Page 039

Page 39(The Bitter End)

provided security for Ambassador Graham Martin's residence. The average strength of the company was five officers and 143 enlisted Marines.38 The Embassy Marines in Saigon began to settle into a less demanding routine during the waning months of 1973. By 1974, the situation in South Vietnam appeared to be sufficiendy stable to warrant reduction of the strength of Company E and by 23 April 1974, the Exterior Guard had absorbed the Ambassador's Residence Platoon. On 20 May 1974, the Interior Guard Platoon was redesignated the Marine Detachment, Saigon, and placed under control of the Hong Kong-based regional company, Company C, of the Marine Security Guard Battalion. On 17 June 1974, Captain James H. Kean, the Executive Officer of Company C, arrived in Saigon to complete the reassignment of the Interior Guard Platoon and coordinate the pending transfer of the consulate detachments. Additionally, Captain Kean traveled to the American Consulate at Can Tho to begin planning for the activation of a security detachment there. On 30 June 1974, Major Daniel F. Bergcn, the commanding officer of Company E, deactivated it and transferred to Company C the remaining 90 enlisted Marines who comprised the Embassy Exterior Guard Platoon and the detachments at Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Bten Hoa.

Master Sergeant Juan J. Valdez became the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the newly created Embassy Detachment in Saigon. Staff Sergeant Roger E Painter, the senior Marine at Nha Thing; Staff Sergeant Walter W. Sparks, in charge at Da Nang; and Staff Sergeant Michael K. Sullivan, the detachment chief at Bien Hoa (subsequently relieved by Gunnery Sergeant Robert W. Schlagcr), all understood that their primary mission was to protect the American consulates and their classified material. Each detachment trained regularly to improve its readiness and enhance security of its consulate.

On 16 July 1974, Captain Kean, a major selectee, relieved Major Donald L. Evans as the Commanding Officer, Company C, Marine Security Guard Battalion, Hong Kong. Two months later, the company's new commander oversaw the activation of the Marine security guard detachment at Can Tho, the first ever in that city. On that day, 23 September 1974, he placed Staff Sergeant Boyette S. Hasty in charge of the Can Tho Marines. Located in the capital of Phong Dinh Province this detachment would never celebrate its first anniversary of existence.38

While the events in South Vietnam led to a false sense of security in late 1973 and early 1974, the war continued at an undiminished pace in Cambodia, for Gunnery Sergeant Clarence D. McClenahan and his 11-man detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, a continuous series of alerts and quick responses to these crises was the order of the day. As the situation became worse, there was talk of an evacuation;

talk evolved to preparation and waiting, but no evacuation.40

Thus, American forces in Thailand, forces afloat, and forces ashore were prepared for any eventuality, but predominately they were preoccupied with training and the seemingly unavoidable evacuation of Cambodia. Few Americans possessed the ability to foresee the events in Southeast Asia and what challenges awaited them. The Marine Detachment at Da Nang would be the first to gain that insight.

Page 39(The Bitter End)