Kiem Do

Captain in Republic of Vietnam Navy during the Vietnam War.

Đỗ Kiếm, writing as Kiem Do (Hanoi, 1933) is a former officer of the Republic of Vietnam Navy, who was serving as Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) when Saigon fell in 1975. He secretly organised the evacuation of over 30,000 refugees aboard 32 naval ships.

Then the ex-VNN officers walked to the ship's rail, ripped the insignia from their uniforms, and tossed the gold glitter into the sea with their caps. They were civilians, now, not military men. Stripped of their national identities, they could help bring another country's warships into the bay with no shame.

QuotesEdit

Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War (1998)Edit

This book was co-written by Kiem Do and Julie Kane, written in a third-person narrative style.
  • There was a knock, and Kiem reached for his Smith & Wesson .22 revolver. It was his aide, Lieutenant Su. "Excuse me, sir," said the lieutenant, "but there was a call while you were out. A colonel from the Four Party Joint Military Commission, speaking with a heavy accent. 'Borck' or 'Borek'- some Polish or Hungarian name beginning with a B. He wouldn't leave his number. Said he had an important message for you and that he might call back later." "What the hell?-" said Kiem. He didn't know a soul on that worthless commission charged with monitoring the terms of the 1973 Paris "peace" agreement. That lying, two-faced German Henry Kissinger had set it up as a sham, just before selling out South Vietnam to the communists. If the Four Party Commission had a message for him, they could stick it, as far as Kiem was concerned. Fuck the bastards.
    • p. 2
  • For two thousand years Vietnam had been ruled by an emperor and a class of mandarins- scholars who had passed the difficult poetry and philosophy examinations necessary to advance through the bureaucratic hierarchy. Anyone could take the examinations, young or old, poor or rich, and become a mandarin. In a society where change was almost nonexistent, memorization of traditional knowledge was the key to success. Then, late in the nineteenth century, following decades of armed resistance by the Vietnamese, the French finally succeeded in conquering the country. They took over everything, from the government to the police, and staffed all of the good jobs with French colonials. The annual mandarin examinations continued, but the highest scorers could aspire to be only low-level civil servants under the French.
    • p. 15
  • While Kiem was imagining how he'd look in Vietnamese Navy dress whites, Viet Minh general Vo Nguyen Giap was busy massing tens of thousands of troops around the French-held valley town of Dien Bien Phu, near the Laotian border. Giap's forces choked off the French supply lines, ringing their noose tighter and tighter as the French got thinner and weaker and monsoon rains beat down on their equipment. The French appealed to U.S. president Eisenhower and British prime minister Churchill for help, but it was not forthcoming. On 12 March 1954 Giap's army of fifty thousand men attacked French general Navarre's eleven or twelve thousand with everything in its arsenal. In early May, as Kiem was preparing to take the written exam for the French Naval Academy in Hanoi, Giap's men overran the last of the weakened French forces- and the Viet Minh won the war. Kime was thrilled that his country had finally gained its independence, but he couldn't help worrying that the French defeat might ruin his future plans. Mr. Sach said not to fear: no matter what happened at the postwar negotiating conference, the French would still want to help shape a young navy just starting out. They were human, and that was human nature.
    • p. 63
  • Kiem knew he had seen the florid face somewhere before. Suddenly he remembered. As commandant of the Vietnamese Naval Academy, Kiem had once made the mistake of assigning three of his cadets to Lt. Comdr. Nguyen Van Luc, also of the River Force, for practical training. All three had come back sick and shaking, telling the same story under repeated questioning. Luc had ordered the cadets to change into their dress whites, handed them rifles, then ordered them to shoot at anything that moved- which they'd taken to be a figure of speech. But a few minutes later their patrol boat had rounded a bend in the river, exposing a small boy with a stick in his hand, tending a water buffalo. "Shoot," Luc had hissed. They had looked at one another in confusion, thinking it some sort of test. "Shoot!" Luc had screamed at them again, so loudly that even the boy at the river's edge had cocked his head and stared. Then Luc had raised his own gun and fired, killing both animal and child. Mercifully there weren't many officers like that in the navy- knowing nothing about the sea, only how to kill. Luc was more like an army than a navy man.
    • p. 121
  • But before the ships could be brought into the harbor, their guns had to be dismantled, their ammo unloaded, their names painted over, their Vietnamese flags lowered, and the American colors raised. The shame of it was almost unbearable: Kiem and his men were a bunch of losers. They had lost the long war. In all of the excitement and chaos of the past week, it was the first time the realization had fully hit them. But there was still one small thing Kiem could do to help his men save face. He could ask for a proper changing-of-colors ceremony: something to soften the blow of seeing their flag yanked down like a rag. Late that afternoon, on board every ship, an ex-VNN officer made a speech; then a U.S. Navy officer made a speech. As the ropes creaked and the gold flag with three red stripes began to descend, the refugees broke into their national anthem: "Nay cong dan oi..." (Oh citizen of the country...) Their voices soared over the turqoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. Slowly the US flags were hoisted into place. Then the ex-VNN officers walked to the ship's rail, ripped the insignia from their uniforms, and tossed the gold glitter into the sea with their caps. They were civilians, now, not military men. Stripped of their national identities, they could help bring another country's warships into the bay with no shame.
    • p. 216

Quotes about DoEdit

  • Kiem Do, a native of Hanoi, was a captain in the South Vietnamese Navy and the deputy chief of staff for operations when Saigon fell in 1975. During his twenty-one years in the navy, he served as district commander, chief of staff of the Mobile Riverine Force, and commandant of the Vietnamese Midshipman's School. After settling in the United States he taught high school math and science, studied in the MBA program at the University of New Orleans, and worked as a cost engineer with a Louisiana utility company for more than twenty years. Since retirement in 1997, he has been active as a leader in the New Orleans Vietnamese community and has lectured frequently on the Vietnam War at local universities and before veterans groups. He and his wife of thirty-nine years, Thom Le Do, have five children and six American-born grandchildren.
    • Description of Do on the back flap of the dust jacket of Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War (1998) by Kiem Do and Julie Kane
  • The Navy of the Republic of Vietnam never surrendered. Instead, in accordance with the best tradition of navies, the ships got under way with families aboard and turned themselves over to the United States at Subic Bay in the Philippines. The story of the heroic way in which this was accomplished is part of the life story of Kiem Do, an illustrious and patriotic veteran.
    • E.R. Zumwalt, Jr., on the back of the dust jacket of Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War (1998) by Kiem Do and Julie Kane

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