The Fall of Vietnam, home leave, vacation in Great Britain, and our return to the States

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May 31st 1975
Published: June 25th 2011
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Fifth RTW in 1974

Following the fall of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the communists in April 1975, I was allowed to take home leave even though my job was going to end by December 1975. We left Chiang Mai fully expecting to return for at least six months. Our plan was to take three weeks home leave with Linda’s family in Pennsylvania and my family who was still on furlough in New York, and then take annual leave for two weeks in Great Britain on our way back to Thailand.

However, while in the States I was offered my choice of five jobs. I accepted the one at the headquarters of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Alexandria, Virginia. They wanted me to start right away. I explained that I needed to return to Thailand to pack up our household goods, ship our car, and say farewell to our friends. They agreed. So we went around the world one and a half times in the next six weeks.

31 May 1975 Saturday. We flew to Bangkok, and then took the military charter flight to Hawaii, without stopping anywhere along the way. We arrived before we left due to the International Date Line. We rented at Honda Civic and stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel in the heart of Waikiki Beach. We went to the International Marketplace for supper.

1 June 1975 Sunday. The next morning we went to church and met some nice people. In the afternoon we went to Waikiki Beach and I rented a surf board and tried to learn to surf. I caught a few waves, but always fell off when trying to stand. We then drove around Honolulu to see some sights.

2 June 1975 Monday. We drove east past Koko Head to Waimanalo Beach and tried body surfing. We had much better luck at this, although an occasional wave thrust us to the sandy bottom and twisted us around. After awhile we continued up the coast and then returned to Waikiki via the Pali highway, which provided great views of the east coast of Oahu. The Pali cliffs is where defeated warriors were caste off to their doom.

3 June 1975 Tuesday. We drove north across the island to the north shore and then east to the Polynesian Cultural Center, where we enjoyed visiting the cultures of many Pacific Island groups. We returned back to Waikiki late that evening.

4 June 1975 Wednesday. We flew from Honolulu to Pittsburgh where Linda’s family awaited us. We were in time to attend Linda’s sister Shirley’s high school graduation on June 6.

Shortly after that we packed up the camper and headed to Allegheny State Park in New York. Linda’s family went camping for a month every summer when she was growing up, so this was a special occasion for her. Her Dad was an avid fisherman, so we fished and we hiked.

One afternoon, the park ranger came by to tell me to call the personnel office in Virginia. I called and found out that my office in Bangkok had put the word out that the OICC/Thailand staff would be looking for work. I had offers from all over the States. I accepted the position at NAVFAC headquarters, which was 6 hours drive from where my parents lived in New York and six hours drive from Linda’s parents in Pennsylvania.

We had to cut our stay at the park short as Linda’s dad became ill. I drove their station wagon and camper back to New Castle where he checked into the hospital. We stayed long enough to see that he was receiving proper care before flying to Nyack, New York to visit my family. We had to curtail our visit with them as we needed to get back to Chiang Mai to pack up our stuff.

21 June 1975 Saturday. My parents dropped us off at JFK. We knew that we would see them in a month or so after we moved back to the States. We took the night flight to London Heathrow.

22 June 1975 Sunday. Upon arrival, we rented a car and drove to Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Driving on the left hand side was familiar to us, as the Thai drive on the left. However, driving with the gear shift on the opposite side took some getting used to. We checked into the White Swan Hotel, which was built before Columbus discovered America. Nothing was straight, but was very quaint and cosy. We visited the Shakespeare birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s cottage, and walked around town, before dinner and turning in for the night.

23 June 1975 Monday. The next morning we drove to Warwick Castle, which was fully restored and open for tourists to see, and then to Kenilworth Castle, which was just a ruin with no one around. After lunch we drove to the Lake District, touring around the hills and lakes; stopping at many scenic spots before finding a cottage in Windermere for the night.

24 June 1975 Tuesday. We continued north through the rest of the Lake District and crossed into Scotland. We drove north to Loch Lomond, and then west to Oban where we spent the night.

25 June 1975 Wednesday. We drove to Fort William for lunch. We continued northeast along Loch Ness and stopped at Urquhart Castle, now in ruins, to see if we could spot Nessie…no luck. We headed to Inverness and then south through Caimgorns National Park to Pitlochry where we stayed at a family run hotel. Pitlochry is a center for the woolen industry so we stopped at one of the many woolen goods stores and each bought Scottish Highland sweaters. We also saw a play that evening in the local playhouse.

26 June 1975 Thursday. The next day we drove south to Edinburgh, and then to Galashiels and Jedburg Abbey in the border country, and finally to Hadrian’s Wall, specifically the Roman town near Corbridge on the eastern end. We then headed towards London, trying to get as far that evening so as to minimizing the drive the next day. I don’t even remember where we stopped for the night.

27 June 1975 Friday. The next day we drove directly to London Heathrow and checked into the Sheraton Airport Hotel. That evening we took the hotel shuttle into London to see a play.

28 June 1975 Saturday. We toured London starting with the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and then we walked to Westminster and to 10 Downing Street followed by the Horseguards and Trafalgar Square where we visited the National Gallery. Then we caught a bus to the Tower of London and took the tour given by a Beefeater Guard. We saw the Crown Jewels.

29 June 1975 Sunday. We took the Thai International noon flight from London to Bangkok that arrived early the next morning.

30 June 1975 Monday. We arrived in Bangkok and were greeted with anti-American demonstrations. The Thai government was in a state of panic. Being seen as friends of the United States right after the fall of the rest of Southeast Asia to the communist was not a good position to be in. The previous month, South Vietnamese pilots had flown their military planes from Vietnam to Thailand to escape, many with their families. The Thai government was about to give the planes back to the Vietnamese as an appeasement offering. The U.S. Navy sailed an aircraft carrier off the coast of Sattahip and U-Tapao, Thailand and without asking permission, airlifted as many planes and helicopters as they could to fill the deck of the carrier, and took them to Guam; hence the demonstrations. Americans were told to lay low, which we did.

1 July – 6 July 1975 Tuesday through Sunday. We flew to Chiang Mai. That week I finished some things up at the construction site and we packing up our household goods. We gave our dog Taffy and our cats Zane Grey and Orphan Annie to missionary friends. We moved into the Rincome Hotel. On Friday evening we had a farewell party at the Rincome Hotel with everyone from my office. On Sunday we attended the community church for the last time, saying good bye to our missionary friends.

7 July Monday. We drove our Grand Torino to Bangkok and stayed at the mission guest home. There were many missionaries there who had recently evacuated from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and were awaiting their next assignments. It was good to see many old friends.

8 July 1975 Tuesday. I took my car to the ocean terminal at Klong Toey for shipment to the States. We visited with friends in Bangkok, saying our farewells.

9 – 11 July 1975 Wednesday to Friday. We flew Pam Am Flight 1 from Bangkok to London, arriving on 10 July, where we stayed one night and then flew to Washington Dulles, arriving on 11 July. We stayed at the Holiday Inn adjacent to my new office.

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