That’s what a ‘60 Minutes’ producer calls the story of a Belgium man who 38 years ago shepherded his bank employees to safety during the fall of Saigon
Town of Belgium resident John Riordan will be featured in a segment on CBS’s “60 Minutes” scheduled to air at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13.
For the first time, the story will be told of how Riordan, then the 33-year-old acting manager of Citibank in Saigon, saved 43 Vietnamese employees and their families — 105 in all — four days before the city fell to North Vietnamese Forces on April 30, 1975.
Riordan, who was asked by CBS not to reveal details of the rescue until after the segment airs, said he and Citibank have wanted to tell the story for years. He considered writing a book or movie, but nothing materialized.
When CBS producer Shachar Bar-On heard the story, he knew he wanted it for “60 Minutes.”
“The minute I heard the story, I took it to (‘60 Minutes’ reporter) Lesley Stahl,” Bar-On said. “It was a very easy sell internally.
“It’s a great rescue story. It was very inventive and very dangerous, very daring. John is a great guy and a very good storyteller.”
He equated Riordan’s story to “Argo,” Ben Affleck’s 2012 movie about a CIA operative who rescues six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
“You would think a story like John’s would have been told somewhere, but it wasn’t,” Bar-On said. “It’s not often we find a story like this that we’ll be telling for the first time.”
When Riordan was told by people at Citibank that “60 Minutes” was interested in his story, Riordan said his first reaction was, “I’m tired of this. It’s been 38 years.”
He’s a little nervous about what will be told, saying he didn’t hold back when he talked.
An emotional moment came when Riordan met some of the people he rescued at a reunion that CBS arranged in August on Long Island.
“It was very emotional,” Bar-On said. “It was not only the people he saved, but their children and grandchildren.”
Riordan also returned to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, for 11 days with Stahl and the film crew to tell the story where it happened.
Although Riordan said he doesn’t want to be called a hero, Bar-On said his heroism is evident in the story, adding the people he saved call him a hero.
Image Information; THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS after the fall of Saigon in 1975, John Riordan walked with reporter Lesley Stahl of CBS’s “60 Minutes” in what is now Ho Chi Minh City. The story of how Riordan, who lives in the Town of Belgium, rescued employees of Citibank in Saigon and their families four days before the city fell to North Vietnamese forces is scheduled to air at 6:00 p.m. Sunday on “60 Minutes.” An iconic photo (left) taken by Hubert van Es shows people scrambling onto a helicopter on top of a CIA station on April 29, 1975, one day before the former capital of South Vietnam was overrun.