The Fall of Saigon and Ambassador Graham Martin

Americans evacuating South Vietnam on April 29, 1975. Image from Hugh van Es/UPI.

On April 29, 1975, the last Americans, including Ambassador Graham Martin, were evacuated from Saigon just hours before the city fell to the communists. A few days earlier, President Gerald Ford declared that the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.”

Although military involvement in Vietnam had come to an end, the U.S. still had to evacuate all of the Americans who remained. It was the biggest helicopter rescue of its kind in history—an 18-hour operation that carried more than 1,000 Americans and well over 5,000 Vietnamese to safety.

Born in Mars Hill in 1912, Martin served as a U. S. Army Intelligence Officer during World War II. He began his diplomatic career in 1947 in Paris and served as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations and as the American Ambassador to Thailand and to Italy before he was appointed Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1973.

The helicopter that carried Martin to safety is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego. Martin died in 1990 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

An urgent telegram from Martin to the White House and a cable from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Martin, both concerning the evacuation, are available online from the National Archives.

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