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[Image 1: Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A150962. A CH-55
departs LZ 39 after depositing its security force. After the
withdrawal of the last ground forces at 0030, 30 April, flight
operations ceased for nearly two hours.]

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and Ambassador Martin bid farewell to South Vietnam. The American Embassy had officially closed its doors. Unofficially, a handful of American Marines still remained at the Embassy, waiting for their ride to freedom.58


Actually, the Ambassador's departure reflected more than the completion of the 19 lifts predicted necessary to finish the evacuation. It represented the results of a presidential order to Ambassador Martin, passed via a Marine CH-55 flown by Captain Jon M. Walters. At 0327, President Ford ordered that no more than 19 additional lifts would be flown and that Ambassador Martin would be on the last one. At 0430, General Carey received word that the 19-lift limit had been exceeded and he immediately relayed to his aircraft commanders, via the ABCCC, the order to extract all remaining Americans, and directed the Marine security force to take up positions on the rooftop, awaiting evacuation.59


After Berry's helicopter departed, the only thing that remained was to extract the Marines still guarding the Embassy. Major James H. Kean, the Officer -in-Charge of the Marine Security Guard, had with him a small contingent of Embassy and 9th MAB Marines. Within the next hour this force shrank to 11 Marines.


Upon Ambassador Martin's departure. Major Kean moved his Marines inside the embassy, barricaded the doors, and then moved up through the building until they occupied only the top floor. From this location, he had easy access to the helo landing pad. Dodging small arms fire and using riot control agents against people attempting to force their way to the rooftop, he and his 10 Marines boarded "Swift 2-2," a HMM-164 CH-46, the last American helicopter to leave South Vietnam. Checking his watch. Major Kean noted that it was seven minutes until eight, only 23 hours since the NCOIC of Marine Security Guard, Manila, had called him to relay a message from his wife in Hong Kong that she was pregnant. Only 32 minutes later on that unforgettable day, 30 April 1975, the 11 Marines exited "Swift 2-2" onto the deck of the Okinawa where Gunnery Sergeant Russell R. Thur-man captured their wear)' faces on camera. Disembarking, many on board the Okinawa, Gunnery Sergeant Thurman included, wondered why so much time had elapsed between the arrival of the Ambassador's flight and Swift 2-2, well over two hours. Had someone forgotten these Marines were still at the Embassy? The answer is no. The intention was to remove the Ambassador while some security still remained at the Embassy, and then have other helicopters pick up the remaining Marines, but it appears that when Captain Berry's aircraft transmitted "Tiger is out," those helicopters still flying, including Captain Walters who was orbiting the Embassy at the time the Ambassador left, thought the mission was complete. This particular transmission had been the preplanned code to indicate when the Ambassador was on board a helicopter outbound to the task force. Having waited so long for his departure, this transmission caused some to conclude that he had departed as pan of the last group

 

 










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