Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Less than a month later, Bobbi's world descended into chaos. Coils of barbed wire blocked the streets and gun emplacements commanded urban fields of fire just outside the hospital. As Commander Hovis watched from the fifth floor, three aircraft dove on the Presidential Palace a few blocks away. Bullets flew in all directions, and Bobbi watched helplessly as one entered the rear window of a car, passed through the driver, and blew out the windshield in front. She saw national police madly tearing off their uniforms, throwing them down, and disappearing into the chaotic maze of Saigon's streets.

As she watched from her high vantage point, Commander Hovis nearly became one of the tragic characters in the drama below as a .30 caliber bullet struck the balcony wall, missing her by inches. For many hours thereafter, she and the other nurses wondered if they would live or die in the midst of the frenzied fighting in which friend and foe were indistinguishable. Fascinated, frightened, and bewildered, they watched and listened as tanks rolled down the streets and artillery shells exploded in a deafening cacophony.

Commander Hovis' retelling of events

in the Naval Institute's Americans at War Series

When at last the fighting stopped, the Americans learned that there had been a military coup and that President Ngo Dinh Diem had been deposed and ultimately assassinated. People poured into the streets to celebrate the beginning of a new era, not realizing that what had occurred was merely one of a string of dramatic events that would lead to a tragic end more than a decade later.

Commander Hovis remained at the hospital for another year, treating thousands of patients before returning to the United States. In her seabag was a journal that she would eventually turn into a very readable memoir, Station Hospital Saigon , . . . and a .30 caliber bullet that nearly hit her.

Bobbi Hovis is one of the many veterans appearing in the Naval Institute's Americans at War series, currently airing on national television.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

More by this Author

The men of the U.S. Navy's brown-water force played a vital but often overlooked role in the... Read More
The last great naval battle of World War II, Leyte Gulf also is remembered as the biggest naval... Read More
As paper navigational charts are replaced by vector images on computer screens, magnetic compasses... Read More
Also Available in an Audio Edition from Audible via Amazon Essential reading as part of the Chief... Read More

Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More
Videotape Interview
10:00am, “Veterans Oral Histories Series,” American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington,... Read More


Conferences and Events

Maritime Security Dialogue

Fri, 2016-07-08

You are cordially invited to: Delivering on the Vision for the Future of Submarine Warfare A discussion with Rear Admiral Charles...

2016 Naval History Conference

WEST 2017

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership