1100 hours - XUAN LOC OUTPOST, NORTH OF SAIGON
Our aging Chinook helicopter kicks up a wall of red dust as it settles on a highway. Everywhere we look there are refugees, many of them have walked hundreds of miles to get to this point where they hope to find safety. ARVN wounded call from stretchers for a drink of water. Two jeeps barrel toward us and the drivers yell for us to get aboard, as incoming rocket rounds scream overhead.
In his command tent, General Le Minh Dao whips his swagger stick against his neatly pressed fatigues. "We will hold this location," Dao barks into a field telephone in Vietnamese. Upon seeing us, a gaggle of reporters, photographers, and a TV crew, he gives us a big thumbs-up. "I don't care how many divisions the communists send against me! I will smash them," he yells as if for our edification.
He ushers us outside his tent where roughly a dozen North Vietnamese prisoners, stripped to their underwear, are bound like hogs waiting for the slaughter. Leon Daniel tells him that based on what we know of North Vietnamese movements, his situation appears to be hopeless. Dao becomes furious. He insists his men are in total control of the town. But neither Leon or AP's Peter Arnett will back down. He insists that if things are so good, we should be allowed to look for ourselves. More incoming slices through the trees around us. A bunch of us start to feel as though it’s time to go. But now, the general has taken Leon's bait. He brings up the jeeps, packs us in, and we careen down the jungle path toward Xuan Loc.