Smyth pushed his way to the front of the group, his right hand holding a .45 automatic. If the young man attempted to enter, Smyth would shoot him. But the climber did not enter. Instead, he pulled out a knife and began slashing at the cords that bound the flag to the pole. Smyth instantly holstered his weapon, raced to the porch and shimmied out onto the flagpole.
The young man glanced back, drove his knife deeply into Smyth’s right leg, then returned to slashing the flag’s bindings. Undaunted by the wound, Smyth tightened his grip on the precariously bending flagpole and slammed his right shoe hard into the young man’s backside. The kick sent the protester flying off the end of the pole. For a moment, the young man clung to a corner of the flag. Smyth pulled out his .45 and smashed its butt against the young man’s fingers. The young Phipocian screamed, let go of the flag and fell to the grassy lawn. He lay still for a moment. The mob was suddenly silent, poised to rush the building. But then the young man moved and slowly rose to his feet. Smyth didn’t wait for what might come next. Before anyone could react, he crawled back onto the porch and into the relative safety of the conference room.
“Well done,” the counsel general said, slapping Smyth on the shoulder. “We caught it all on camera.” The public affairs officer raised his camera in triumph. Two weeks later, Time magazine’s cover featured a color photo of the event with the headline “Protester Gets the Boot, Not the Flag.” Smyth’s kick was the rare bright spot in the darkening story of America’s defeat in Vietnam.
Smyth won a promotion, followed by prime postings to Moscow, Paris and Cairo. It was in the Egyptian capital that his beloved wife had been killed in a terrorist bombing targeting the American Embassy. Broken hearted, he returned to action, leading numerous anti-terrorist operations. He ultimately retired to their dream home in Parrot’s Caw. There, he cultivated his garden, played golf and helped create The Martini Club.
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