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04-28-03, 08:48 AM #1
Marines Evacuate Saigon during Operation Frequent Wind
Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification Number: 20034288314
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks
History (April 28-May 4) -- In the waning days of the Vietnam War, as communist North Vietnamese forces advanced steadily toward the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade took up station off Vietnam's coast to evacuate the capital should that order be given.
Comprising 16 Navy amphibious ships, eight military-chartered merchant ships, and nearly 7,000 embarked Marines, the 9th MAB was finally called into action on April 29. That day, elements of of Regimental Combat Team 4, commanded by Col. Alfred M. Gray, oversaw the evacuation of nearly 400Americans and 4,500 Vietnamese and third-country nationals from Saigon's Tan Son Nhut airport aboard helicopters from HMH-462 and -463.
While the evacuation from Tan Son Nhut was underway, the American embassy itself, at the request of Ambassador Graham Martin, was evacuated. Marines from the 2nd Bn., 4th Marines flew over from Tan Son Nhut and reinforced the 40-man Marine Security Guard detachment already on duty there.
Throughout that night, the Marines and embassy personnel kept a tenuous hold on the embassy's perimeter, at times beating back throngs of panicked South Vietnamese civilians with their fists and rifle butts trying to reach the evacuation helicopters.
Despite space limitations that allowed only one CH-53 and one CH46 helicopter to land in the embassy compound at a time, 978 Americans and 1,120 Vietnamese civilians, primarily the families of Americans or embassy workers, were flown to safety throughout the evening of April 29 and early morning hours of April 30.
By 8 a.m., April 30, the last of the designated evacuees and embassy staff had been evacuated. Maj. James H. Kean, Master Sgt. Juan J. Valdez, and nine other Marines were ostensibly the last Americans to be evacuated. Kean and Valdez, both members of Co. C., Marine Security Guard Bn., led their Marines to the embassy roof, barricading their path behind them. As small arms fire raked the chancery building's rooftop, the 11 Marines boarded the last CH-46 to fly out of Saigon. They carried with them the American flag that had flown over the embassy.
Off shore, to make space for the thousands of evacuees, the memorable scene of helicopters being pushed off the decks of ships and into the ocean took place. In all, Operation FREQUENT WIND, as the evacuation of Saigon was called, saw the evacuation of 1,373 American civilians and 5,595 Vietnamese and third country nationals.
In a span of approx. 42 hours, the 68 helicopters of the 9th MAB flew 530 sorties in a near-continuous cycle.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
03-07-05, 09:02 PM #2James F. OwingsGuest Free Member
Per different post re boot camp, Major Kean, (while still a captain) was my first series officer (Series 3017) Half way through he was transferred and a Lt. Sibley took over (It is Sibley's picture at the front of the Recruit album...)
There is one picture of Kean taken with my platoon (3017) while he is conducting our initial inspection.
The D.I.s had a very high opinion of him and one said that he would not be surprised if Kean became CMC some day. For years I wondered what happened to him... then I saw item on the web re last days of Saigon. I believe that he medically retired as a Lt. Colonel.
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