I was led into a search for this additional information by an email I received from a young man in Ireland. In part, it read:
" ... I recently read a book by William Prochnau about journalists in Vietnam pre-1965 called Once Upon A Distant War. In it he describes how at the fall of Saigon one of the journalists, Peter Arnett, I believe from Assosiated Press, describes how he sees the said plaque face down in rubble and debris as the NVA enter the city... "
Thanks to this, I've asked some additional questions of one of our great researchers and have been provided with the following:
" I've found the reference on page 109 [of Once Upon A Distant War]: " Arnett's last dispatch that day captured the wreckage of lives and fool's-gold policies inside the ransacked embassy. Almost thirteen years had passed since he had rist come to Vietnam and the battered building struck him as a symbol of power's frail underpinnings. A bronze plaque honoring five U.S. Marines who had died defending the building during the Tet offensive in 1968 lay, names down, amid the rubble. Safes were broken open... "
Some other bits of information that were uncovered include:
Information from "...a two volume anthology of original newspaper and magazine articles, _Reporting Vietnam_. Volume 2 has the text of Arnett's last dispatch from Saigon dated April 30, 1975, titled U.S. Embassy Looted. Here's the pertinent paragraph on page 549:And on page 548:
" The bronze plaque with names of the five American Servicemen killed in the embassy in 1968 was torn from the lobby wall. It lay amid piles of documents and furniture on the back lawn. We carried it back to the Associated press office. " Source given is AP wire copy, April 30, 1975. "
"...another wire copy by George [Esper] also dated April 30, 1975: " A bronze plaque with the names of five American servicemen who died in a 1968 attack by Communist guerrillas was torn from the lobby wall. An Associated press correspondent retrieved it. "
There's a footnote to this on page 829: " The plaque had been removed from the wall on April 29 by Captain Stuart Herrington who had intended to take it with him but changed his mind after being ordered to leave before the last Vietnamese at the embassy were evacuated. In his book, _Peace with Honor?_ (1983), Herrington wrote: " Disgusted at what I was about to do, I canceled my plans to rescue the plaque. (" Those guys would roll over in their graves if they could see what's happening now! ") "
There is in fact a second plaque known to have gone missing. It holds the names of four individuals killed in a 1970 bombing, including a female CIA employee:
"... another dispatch on page 543 from Bob Tamarkin, Chicago Daily News, dated May 5, 1970 and filed from the USS Okinawa referred to another plaque he spotted on the lobby wall just before Ambassador Martin left at 0415. It was in honor of the four embassy personnel, an American woman (that would be Barbara Robbins) and three Vietnamese, who were killed by a Viet Cong bomb at the embassy on March 30, 1965. "
Prochnau, William. _Once Upon a Distant War: David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Peter Arnett--Young War Correspondents and Their Early Vietnam Battles._ New York : Vintage Books, 1996.
_Reporting Vietnam: Part Two. American Journalism 1969-1975_. New York : Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1998.
Herrington, Stuart A. _Peace with honor? : An American reports on Vietnam, 1973-1975_. Novato, CA : Presidio Press, 1983.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever reported the whereabouts of this second plaque. Regarding the first, I suppose it is safe to assume that it was left behind at the Associated press offices when the reporters were finally forced to flee. I'm working on some confirmation of this.
Dated 12/2/00 - JPR