Nguyen Cao Ky; former Air Marshall of the South Vietnamese air force, former Premier, former vice-President – and in 1975, celebrated refugee living in a Refugee center at Camp Pendleton after the fall of Saigon.
After the defeat of South Vietnam by North Vietnam, on the last day of the fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975, Kỳ left Vietnam aboard the USS Blue Ridge and fled to the United States and settled in Westminster, California, where he ran a liquor store. Kỳ wrote two autobiographies, How We Lost the Vietnam War and Buddha’s Child: My Fight to Save Vietnam.
Historian James McAllister openly questioned Kỳ’s honesty, saying that Buddha’s Child, as Kỳ called himself, “is filled with unverifiable conversations and arguments that do not at all correspond with the historical record. Like his earlier memoir, it is often a self-serving attempt to continue his ongoing feud with the late president Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.” He said “with everything Ky writes about Vietnam . . . skepticism is in order.”
Kỳ was well known for his flamboyant, colorful conduct and dress during his younger days. His trademark fashion accessory before he faded from public view in the 1970s was a silk scarf, which he wore with his black flight suit. He often raised eyebrows when he was the military prime minister by arriving at events to meet civilians with his wife in matching black flight suits, boots, blue caps, and silk scarves. He rarely was seen without a cigarette. He was notorious for his love of gambling, women, and glamour, which made American officials wary of him. One official called him an “unguided missile.” When he was a young pilot, Kỳ once landed a helicopter in the road in front of a girlfriend’s house in order to impress her, causing the locals to panic and earning the ire of his commander for misusing military equipment. On one occasion, Kỳ is said to have pulled a handgun on a journalist whose questions annoyed him. Many in the South Vietnamese public service, military, and some of the general public disliked his tempestuous and impetuous style and regarded him as a “cowboy.” and a “hooligan.” At his only public campaign appearance during the 1967 presidential election, the large crowd repeatedly heckled him loudly, calling him a “cowboy leader” and “hooligan” and as a result he did not make any more appearances at rallies.
In this interview for Issues and Answers, he tells about the last months of South Vietnam, still convinced a war would have been won and speculated on what the rest of Southeast Asia would be looking like in the coming months and years.
Here is that interview from May 11, 1975.