Honorable Exit: How a Few Brave Americans Risked All to Save Our Vietnamese Allies at the End of the War

Honorable Exit: How a Few Brave Americans Risked All to Save Our Vietnamese Allies at the End of the War

A groundbreaking revisionist history of the last days of the Vietnam War that reveals the acts of American heroism that saved more than one hundred thousand South Vietnamese from communist revengeIn 1973 U.S. participation in the Vietnam War ended in a cease-fire and a withdrawal that included promises by President Nixon to assist the South in the event of invasion by the...

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Title:Honorable Exit: How a Few Brave Americans Risked All to Save Our Vietnamese Allies at the End of the War
Author:Thurston Clarke
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Honorable Exit: How a Few Brave Americans Risked All to Save Our Vietnamese Allies at the End of the War Reviews

  • Ownbymom Ownby

    Just like the war itself, the book begins slowly. Stay with it, however, because the end is dizzyingly complex and dramatic. I grew up with the war as my background news. I knew some people who volunteered, and many more who did not. I remember where I was when I heard about Kent State. I wore an MIA bracelet (which I still have). The rhetoric from Washington significantly shaped the political stance I hold today. So, I thought I knew about the war, but reading this book reminds me that I really

    Just like the war itself, the book begins slowly. Stay with it, however, because the end is dizzyingly complex and dramatic. I grew up with the war as my background news. I knew some people who volunteered, and many more who did not. I remember where I was when I heard about Kent State. I wore an MIA bracelet (which I still have). The rhetoric from Washington significantly shaped the political stance I hold today. So, I thought I knew about the war, but reading this book reminds me that I really did not. There were both villains and heroes when it came time to evacuate which means that reading (or listening, in my case) is a very emotional experience. This is an excellent book about a time which, until relatively recently, was too painful to even discuss.

  • Paul

    Fascinating recount of the heroics of so many people...military, civilian, CIA and State Department...who attempted and mostly succeeded to save both Vietnamese, Americans and others from the brutal violence of the crash of South Vietnam.

  • Patrick Pope

    Excellent description of the final days of America’s presence in Vietnam and the heroic attempt of a few (some from the Embassy, some CIA, some civilian/contractor) to save as many Vietnamese who were in danger from the North Vietnamese when Saigon fell as possible. Spoiler: we see some very great individuals “where the rubber meets the road” as we used to say when I was a young Infantry Officer at this time; and some in high places who should be ashamed at how they abandoned the brave South Vie

    Excellent description of the final days of America’s presence in Vietnam and the heroic attempt of a few (some from the Embassy, some CIA, some civilian/contractor) to save as many Vietnamese who were in danger from the North Vietnamese when Saigon fell as possible. Spoiler: we see some very great individuals “where the rubber meets the road” as we used to say when I was a young Infantry Officer at this time; and some in high places who should be ashamed at how they abandoned the brave South Vietnamese and their families who had put their lives on the line for the US for years.

  • Sevelyn

    Arresting account of the closing of the US embassy in Saigon and the country’s fall to the communists. While this book is indeed about the story behind Van Es’s famous photo, it it is also a carefully researched and painstakingly written account of the political wrangling that led to our exit in April 1975. Then, several hundred pages in, it becomes a more thrilling, harrowing account of human desperation and heroism—the final hours of our presence in Vietnam and a few hearty souls’ efforts to a

    Arresting account of the closing of the US embassy in Saigon and the country’s fall to the communists. While this book is indeed about the story behind Van Es’s famous photo, it it is also a carefully researched and painstakingly written account of the political wrangling that led to our exit in April 1975. Then, several hundred pages in, it becomes a more thrilling, harrowing account of human desperation and heroism—the final hours of our presence in Vietnam and a few hearty souls’ efforts to airlift tens of thousands of citizens. Hang in with it, you will be rewarded.

  • Chris

    This is haunting story of the fall of South Vietnam, and the heroism of the few Americans who did what they could to rescue and evacuate South Vietnamese allies who had worked with the United States during the war. These U.S. soldiers, CIA agents, journalists, civilians, and foreign service officers were often working to save their South Vietnamese allies and acquaintances in direct opposition to the American government's orders. I found myself reading whole passages aloud to my wife as I read t

    This is haunting story of the fall of South Vietnam, and the heroism of the few Americans who did what they could to rescue and evacuate South Vietnamese allies who had worked with the United States during the war. These U.S. soldiers, CIA agents, journalists, civilians, and foreign service officers were often working to save their South Vietnamese allies and acquaintances in direct opposition to the American government's orders. I found myself reading whole passages aloud to my wife as I read the book, sometimes deeply moved by American kindness and sometimes horrified by American callousness.

  • Ron Bower

    This book fills a void in the history of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War has been sufficiently covered up to the withdrawal of American troops, however there is little or nothing concerning the massive tasks facing the diplomats and contractors who were remaining after the withdrawal. Many critical issues remained for which there were either no hard plan, or plans that did not meet muster when implemented. The total number of evacuees exceeded the planned number and did not even consider those

    This book fills a void in the history of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War has been sufficiently covered up to the withdrawal of American troops, however there is little or nothing concerning the massive tasks facing the diplomats and contractors who were remaining after the withdrawal. Many critical issues remained for which there were either no hard plan, or plans that did not meet muster when implemented. The total number of evacuees exceeded the planned number and did not even consider those who were last minute candidates for evacuation. Personal stories such as the Baby Lift disaster, the heroic decisions made either with or without permission such as the Pan Am evacuation highlighted persons who used their assets to the maximum extent. Facing hostile forces, both NVA and routed RVN troops and police, shortages of food and transport these are the stories of heroes who took no lives but saved thousands. It highlighted the confusion, the indecisiveness of diplomats and the political issues which involved people separated not only by thousands of miles, but also by lack of current first hand knowledge of the ground situation. It answered several of my questions about my Vietnamese friends such as LGEN Troung and gave me solace that some survived. This is a must read for all historians of war, it may happen again.

  • John

    Clarke has written a true page-turner about heroic men and women acting in the midst of impending disaster. The stories of individual bravery are well researched and filled with great detail. These are stories that few people have heard but need to know.

  • James

    There are many shameful chapters in history and many shameful wars. Most recently, we have had the ill-fated war in Afghanistan, which perhaps began nobly in the aftermath of 9/11, but which soon morphed into a conflict of ill-defined strategy - was it an exercise in nation building, of anti-terrorism, of drug interdiction? More clearly disastrous, and utterly without justification, was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And then there’s Vietnam. If any conflict is shrouded in ignominy, it’s arguably Am

    There are many shameful chapters in history and many shameful wars. Most recently, we have had the ill-fated war in Afghanistan, which perhaps began nobly in the aftermath of 9/11, but which soon morphed into a conflict of ill-defined strategy - was it an exercise in nation building, of anti-terrorism, of drug interdiction? More clearly disastrous, and utterly without justification, was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And then there’s Vietnam. If any conflict is shrouded in ignominy, it’s arguably America’s war in Vietnam. But in reality, life is never so simple. Whatever the justifications for a given war or intervention, amongst those fighting it might be the brave and honourable. Similarly, some will side with those who history judges to have been in the wrong for all manner of reasons, many not just understandable, but perhaps justifiable also. A good example of this can be seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever the merits of Western intervention, not a few locals sided with the foreign forces. Many worked for them. And when those forces pulled out, all too often those locals felt abandoned. Interpreters are a case in point. Both the US and UK have faced calls to allow those who assisted their troops seek asylum and many find it shocking how these brave Iraqis and Afghans have felt themselves to be abandoned.

    So it is that An Honourable Exit by Thurston Clarke is so relevant. For it tells the story of the efforts by many Americans to help the Vietnamese who assisted them to get to safety. Apart from being a fascinating story in itself, this is also a historical corrective. The abiding image of the American pull out from Saigon after all being one of chaos, of Vietnamese thronging the gates of the embassy compound and watching in impotence as the diplomats inside were evacuated. All this is true, of course. The American withdrawal was chaotic, and those Vietnamese crowding the gates and not being let in were left to their own devices, as were many more. But in this book are the stories, the innumerable stories, of the many efforts to get people out and those they whisked to freedom.

    Many of these efforts were unofficial, American men and women disobeying orders to help people escape. Heroism is an overused word, but some of the stories contained in the pages of this book meet the definition, humanitarian efforts in which the Americans concerned went above and beyond to help those who otherwise might face the wrath of the North Vietnamese to flee. A great example is that of the Consul General of Can Tho, who rather than just fly American personnel out by helicopter (thus abandoning the local Vietnamese to their fate) risked a boat voyage and thus evacuated Americans and Vietnamese allies alike. Or there is Al Topping, the Pan Am employee, who adopted 360 Vietnamese employees and their families and thus enabled them to repatriate to the United States.

    But there are other more tragic stories in these pages, of rescue missions that didn’t succeed and those that paid the price. One of the most moving in my opinion is that of Tucker Gougelmann. A former CIA officer who had retired to Bangkok, he had married a Vietnames woman and snuck back into the country after the fall of Saigon to help his family escape. Gougelmann was captured by the Vietnamese and tortured to death, his body returned to the US three years later. A friend later managed to secure his family visas and they settled in the United States, Gougelmann posthumously given a star on the famous memorial wall in CIA headquarters in Langley, despite the fact that his rescue mission was unsanctioned, and he was retired at the time.

    With the unpopular interventions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya offering up similar challenges, An Honourable Exit is a fascinating and timely account of how some Americans rebelled at their nations decision to turn its back on friend and ally. This is very readable and gripping account of honourable people in a dishonourable environment and is highly recommended.

  • Scribe Publications
  • Scribe Publications

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