Minh Thien Ngo
MY LIFE AS A ZOMBIE
         After graduating from medical school, I was assigned to the medical liaison team of the II Corps which was located in Pleiku in the central highlands. The latter were one of the gateways through which northern communists coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail infiltrated into South Vietnam. I worked at the II Corps headquarters for about 15 months during which I rotated between Pleiku and various medical field units.

         In late March 1975, ARVN units were ordered to retreat from the highlands and to move to the coastal city of Tuy Hoa. Since the evacuation was not well planned ahead, it turned out to be disorganized and chaotic right in the beginning. Being assigned to the headquarters of the II Corps meant I had the chance to get out with General Tat by helicopter. As we flew over the military convoy, we were called in to pick up an officer who got sick during the evacuation. As I was talking to people in the convoy, the helicopter took off without warning and left me behind. I therefore had to follow the convoy on Route 7B on foot for a day before being picked up by another helicopter. From above I could see a long and sad military convoy which curved like a snake through the dense forests. Civilians followed the convoy in a disorderly manner on cars, carts, motorcycles and even on foot. Many of these vehicles were soon abandoned because of their inconvenience and lack of fuel. I was lucky to get out on a plane because the convoy was soon attacked by communist forces which indiscriminately shelled and gunned down military personnel and as well civilians. No one was spared, not even children or women. By the time it arrived in Tuy Hoa, only a third of the civilians and soldiers survived the ghastly trip (1).

         From there, I flew back to Saigon. After Saigon fell, I reported to the local revolutionary committee that had set up an office at a local school. A few weeks later, I was sent to the Trang Lon reeducation camp after being told to bring enough food for three days. Three days... I could not believe it. I was thrilled to death for having to do only three days of reeducation. I made big plans about returning from the camp and opening a private office. I envisioned a bright new future now that the war was finally over. Alas, when the three days ended, I found myself still confined in the camp. Three days became three weeks. I had not lost any hope by that time yet, although I became suspicious of the communist propaganda. I asked myself why repair the barracks, weed the periphery of the camps and do manual labor unless we had to stay in there for a longer time? Time passed by and three weeks became three months. I then lost all my confidence in the new government. I knew they had lied to us. I lost hope of ever getting out of the camp alive. Three months became three years before they finally released me. The longer I thought about it, the more furious I became.

        Please read the rest of the story in REMEMBERING SAIGON.
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