Electronics technician Fred Riedinger III served aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Half Moon, which had the mission of interdicting arms shipments to the Viet Cong from the Mekong Delta to Cambodia; setting back up the advisor units that had been overrun; providing gunfire support to units on the ground; providing medical services to local Vietnamese; and serving as the “mothership” to Swift Boats in the area.
“I remember two incidents:
One was when I had a chance to interface with the local populace, and it was all agricultural. They were a kind and gentle people, the ones that I met, ran across, the average Vietnamese. Later on, after I retired from the Coast Guard, I was an assistant engineer for Motorola on missile systems. I was having a discussion with a few employees about my experiences in Vietnam and used that same description about the people I ran across. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but there was a Vietnamese engineer there who had escaped, and as I left, he looked at me, and ... you hated to abandon these people.
Although the guys on the vessels, we didn’t go face-to-face with the Viet Cong, but Army spotter pilots, they would give us a position. Being in the discipline I was, I was called upon to make sure everything was aligned correctly, fire control system and all that. The Army spotter pilots would tell us the results of gunfire support and describe body parts flying through the air. It’s kind of an oxymoron at the time, you’re happy because the reason you were called to provide the gunfire support was to save Army and Marine units that were encircled along the Delta, so we were happy for that. But then of course, when you think about things after, you think about those (body parts), too.”
Riedinger was in Phoenix attending DeVry Institute through the Coast Guard when Saigon fell.
“I wasn’t happy that was the political decision to make, because the people, you knew what was going to happen to them.
In recent years, I’ve heard comments from families who lost loved ones in Iraq, their feelings aren’t any different. Sure sounds familiar.”