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"One of us has to go back. Would you go back?"
July 29, 2014 9:47 AM   Subscribe

As North Vietnamese forces marched towards Saigon in 1975, Citibank employee John Riordan (Warning: Autoplaying video) was ordered by Citibank to burn everything important and evacuate. In Hong Kong, he and his manager discussed the situation of their Vietnamese coworkers, who were in grave danger because they had worked for an American company.

Despite being threatened that he would be fired if he tried to do anything, Riordan flew back to Vietnam, where he was told that evacuation was only available for Americans and their dependents. Over the course of ten trips back to Saigon, he claimed his coworkers and their family members as his own wives and children, eventually safely evacuating all 105 of them.
posted by Blue Jello Elf (11 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh dear. I didn't think the forecast called for indoor rain today.

Sadly, I have a hard time imagining the Citibank of today hailing an employee who did this as a hero and spending a million dollars resettling those employees in the USA.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:16 AM on July 29 [6 favorites]


Well they did tell him to stop or be fired before they hailed him as a hero. I expect the hero's welcome from Citibank was when they realized he'd pulled it off and there they all were, and what was Citibank going to do now?
posted by Naberius at 10:17 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Of course this was aired by the corpse of 60 Minutes. Do you think Citibank actually paid for the placement of that story, or was it more of a favor between corporate friends?
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:25 AM on July 29 [6 favorites]


How is this not a movie yet?
posted by Paendragon at 10:27 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining the Citibank of today...
I am reminded of the EDS employees jailed in Iran in the late 70's, and Ross Perot organized their rescue.
My co-workers at the time mused about what our employer would do if it happened to us, and the consensus was not 'rescue'.
posted by MtDewd at 10:36 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


He is known as the "Oskar Schindler of the Vietnam War".[1]

I just threw up in my mouth a little.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:49 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


The John Rabe of the Second Indochina Conflict, then?
posted by Apocryphon at 2:21 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Guts.

Guts and moral core.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:01 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


He's not at all like Schindler, but you know, even if he had saved one person this way he'd be a much better person than I am.

Now that's put of the way, my twelve year-old self would like to share this excerpt from the Daily Mail article:
... civilians associated with the southern regime were evacuated in the days preceding the capture of Saigon.

The evacuation culminated in Operation Frequent Wind ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:33 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


Well, the thing with Schindler is that to acknowledge the good that he did, you need to recognize that he was at best a war profiteer running a business on slave labor first. I don't see where this guy has that asterisk associated with him. It's a pretty big asterisk.

And part of the thing here is that while they may have feared execution, it's probably unlikely that most really did. Instead, collaborators (at first practically every citizen in what was South Vietnam) were sent to a vast network of re-education camps, some of whom would remain for years doing hard labor. Any way you calculate the risk, though, I'm sure his coworkers and their families are grateful.
posted by dhartung at 4:01 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Last year, I saw a really interesting and well-written play by Tonya Jone Miller called "Threads" that's been doing very well on the Fringe Festival circuit. Her mother, an Indiana farm girl who goes to Vietnam to teach English and winds up in love and stuck during the war, was involved in the evacuation. I hadn't thought about it for a year, until I saw this thread and thought, "this story sounds incredibly familiar." It's worth seeing, if it comes to your city.
posted by ilana at 5:23 PM on July 29


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