 10 foot monolith memorializing the Viet Cong who died.  The U.S. plaque was also outside on the wall but circumstances caused it to be moved inside.  I was on the outskirts of the city during Tet as Americans provided the ring of security for the Capitol City.

The bottom picture was a nearby apartment complex.    I went into the City a couple of days after Tet to see the damage.  A high rise department store and apartment building is being built on this site

There's a reverence one feels at these sites.  Many are not marked, but you know where your base camp was, where you were when you were involved in a scrape,  where you met a child who smiled at you during the worst of times. But this, because of its history, is the most sacred of all.

Every day, people await across the street from the consulate to line up for or await relatives who are attempting to get a VISA to enter the United States.  

This is EVERYDAY!  

If you do not believe the U.S.A. is not the greatest country inn the free world, one only has to look at the French consulate next door to ours, no waiting.  

In fact no people on the day I was there.


If you were like me, you might have been under the impression that the famous picture of the helicopter landing on the rooftop was at the embassy in 1975.

Actually, the rooftop is about one fourth mile away.

From around the corner of the consulate, we could see the top of a building which has become the icon for the fall of Saigon--the top of a nondescript 5 or six story narrow building in line with other similar, but one or two story shorter buildings.  This was the HQ of the CIA in Vietnam.  This is where the picture of the last helicopter so many of us see is located.

We walked a block, went into the Diamond Exchange Department Store, walked up to the fourth floor, entered a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and took the top picture in this series.  On the left is the Post Office, on the right is the Cathedral.  You can barely make out "The Roof"  The tall building behind it is the Caravelle and the most likely place the picture was taken from.

The Consulate is on the same street, one block away from the Department Store.

In my pictures you will see the top of a building with what looks like a utility room on it.  From the roof of that shed, US helicopters carried off the last of the Americans from the Embassy about a quarter mile away.  Later in the day I attempted to go to the top of the building.  I had the desk clerk write a note for me, "I would like to go to the top of the building, please."  I was stopped.

I really do not think the people I talked to knew the significance of the roof.  The bottom of the building has a beauty salon--nice interior in the store for a gray drab building.  The ladies there were clueless.  So, I went next door where a private security firm said I could not go upstairs where there were just several levels of apartments.

The bottom picture is taken from the street which is actually the front of the building.  Higher up and probably a couple blocks away at the Caravelle Hotel is where the famous picture was probably taken.


Words do not adequately describe the sense of awesome responsibility, sacred trust, and just downright pride I felt to be a citizen of the United States when I took this picture. 

It was the last morning of the last day when I hiked from our Hotel back to the Consulate.  I stood there along with a couple hundred Vietnamese waiting to get a chance for a VISA.

Goose bumps rose on every hair of my body, neck, arms, back, legs as I felt chilled with emotion on a 100 degree morning.  

The flag flies from the original embassy pole.  Stretched out with all the pride a country can master, the Stars and Stripes with quiet voice said, "The United States is back.  We have not forgotten you."

I am damn proud to be a citizen of the United States.  I thanked God for it that morning.  July 2 is a date I will long remember.





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