In the last days of the Vietnam War, more than 130,000 South Vietnamese were saved from their otherwise dire fate by the heroic acts of ordinary Americans. This groundbreaking account by New York Times-bestselling author Thurston Clarke uncovers a previously untold story of bravery and honour.
1973. US participation in the Vietnam War ends. As troops withdraw, President Nixon pledges to assist the South in the event of invasion by the North.
1975. North Vietnam begins a full-scale assault on the South. Congress does nothing. Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese face execution or life in concentration camps. An iconic photograph is taken of the Fall of Saigon, depicting desperate Vietnamese people scrambling to board a helicopter evacuating the last of the American soldiers. It is an image of US failure and shame. Or is it?
In Honourable Exit, Clarke revisits the last days of the Vietnam War to uncover the previously untold story of a life-saving mass evacuation. During those final days, a number of Americans — diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, missionaries, contractors, and spies — risked their lives and disobeyed orders to help their translators, drivers, colleagues, neighbours, friends, and even perfect strangers to escape. By the time the last US helicopter left Vietnam on 30 April 1975, these heroic Americans had helped to spirit over 130,000 South Vietnamese to resettlement in the US and life as American citizens.
Groundbreaking, page-turning, and authoritative, Honourable Exit is a deeply moving history of Americans in one of their little-known finest hours.
‘America's years in Vietnam were full of shame, but the last days of the war saw a remarkable effort at redemption. Breaking rules set by their higher-ups, ordinary Americans — servicemen, diplomats, spies, private citizens — moved heaven and earth to get their Vietnamese friends and allies to safety. Thurston Clarke's Honourable Exit brings this little-known story to light with the speed and power of a riveting thriller. It challenges us to remember a time when Americans refused to abandon desperate people in a far-off country. It's a kind of Schindler's List for America's lost war.’
George Packer, author of The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq and The Unwinding: an inner history of the new America
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‘Thurston Clarke's Honourable Exit is the missing book on the Fall of Saigon we've been waiting for. Among other things, it is a brilliant recounting of President Gerald Ford's vital leadership during the last days of the Vietnam War. Over 130,000 South Vietnamese allies were saved because of Ford's moral certitude. An epic narrative history for the ages!’
Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite