World Food Prize Ambassador Quinn
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THE ARCHIVE OF AMBASSADOR KENNETH M. QUINN
FROM THE MISSISSIPPI TO THE MEKONG
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The Grimmest and Most Accurate Assessment of the Last Days of Vietnam

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Amb. Quinn describes how on the long plane ride back to the U.S. he first provides his unvarnished bleak assessment about South Vietnam's prospects to General Weyand who, obviously affected by this grim outlook, simply emits a sigh. Quinn uses the flight time to then write his personal report to Henry Kissinger which conveys the stark reality of the situation. Quinn describes how not only does North Vietnam have a 2:1 numerical superiority over the South, but also a technological advantage in every other aspect of the war: North Vietnamese field guns could shoot farther than the artillery pieces the U.S. provided to the South. Furthermore, now that the U.S. Air Force was withdrawn, North Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns could regularly defeat South Vietnamese aircraft. The only unknown, Quinn concluded in his memo, was the pace at which the North Vietnamese political leadership would choose to prosecute the offensive. On April 30, 2000, 25 years to the day after the fall of Saigon, Time Magazine published an essay by the American historian Douglas Brinkley. The Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids had declassified all documents related to the end of the Vietnam War and made them available to Brinkley. On the day it was published Quinn, who was visiting his alma mater Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, received a call from Amb. Richard Holbrooke his former superior at the state department. He told Quinn about Brinkley's essay and that in it Brinkley had observed that the “grimmest and most accurate assessment of the fate of South Vietnam and was written by NSC Official and State Department Officer Kenneth Quinn.” Quinn reflected that when he graduated from Loras College, this small little known Catholic liberal arts college, he would have never imagined he would have such a role in a dramatic historical event.

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