An exciting, focused account of the bitter evacuation by helicopter of the last Marines securing the U.S. embassy compound in Saigon on April 30, 1975.
The Americans washed their bloody hands of the Vietnam War with the Paris Peace Accords of January 1973, which stipulated withdrawal from South Vietnam except for a handful of Marine Security Guards (MSGs) and other personnel posted at the embassy and at a defense outpost (DOA) adjacent to the airport in downtown Saigon. The North Vietnamese Army broke the treaty by late 1974 and invaded its southern neighbor, and the Americans at the provincial Da Nang consulate in central Vietnam had already been forced into a horrifically chaotic evacuation by sea. Encircled by the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong by April 29, 1975, Saigon was braced for an invasion, with the North Vietnamese’s Gen. Van Tien Dung calling for evacuation of all Americans. The airport, guarded still by U.S. Marines, had been operating nonstop during the preceding weeks to remove tens of thousands of high-risk South Vietnamese, civilian contractors as well as refugees and war brides, but there were still guards at the DOA and numerous personnel at the embassy. As if to prod the Americans not to try anything sneaky, the North Vietnamese shelled the DOA, then the airport, sending up the VC flag, and the only option for evacuation of the Americans was by helicopter. Drury and Clavin (The Last Stand of Fox Company, 2009, etc.) ably narrate this suspenseful saga, full of conflicting personalities including Sgt. Juan Valdez, who was in charge of the MSGs; and the intractable Ambassador Graham Martin, immovable and holding out for peace talks until ordered by presidential request to get out. The authors also skillfully wade through the staggering details of the 600 chopper runs over an 18-hour period.
A thrilling narrative of bravery, bravado and loss.