I met a South Vietnamese military veteran named Tuan Van Mac while I was in college which was 30 years ago.  I talked to him quite a bit because he was interesting and a friend.  He was quite a bit older than me but we got along fairly well.

Tuan’s parents were killed by communists for the crimes of owning an orchard and his father being a teacher.

He was studying to be a lawyer when he was drafted into the equivalent of the South Vietnamese marines.  He believed he would have died if he hadn’t transferred out to be a helicopter pilot with some training in the United States.
He became a good pilot and eventually was put in charge of multiple aircraft.  When he was put in charge, he didn’t allow the transport of illegal drugs on any helicopter under his command because he believed it was wrong.

This became a problem because his commanders had been receiving kickback payments.  He was reassigned to emergency rescue missions because of this and was given a big party to celebrate this “promotion”.

He was shot down three times but always managed to land safely.  During one mission his helicopter was hit and there was a large hole in the helicopter between his legs but there was no exit hole of any shell.  At that moment he looked up and saw a man blown out of a command and control helicopter.  This was the same man who had given him what amounted to a suicidal assignment.

Tuan was in Saigon the day it fell to the communists. He figured they would kill him and it was time to leave.  He overloaded his helicopter with about 27 people and somehow got it in the air.  He barely slipped between some tall trees at high speed and low altitude which he believed was a miracle from God.  He went out over the ocean and landed on a prison island where all the prisoners had just been released because the war had been lost.

Tuan was out of fuel so he got on the radio and began broadcasting for help.  The U.S. military was not supposed to help the Vietnamese military at this time but they had covertly hired freighters in the area.  One of these ships picked up Tuan and his passengers.  He stayed at a temporary location (Guam?) until someone sponsored him to come to the U.S. to become a U.S. Citizen.  I believe he eventually went on to own a profitable business in Texas.


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