Last of the Annamese

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Published:March 15, 2017
By Tom Glenn (Author)

Tom Glenn discusses his book, Last of the Annamese, on The Jim Bohannon Show, Westwood One on Cumulus Radio, recorded 3/20/17.

The rare novel that eloquently describes the burden of loss, Last of the Annamese evokes a haunting portrait of the lives of those trapped in Saigon in April 1975 as the city, and surrounding country, fell to North Vietnamese forces. Drawing on his own experiences in the war, Tom Glenn tells the tale of Chuck Griffin, a retired Marine doing intelligence work for the United States in Vietnam; his friend, Thanh, an incorruptible South Vietnamese Marine colonel; and Tuyet, the regal woman whom both men love. As the grim fate of South Vietnam becomes more apparent, and the flight from Saigon begins, Tuyet must make a somber choice to determine the fate of her son Thu, herself, and those she loves. During the fall of Saigon as the North Vietnamese overwhelm the South, Tom Glenn paints a vivid portrait of the high drama surrounding the end of a war, end of a city, and end of a people. Reaching its harrowing conclusion during the real Operation Frequent Wind, a refugee rescue effort approved by President Gerald Ford, Last of the Annamese offers a glimpse at a handful of people caught in an epic conflagration that was one of modern history’s darkest chapters.

List Price: $29.95
Member Price: $23.96
Product Details
  • Subject: Vietnam War
  • Hardback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (March 15, 2017)
  • ISBN-10: 1682470938
  • ISBN-13: 9781682470930
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 17.44 oz
  • Named 2018 Runner-Up for the Eric Hoffer Book Award for fiction.
  • “Every character is painted with only a few strokes with such talent that you know these people, or think you do. And yet, none are clichéd or simple. You can smell the fish sauce, the streets, the flowers, the air. You can feel the black smoke from crashing planes, the humidity of the place, the darkness of the interiors, the whisper of silk ao dais. You can feel the grief of all that is lost, but it is never a grief too heavy to read. In a Shakespearean way, the heavy emotion is off stage, implied with subtle writing. Glenn describes emotions that his characters go through, but he does so with spare strokes and thorough knowledge. Above all, this beautiful book shows that the trauma of war is the great equalizer for those directly involved.” —The VVA Veteran
  • “The staggering scope of the final months before the fall of Saigon are hard to grasp. The best way to relay the truth of a situation so immense is to make a reader feel it, to rely not on statistics or borders, but one person’s experience. With Last of the Annamese, Tom Glenn accomplishes this, inviting the reader to share in the pains (and limited pleasures) of the final days before the fall of Saigon.” —Baltimore Style
  • “This is a novel of healing and redemption. Glenn makes a determined effort to throw off his nagging psycho-emotional damage from the War. He was seriously injured by his service, but he hasn’t quit. His well-crafted characters reflect his own perseverance and resilience.” —The Internet Review of Books
  • Last of the Annamese is all the more vivid, thrilling, and moving because Tom Glenn experienced many of the heartbreaking events he evokes so poignantly. He has also provided us with a thought-provoking reminder of the consequences of becoming deeply enmeshed in another nation's conflicts.” —Thurston Clarke, author of The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America
  • “As author, peacemaker, and a philanthropist helping to mend the wounds of war for U.S veterans returning from Vietnam, I found Last of the Annamese by Tom Glenn a brilliant piece of work on healing. His story, with twists and turns, is a must read!” —Le Ly Hayslip, author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and The Child of War, Woman of Peace
  • “Tom Glenn has poured a broken heart and a grieving soul into the pages of Last of the Annamese, a novel of love and war and tragedy set amid the fall of South Vietnam and the capture of Saigon in those dark days of April 1975. His fiction is carefully woven between the threads of historical fact that ring true to one who was there in the beginning and in the end, just as Tom Glenn was. I found it impossible to put this book down before reading the last page.” —Joseph L. Galloway, coauthor of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young and We Are Soldiers Still
  • “Passion, intrigue, and espionage intertwine during the fall of Saigon in The Last of the Annamese. Tom Glenn's novel is a proverbial bookend companion to Graham Greene's The Quiet American, and a poignant study of the U.S. relationship with Vietnam. Through Glenn's characters, the reader is called to consider the wider conflict and also ethical and interpersonal dilemmas as the American staff evacuate.” —Stephen Phillips, author of Proximity and The Recipient's Son

TOM GLENN’s prize-winning seventeen short stories and four novels draw upon the thirteen years he shuttled between the United States and Vietnam on covert intelligence assignments before escaping under fire when Saigon fell. Comfortable in Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, he writes and speaks frequently on war and Vietnam. He lives in Ellicott City, Maryland.

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Customer Reviews

1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
5.00 Stars
Did it have to End Like This
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
By: Bruce Curley
"Did it have to end like this? After 58,000 American military dead, at least a million communist soldiers, and who knows how many million civilians? What the hell have we done?” This question, posed by Sparky, the tooth pick chewing analyst who works with Chuck Griffin, the books main character, informs every page of Tom Glenn’s Last of the Annamese. In the spring of 1975, the time period for this work, I was a 19-year old student at the American College in Paris, France. Although largely forgotten by a war-weary American public, other 19-year-old Americans worked as Marines protecting the last Americans remaining in Vietnam trying to assist the fast crumbling South Vietnamese. Their courage and dedication, and those remaining National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and other American intelligence and military professionals, is well recorded here. More importantly, it is saved from disappearing from the American collective memory. While on my semester abroad, every day on the way to class I passed by a communist bookstore with a map of French Indo-China, with Laos, Cambodia and North and South Vietnam. As each province would fall to the communists in Vietnam, the communists in the bookstore would color it red. I was watched the ignoble end of American involvement in the Vietnam War through the International Herald Tribune, the BBC and on French radio and TV thousands of miles away. Tom Glenn, in contrast, was in the chaos, civil riots, ineptitude, neglect, horror, treason, death, cultural clash, and destruction of the real, and surreal, event. Listening to Signal Intelligence (SIGNET) day and night, he was intimate with the bloody and confusing details. He writes about the human debris of the damaged quilt that was the chaotic end of American involvement in the Vietnam War. He records the details of that end as only one embedded in it can. The teen-ager of the French family in Paris with whom I lived rarely spoke to me. But one afternoon in April 1975 he burst into my room and said, “C’est incroyable! C’est extraordinaire! C’est formidable! Vite! Regard! Les Americans! Vite!” In the living room of his 17th Arrondissement apartment he pointed to the small black and white television. There in grainy images, I saw U.S. Marines throwing helicopter after helicopter off the side of an American aircraft carrier. He continued: “C’est extraordinaire!!!” Then, because he was very French, he began to lecture me that France would never, ever throw millions of dollars’ worth of helicopters into the ocean. And also like a good Frenchman, he wanted me to explain why my country was doing this. I told him in broken French I had no idea. But Tom Glenn does…because he was in the thickest part of the unravelling of 13 years of American involvement in Indo-China. His novel ties together the disconnect between his excellent intelligence gathering and analysis, the deliberate denial of facts and ineptitude of the American Ambassador, Graham Martin and the CIA that such a tragedy could never happen, and the political elite in Washington, D.C. who had neglect of American political leadership that had grown weary of the adventure. I had two uncles who served multiple tours in that conflict, one as an officer in U.S. Air Force intelligence and another as a Chief Master Sergeant in the U. S. Army. Like most who served there, neither of my uncle’s wrote down a word about what they did or why. (Once when I asked my Uncle Ray at my father’s funeral what he did in Vietnam, he responded, “How about those Phillies!”) They were true Quiet Professionals to the end. As they are now buried at Arlington National Cemetery and can no longer speak about their experiences in Vietnam, So, I am especially grateful that Tom Glenn wrote down his memories of the last days of the Vietnam War. Future generations may know what happened. As with the best historical war fiction, so many lessons in the book apply even more so today, as shown in this passage: “Chuck placed him then. [He was] The Hungarian member of the International Commission of Control and Supervision. Chuck had seen him at the party for Senator Nunn. He stretched his memory. The ICC, a group established by the United Nations to monitor the so-called peace after the signing of the treaty in 1973. Chuck grimaced. The Ambassador was consulting with a representative of a communist government allied to North Vietnam. It sucked.” An additional plus with this book is that Tom Glenn provides deep background about it on his blog For example, he chronicles the actual death of the two last U.S. Marines in fiction in Last of the Annamese in this blog post. “During the last week of April, 1975, as the North Vietnamese conquest of Saigon approached, I was stranded at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon, in the DAO building. As mentioned in earlier blog installments, I had succeeded in evacuating 41 of the men who worked for me and their families. Since the U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, had forbidden evacuations, I got my people out by any ruse I could think of. Only three of us remained: the two communicators who had volunteered to stay with me to the end, Bob Hartley and Gary Hickman, and me. Among my regular stops was the Marine guard post at our western gate. I traded scuttlebutt with the embassy guard Marines posted there. Among them were Corporal Charles McMahon and Lance Corporal Darwin Judge. They looked so young to me (I was 38; they were 21 and 19 respectively) that I wondered at their presence in a war zone and why they weren’t back in the world in high school where they belonged. When the North Vietnamese began shelling the compound in the pre-dawn hours of 29 April, [1975] the gate was hit. McMahon and Judge were killed. They were the last U.S. servicemen to die on the ground in Vietnam. I grieve for them to this day. And I recorded their deaths in the final pages of Last of the Annamese.” Who were the last two Americans to die in Vietnam? Due to the honorable grief of Tom Glenn, now you know. I highly recommend that you read Tom Glenn’s blog to check the fictional book against the factual entries there about the same events. How often do you get to do that? Here is a wonderful telling in the blog of events at the end of the book. ”…I had succeeded in getting my 43 men and their wives and children out of Saigon by virtue of lying, cheating, and stealing despite the Ambassador’s refusal to call for an evacuation or to allow me to evacuate my people. Only three of us remained at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon: my two communicators who had volunteered to stay with me to the end (Bob and Gary) and me. We were shelled all night and two of the U.S. Marines at our gate were killed. Around four in the morning, we got in a dispatch telling us that the evacuation had been ordered—apparently Washington had countermanded the Ambassador.” Central to this work is the professional military and personal relationship among Chuck Griffin and the Vietnamese family of Thanh, an honest and honorable South Vietnamese Marine Colonel, his royal wife Tuyet, and their son Thu. Each represents Vietnams past, present and future. Moral and noble reactions to betrayals can only happen to such a remarkable degree in times of the stress and survival demanded by war. Glenn manages the passion, poison and predicaments of those relationships so adroitly I will leave it to you to read them in the original. Among the wonders of this book are the insights recorded that only come from being in the middle of such a cataclysmic disaster when Chuck Griffin asks: “Somehow the endless reports of gore and annihilation no longer moved Chuck. Was there such a thing as disaster fatigue?” I am on the board of directors of the American Civil Defense Association and have studied disasters, and those who have been through them, for 35 years. Yes, there is such a thing as disaster fatigue. And if anyone had experienced enough to have reached that point, it is Chuck Griffin in this book. As for the Vietnamese and others left behind when we abandoned them, one passage of the book captures their desperation well. A mother and daughter who have a laundry shop plead t with Chuck Griffin to get them out of the country. “My momma and me. We very afraid. We Chinese, sir. We work for American. The VC torture us. Kill us. You help us?” Sadly, tens and thousands of such people were slaughtered when the communists took over all of Vietnam and Cambodia. Even if Ambassador Graham refused to acknowledge or develop contingency plans for getting out Americans, their dependents, and their Vietnamese allies, the extremely inflated prices in the street presented the reality daily. For example, when Chuck Griffin tries to buy flowers, the street vendor charges him three times the price of just a few days ago. When Chuck Griffin questions this he is told, “All costs go up now, you know? It is war.” A street vendor knew what the American Ambassador did not. “Remember us.” That is the final line in Fighting with the Filthy Thirteen, the WWII story of Jack Womer, Ranger and Paratrooper. The film The Dirty Dozen was based on them, although Hollywood, as always, got it wrong. As Jack always said when he was alive, “We weren’t criminals. We just didn’t like rules or protocols because they got our guys killed and got in the way of defeating the enemy.” John Glenn magnificently describes how those rules and protocols failed so horribly at the end of the Vietnam War. From the American Ambassador Graham Martin’s refusal to believe the factual data and excellent analysis that Chuck Griffin presented him in briefings of the communist force strength and movements, to not planning for the evacuation of the Vietnamese who were doomed to death if not evacuated, to failing to plan to evacuate the remaining Americans to avoid their deaths, the CIA and State Department protocols that kept Americans and our allies in place and exposed to potential death daily…were criminal. He has also remembered, resurrected really, the granite men and women who were the most exposed, who suffered and died, as Saigon crumbled. Although there are not mountains big enough to be honor their courage, as least their story is now down. The American Ambassador, the State Department, and the CIA chose small-minded group think and to believe their bizarre reality, well chronicled in the book, that there would be some magical “deal” with the communists that would avoid the obvious...that the communists did not need to negotiate. Victory was already theirs. Glenn does a masterful job of relating just how high up and how massive the incompetence was in the American leadership just before Saigon fell. “Forgive the interruption, sir,” Chuck Griffin panted. “I just briefed the Ambassador on the military situation and urged him to call for an evacuation. He cut me short.” “The [CIA] chief laughed. He opened a manila folder on his desk and handed Chuck Griffin a message printout. It was from the Ambassador to the president and secretary of state, dated that morning. It declared that the North Vietnamese were using communicator’s deception to mislead the Allied intercept effort. They were trying to frighten the Republic of Vietnam into negotiations by transmitting false data. Chuck Griffin’s mouth dropped open. He read the message again to be sure he got it right. ”What evidence do you have, he said to the chief, “what evidence does the Ambassador have, of communications deception?” The Chief laughed. “Tell you what. I’ll bet you a bottle of champagne, vintage an chateau of your choice, that a year from now you and I will both still be still be in Saigon, at our desks, following our usual routine.” A few days after the CIA chief made his delusional remarks, Saigon and all of South Vietnam fell to the communists. Too much of this history remains untold. Glenn has done a masterful job of relaying the story in fictional form based on historical facts. If you doubt the accuracy of his story, here is a how these same events were described in a 1999 NSA history called The Secret Sentry: "In Saigon, Ambassador Graham Martin refused to believe the SIGINT (signals intelligence) reporting that detailed the massive North Vietnamese military buildup taking place all around (Saigon) ... and repeatedly refused to allow NSA's station chief, Tom Glenn, to evacuate his forty-three man staff and their twenty-two dependents from Saigon." Source: Tom Glenn has preserved the individual and collective memory of the men and women who were hung out to die by a delusional American ambassador who would not make the common sense call to evacuate. That ambassador was backed and supported by the CIA and the United Nations. Hmmm…has this pattern repeated again since 1975? Glenn reminds us of those who sacrificed their health, futures, and often their lives to protect and preserve ours. We owe it to them, and this is on every page of Last of the Annamese, to gain strength and inspiration from their lives and sacrifices. Their actions provide clarity in a world that lacks clarity. Honor their sacrifice by remembering them. One of the few places you can learn about them to remember them is Last of the Annamese. Remember them by reading about them there.


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