Memoir of a bank manager’s unlikely role in the evacuation of South Vietnamese from war-torn mid-1970s Saigon.
With the assistance of Demery (Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu, 2013), Riordan chronicles his time as a mild-mannered manager of a bank in Saigon and his more important role as a savior of dozens of South Vietnamese families fleeing the rolling juggernaut of communism in 1975. The author first got acquainted with Vietnam through his 15-month tour of duty in the United States Army, but then he found himself in a new and seemingly passive role in international financial services. By the spring of 1975, what seemed like a routine civilian position became the last outpost of American financial interests in South Vietnam and the setting for the final airlift of Americans and South Vietnamese out of the country. Although the narrative lacks the dramatic punch of a more seasoned writer, Riordan builds his story in measured prose, giving a vivid sense of the history of Vietnam that comes from lived experience rather than research. At the height of the crisis in Saigon, the author was faced with a choice that no one should ever have to make. Although he was told to limit his evacuees to American citizens, he found an ingenious way to also save many of his longtime South Vietnamese bank colleagues—by exploiting an obscure legal loophole that involved, amazingly, passing his colleagues off as family. “I wasn’t trying to be a hero,” he writes, “but it seemed right to me to at least try to help my colleagues and my friends. When I could not stand by, they all became my family. Now they have become our neighbors, our friends, and our fellow Americans. In the case of these 106 lives, the tragic and chaotic end of the [war] became the beginning of something new.”
A nail-biting account of one man’s quiet heroism in the face of impossible odds.