55 DAYS: The Fall of South Vietnam by Alan Dawson
Kirkus Star

55 DAYS: The Fall of South Vietnam

Email this review


With a combination of close-up montage and blunt generalization, the UPI Saigon bureau chief who lived through the capture of Saigon reconstructs the early-1975 military failures and political misjudgments that preceded final collapse. Dawson starts by asking why so many US-dependent Vietnamese personnel were abandoned in the April melee of American evacuation, then flashes back to 1974 North Vietnamese documents on their plans for victory and the US decision to respond ""with words instead of bombs."" As the enemy was allowed to capture the highlands, not only did South Vietnamese troops adopt a retreat mentality, but a wave of refugees was created whose plight is most graphically shown at Da Nang, where women and children clung to the fuselage of the 727 plane as it took off with its South Vietnamese troop load. Back in Saigon, embassy and other employees were assured that when the time came, they could leave with the Americans, but while Thieu's family was busy smuggling brass scrap from the battlefield, American officials refused to plan evacuation assistance. Ambassador Martin, ""operating with the unique knowledge that North Vietnam had promised not to target the evacuation in any attacks,"" made it official at the last minute, leaving girls like Dao to hide sobbing in a church for two days. Dawson poses the irony that, although the occupiers had decided to be ""nice,"" the pro-American Vietnamese were convinced of their imminent doom. Outspoken in its bias, memorable in its counterposition of chaos outside Saigon and smugness inside, this recaptures events for those who were ""tired of the war"" at the time.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1977
Publisher: Prentice-Hall