Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald McConville
Q: Well, this is the great fun of the Foreign Service. Well, this probably is a good place to stop. So we'll pick this up in 1974 when you left Vietnam. By the way, when you left Vietnam, how did you feel things were going in Vietnam at the time you left?
McCONVILLE: Well, unfortunately it was pretty clear things weren't going well. The truce had been signed, of course. I left in January 1974. Like most of us who had been there for a while, I had a network of colleagues, some from AID, a few from State, but many of them had been there quite a bit of time and they had spent an awful lot of time in areas all over Vietnam. They were extremely knowledgeable, and most of these people, who I had enormous respect for, were very despairing of the way things were going, that the idea that the Vietnamese government would be able to sustain this long after the truce, that things were going downhill. And the economy was suffering too as a consequence, and the fact that the only economic aid we were getting at that point really was to buy the petroleum because of the huge increase in the price of oil at that time. I left in January of '74. It was April of '75, of course, when Saigon collapsed. I think when I left in '74, I expected that was likely. It always troubled me deeply, particularly the economy, because after those reforms were enacted I came away convinced that, had they been able to stop the war, South Vietnam had the kind of people around in some of the economic policy positions, they had the economic reforms in place, and just the entrepreneurship and the work ethic of the Vietnamese people was such that, had they been able to stop the war, Saigon or the South Vietnamese at least had all the makings of being another eventual economic miracle and that you could have another repeat of a Taiwan and a Korea there. I still believe that's true, if they can ever get rid of the communist and socialist government they have. They tried to open up a bit to the West, but from all I understand, most of the bureaucracy, the communist bureaucracy, has never really been willing to do anything more than fairly superficially for them. They're doing better now than they were before. They've opened up some, but it's still a big disappointment. I have no doubt that, had they been able to stop the war and pursued those kind of policies, if you're looking now 25 years later, Vietnam would be another one of the Southeast Asian success stories from an economic perspective.
Q: Okay. Well, we'll pick this up in 1974 when you arrived in Korea, and we'll talk about what you were doing there and all at that time.
This is April 2, 2001. Don, you were in Korea from 1974 to when?
McCONVILLE: '77, three years.