Letters from the Orient

The ending of the Vietnam conflict was hectic for my brother, especially since he had planned on returning to LMU and finishing his degree before me, which he did. He had given me every opportunity to finish but I was slow in doing so, finishing up in 1978, two years behind him. I returned to the U.S. State Department for only about 1/2 a year and became disoriented, deciding to come back to LMU and finish what I had started.

As you can see there were at the time, 1975 both a Baptist and a Methodist missionary in the Orient while my brother was serving at the American Embassy in Taipei, Taiwan.  Also see Operation Frequent Wind the emergency evacuation by helicopter from Saigon, South Vietnam, in April 1975 during the last days of the Vietnam War.


I thought I might give a look at what I recently found on the National Archives archives.gov website.

Regional Security Officer George Payne mentioned in official State Department correspondence:

  • During 1973 - NAIROBI - At that time he was with the State Department's Division of Foreign Operations - A/SY/FO
  • During 1975 - TAIPEI - Spanky Gilbert Feest mentioned in official correspondence.
  • The Fall of Phnom Penh, April 17, 1975 January 21 to 24, 2013. Cambodia Tribunal Monitor
  • The Fall of Phnom Penh, April 17, 1975 Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History
  • During 1976 - PRETORIA
  • 1. AS RECENTLY DISCUSSED WITH ADMIN. COUNSELOR WASKA AND RSO PAYNE IN DEPARTMENT, SY PLANS REASSIGN PAYNE TO PRETORIA AS SENIOR RSO. POSITION IN PRETORIA IS SUPERVISORY IN NATURE, DEMANDING AN EXPERIENCED SY OFFICER, WITH A BROAD KNOWLEDGE OF DEPARTMENT'S GENERAL SECURITY AND ANTI-TERRORISM PROGRAMS. CONDITIONS IN THE 8 COUNTRIES (12 POSTS) SERVICED IN THE PRETORIA REGION AND POSSIBILITY OF INCREASED SEC RITY OFFICER STAFFING OF RSO OFFICE DEMAND OFFICER OF PAYNE'S SECURITY BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE.




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    Phnom Penh International Airport

  • On 19 January 1975, Douglas C-47A XU-HAK, Douglas DC-3 XU-KAL of Khmer Hansa and Douglas C-47A N86AC of South East Asia Air Transport were all destroyed in a rocket attack on the airport.
  • On 22 February 1975, Douglas C-47A XU-GAJ of Khmer Hansa was damaged beyond economic repair in a rocket attack.
  • On 10 March 1975, a Douglas DC-3 of Samaki Airlines was damaged beyond economic repair in a rocket attack.
  • On 11 March 1975, a Douglas DC-3 of Khmer Hansa was damaged beyond economic repair in a rocket attack.
  • In March 1975, Vickers Viscount XW-TDN of Royal Air Lao crashed at Phnom Penh International Airport. The pilot was not qualified to fly the aircraft. All four people on board were killed. Accident aircraft also reported as XW-TFK with a date of 15 March.
  • On 11 April 1975, a Douglas DC-3 (possibly XW-PKT) of Sorya Airlines was hit by shrapnel shortly after take-off. The aircraft was destroyed by fire and two of the three occupants were killed. The same day, Douglas C-47B XW-TFB of Air Cambodge was damaged beyond economic repair in a rocket attack.
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    The Kissinger State Department Telcons

    The transcripts will allow historians to listen in on some of the most extraordinary private conversations, held by the world's most powerful policy makers at pivotal moments in international history. In one dramatic conversation on April 29, 1975, a wire service reporter, Ken Fried, called Kissinger to tell him that Saigon had collapsed and announced "an unconditional surrender to the VC." Kissinger is recorded as asking: "Is it true?" The documents also record his conversation in mid-April with top aide Philip Habib on the evacuation of Phnom Penh in the face of the approaching Khmer Rouge forces.

    Document 4: Telcon with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Philip Habib, 11 April 1975, 9:07 a.m.

    With the wars in Southeast Asia coming to an end, the U.S. client government in Cambodia had collapsed under the weight of a Khmer Rouge offensive. Lon Nol and his family had fled and a caretaker government was in free fall. Washington hoped that former Premier Sihanouk, exiled in Beijing since the 1970 coup, would try to form a coalition government but he recognized that the Khmer Rouge had no interest in sharing power. With the capital city, Phnom Penh, in jeopardy, the Ford administration was about to implement Operation Eagle Pull, to evacuate Ambassador John Gunther Dean and other U.S. nationals from the city. Here Kissinger discusses with Habib the dire situation in Phnom Penh and details of the evacuation plan. As he was wont to do, Kissinger cast aspersions--"the sob" and "if we had a sane Secretary of Defense"--at Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, with whom he had just spoken about Cambodia. Some portions of the discussion are slightly obscure; it was clear that Kissinger had been angry at Habib for the latter's "lecture in front of everybody" during a meeting (possibly the Washington Special Action Group) the day before. They briefly discuss their personal relationship and Kissinger apparently jokes about Habib's Arab background. Habib clearly did not take the comments seriously because he rejoined "we semis [Semites] have to get along you know." Eagle Pull began that day and it involved helicopters as Dean and Habib had insisted. (Note 1)


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    You will notice here the spelling of Macao, China.  Actually the spelling is Macau but a Robert Mitchum 1952 film spells the city Macao and it seems my  brother resorted to that version.  Thirty seven miles southwest of Hong Kong during this time in 1975 Macau was considered a territory of Spain much as Honk Kong was British.  In 1976, Lisbon redefined Macau as a "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration," and granted it a large measure of administrative, financial and economic autonomy. Portugal and China agreed in 1979 to regard Macau as "a Chinese territory under (temporary) Portuguese administration".  and preferred to wait until December 1999--the very end of the millennium, two years after the Hong Kong Handover--to close this chapter of history. Although offered control of Macau in the 1970s, the Chinese deemed the time "not yet ripe"
    Here is a more recent picture of the same building -   Also pictures of Macau Days and Nights

    Macao Edificio do Leal Senado


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    The Kissinger State Department Telcons

    Document 5: Telcon with Ken Fried, 29 April 1975, 10:31 p.m.

    As the Saigon regime in South Vietnam collapsed, Kissinger kept late hours at his office. Earlier that day, Washington had initiated another evacuation plan, Operation Frequent Wind, to withdraw U.S. personnel and key Vietnamese allies. President Nguyen Van Thieu had already resigned and General Duong Van "Big Minh" Minh (who had been ousted in a 1964 coup) had come to power. Here wire service reporter Ken Fried called him with startling news: Minh had just surrendered to the "VC" (Viet Cong), a reference to North Vietnam's People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) and South Vietnamese fighters of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG). Kissinger had not yet heard this but denied to Fried that he was surprised by the news. After some discussion of the future of Southeast Asia, Kissinger begs off, noting that the day before he had stayed up until 3:30 a.m. (Note 2)
    My brother's last sentences to me were "I think about you every day", and "Don't worry, I am in good hands, the same HOSPITAL that John McCain was treated in."  
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    Robert D. Johnson, said to actually have been a Democrat
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    Nice to know that even my brother made mistakes.  He addressed the letter to himself.
    Of course this was the time that my father was filing grievances with the U.S. Postal Department and who knows it may have been a PLOY.


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    Of course during most of the time my brother was in the Asia theater a good friend was appointed as Escort Officer, Jay Taylor, Staff Member, National Security Council, and his wife Betsy Rose Taylor were also in the Asia theater.

    In the same collection in the National Archives are communications with Secretary Kissinger, Admiral Scrowcroft and Ambassador George H.W. Bush that relied upon review of Jay Taylor. Links follow:

  • Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1973 - 12/31/1973
  • Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1974 - 12/31/1974
  • Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1975 - 12/31/1975
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