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152­ After nine days at sea, the ship had traveled two thousand nautical miles without encountering any obstacles, save for the one day of strong waves and winds off the coast of the Philippines. We ­ were only one hundred miles from Vietnam, but neither our eyes nor our radar could detect the coast. Suddenly, an airplane appeared in the sky and circled our ship many times. I looked up. ­ Because of my time working with the Americans during the Vietnam War, I could recognize it as a P2V reconnaissance airplane. I realized it was from the Seventh Fleet, checking to see if I needed any help. General Herbert had told me that he would be responsible for us ­ until the ship safely entered the territorial­ waters of Vietnam. However, ­ there was no need for me to contact the Americans. The P2V circled a few more times without seeing any reaction from me, so it turned eastward and dis­ appeared into the sky. On October 24, the first mountains of Vietnam appeared on the western horizon . The ship was just over thirty miles from the coast. I announced that we ­ were entering the territorial ­ waters of Vietnam. Every­ one rushed up to the deck to admire the view of our homeland. Many ­ people ­ were worried about what would happen next. The mountains became bigger and bigger, and the radar told us that we ­ were only twenty miles from the shore, and then fifteen, and then twelve. Now we ­ were in Vietnam’s territorial ­ waters. Our ship entered Vietnam’s ­ waters, but we ­ were the only ship at sea. I did not see even one other ship in the area, not even a fishing boat. I was taken aback, ­ because our ship, a foreign ship, had entered the territorial­ waters of Vietnam, and the VC ­ were not ­ there to stop us. ­ There was no obvious response, and the radar picked up only a few small boats near the shore. The ship slowly sailed along the coast of Vietnam, passing Phan Rang, Phan Rí, Phan Thiết, Bình Tuy, and then Vũng Tàu. I saw only a few fishing boats. It was deserted—so unlike the past, when I patrolled this coastal area, and twinkling lights from the fishing boats covered the ­ whole area. ­ Today the weather was auspicious, but the fishing boats ­ were all gone, and the sea was deserted. I wondered about the VC’s ability to control the coastline. In my head, I started planning how to escape VietC HA P T E R T H I RT E E N Arrival at Vũng Tàu Vũng Tàu  153 nam by boat with my ­ family ­ after I arrived at home. I would find a way to get my wife and ­ children onto a boat, and if this was all the security along the coast, we could easily escape Vietnam. At 6 a.m. the next day, a flashing beam from Vũng Tàu appeared in front of us. I was sitting in the captain’s chair, when suddenly Vương Long Đoàn, the head of the law and order committee, approached me and reported that someone had requested that I turn around and not enter the harbor at Vũng Tàu. I was surprised and asked why. Đoàn answered, “I ­ don’t know why, but suddenly this man panicked and yelled out loud in the hold. He asked to meet with you and request that you turn around. We prevented him from coming up ­ here, and we have tied him up and posted a guard. I’m ­ here to tell you so that you know what’s ­ going on.” “Well, he could have an intuition that something bad is about to happen. What kind of person is he? Do you know?” “He is still very young, all by himself, without friends or relations. He is kind of aloof, and he has kept to himself. No one knows anything about his background.” I was not unsympathetic, but we ­ were ­ going to move forward. “Perhaps he is scared thinking about the VC. We should stay calm and get ready to give ourselves up. He has his own reason for being frightened, but now that we are ­ here, we no longer have any choices, save to keep calm. You need to explain this to him, so that he ­ will understand the situation and avoid causing a commotion on the ship.” My ship had...


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