Last minutes of Saigon, 45 Years Ago today

29 April 1975: As NVA tanks were moving into the city, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam, Graham Martin, sent the below telegram to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, at the White House, during the evacuation of Saigon during the Vietnam War.

This primary source comes from the Collection GRF-0330: Backchannel Messages (Ford Administration). National Archives Identifier: 7367441

Martin states that he is, “well aware of the danger here tomorrow and I want to get out tonight.” He asks that the President send an order to finish the job quickly, evacuating the rest of the Americans and their children.

The American Ambassador to Vietnam resisted limiting the evacuation to Americans, as 10,000 locals were crowding the compound’s gates. In this cable he asks repeatedly for 30 CH-53 Sea Stallions:

“Perhaps you can tell me how to make some of these Americans abandon their half Vietnamese children?”

The helicopters did come, shuttling away the non-combatants all night. In all, some 7,000 people, mostly newly homeless refugees of the now-former South Vietnam, were airlifted from the Embassy complex by the Marines and from a series of other sites around Siagon by CIA-front company Air America.

A CH-46D, Swift 2-2, of HMM-164 lifted off with Marine detachment commander Major James Kean and the 10 remaining Marine Security Guards, leaving at 07:53 on 30 April. Just 37 minutes later Swift 2-2 landed on USS Okinawa (LPH-3) just offshore.

The last members of the Marine Security Guard land on USS Okinawa USMC Photo by GySgt Russ Thurman 

By noon, NVA regulars were in possession of the abandoned former U.S. Embassy. A mix of about 350 loyal Vietnamese employees and South Korean citizens still awaited a rescue that would not come.

The remains of MSG detachment 21-year-old Corporal Charles MCMAHON, Jr, 023 42 16 37, USMC; and 19-year-old Lance Corporal Darwin L. JUDGE, 479 70 89 99, USMC; killed on 29 April by an NVA rocket attack at the Tan Son Nut Airport, were, unfortunately, left behind during the withdrawal. They were later recovered via diplomatic means in 1976 and buried with full military honors.

Maj. Kean’s after-action report is available, here. 

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.