A Daring Rescue in the Chaos of Saigon’s Fall
On Sale: April 7, 2015
Hardcover / e-Book
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In the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War in April 1975,
as Americans fled and their Vietnamese allies and employees
prepared for the worst, John Riordan, a young banker, the
assistant manager of Citibank's Saigon branch succeeded in
rescuing 106 Vietnamese. They were his 33 Vietnamese staff
members and their families.
Unable to secure exit papers for the employees, Citibank
ordered Riordan to leave the country alone. Safe in Hong
Kong, Riordan could not imagine leaving behind his employees
and defied instructions from his superiors not to return to
Saigon. But once he did make it back on the last commercial
flight, his actions were daring and ingenious.
In They Are All My Family, Riordan recounts in a vivid
narrative how the escape was organized and carried out. He
assembled all 106 of the Vietnamese into his villa and a
neighboring one telling them to keep their locations secret.
A CIA contact told him that only dependents of Americans
were allowed to escape on U.S. military cargo planes.
Riordan repeatedly went to the processing area and claimed
groups of the Vietnamese as his relatives—his wife and
children—somehow managing to get through the bureaucratic
shambles. Eventually he went back and forth to the airport
15 times. Filling out papers in groups, using false
documents and even witnessing a bribe, he succeeded in
rescuing the group.
For the last round, the group drove the bank van to the
airport pretending they had bundles of money to transport.
Miraculously, all these gambits worked and the Citibank
group made it to Guam and the Philippines, eventually
reuniting at Camp Pendleton in California. All the while,
Riordan assumed he had been fired for ignoring orders but
once the mission was completed, his extraordinary commitment
and resourcefulness won him widespread praise from senior
Citibank spent over a million dollars just to resettle the
Vietnamese, offering jobs to some of the staff and their
Decades later, Riordan, who has stayed in touch with the
Vietnamese, has located and reconnected with all of them in
order to share their accounts of those frantic days and the
derring-do it took to get them out to safety.
John Riordan is now a farmer in Wisconsin. His story of
those fateful days decades ago and their aftermath provides
a compelling insight to the courage of individuals when all
For all the tragedy of the Vietnam War, this saga is an
uplifting counterpoint and a compelling piece of micro-history.
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