It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in. Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm.
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Light, comfy, good to go to. Hi, this is Jem. And Em from In Our Own World Podcast. Michael Duda Podcast Network and Coca-Cola celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with empowering voices like Rosalyn Sanchez. My childhood was in Puerto Rico. I moved to the States when I was almost 22 years old. I have so many dreams. I have so many ambitions. And I've been so blessed to be able to come to this country and little by little with hard work and discipline.
Check that list. I have many things that I want to continue doing and accomplish, but I was just a girl with dreams from a little island in the Caribbean. Listen to He Said, El Adijo Podcast hosted by Rosalyn Sanchez and Eric Winter on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by Coca-Cola. Proud sponsor of the Michael Duda Podcast Network, Hispanic Heritage is magic, baby. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories.
And we tell stories about everything, including your stories. Send them to OurAmericanStories.com. That's OurAmericanStories.com. They're some of our favorites. And by the way, as you know, we are a nonprofit.
And what we do, well, it's free to listen to, but it is not free to make. And if you love the stories we're telling, go to OurAmericanStories.com, click the donate button and do what you can to help us out. Today, you're going to hear from James Pritchard, a retired fire captain right here in Oxford, Mississippi, where we broadcast. James is going to share with us the realities of working in the fire service and how pushing down your emotions catches up with you in the long run. I guess I kind of always wanted to be a firefighter.
I think that's why God put me here. But beforehand, I was just a kid. I was working with the city electric department, actually. And I was in a bucket truck right across from the fire department, working with hot power lines. And I let one of the wires go and it blew a fuse and it pow. And I hunkered down in the bottom of the bucket and I got out of the bucket and I walked across the street and I said, Chief, I'm coming to work.
I said, this is it. I knew the fire chief well, and he liked me a lot. And it worked out where the next hiring cycle, that's where I went. I was just excited and I was ready to go. And that's what I wanted to do. I was a volunteer firefighter for about three years before I actually became a career firefighter.
So I kind of knew what the process was. There was a lot of physical pain. But other than that, besides being away from my wife and my little boy, it was fun, especially looking back, you know, learning how to repel off the side of a building. At the start of my career, I was there for 24 hours and I was off for 48 hours, which worked pretty good for me. But at the end of my career, we worked 48 hours on and four days off. So I was at the fire station for two days. I was at home for four days. But being away for 48 hours, you just miss so much.
My little girl barrel races. So it was, you know, I'd miss a whole weekend of that or ball tournaments or just being home because I'm a homebody. My family means everything to me. But the hardest part was absolutely the car wreck. Dealing with death in general, but when you got to a house fire, if somebody was in that house fire and we couldn't find them right off the bat, we knew they were gone.
But when you got to a car wreck, lots of times they were alive, but there really wasn't much you could do to help them. No matter how fast we got them out, we knew they likely weren't going to pull through lots of times, you know. It was hard.
Everything built up little by little by little by little. I was going strong and then I was broken. And I didn't know why. But it was pretty obvious to everybody around me why. Especially my wife. You know, I did pretty good at hiding it from my kids, but I couldn't hide it when I was asleep. I would wake up swinging and kicking and punching and screaming and actually hit my wife while I was asleep several times and just, it was hard. And I still have nightmares. You know, I try to avoid places, things where hard things happen.
I try not to go by those places, but sometimes I can't. And you know, I'm probably going to cry today, but that's all right. I've got a great wife.
She's been my rock through all of this and not being afraid to ask for help has been very important for me also. And I don't guess we realize a lot of times our purpose until we get into it. And I don't know that we even realized that first one or two or three steps. I actually got hurt during a training exercise and had one back surgery and then I went back to work and then I had another back surgery. And after that they said I couldn't go back. So I didn't get my last ride. I didn't get to finish the way I wanted to finish. But God had a plan with that too. He knew that I was done. He knew that I was finished. I was so tired and I needed to stop and I needed to reflect and I needed to get better mentally and physically.
That's what I've been working on ever since. I feel like God put me here for that purpose. I got to help a lot of people, but talking to somebody doesn't mean you're not tough. Let it out.
Don't let it build up. I never looked at the fire service as a way to be a hero or get recognition because that's not what it's about. But there's a lot of special people up there doing it right now.
And a beautiful job by Madison on the production and a special thanks to James Pritchard, a retired captain of Oxford's fire department and a special thanks to all the guys and gals who do this kind of work. And that's the cops, the firemen, the EMT and even people in some emergency room situations. It is little bit by little bit seeing the world at its worst near death sequences and sometimes not being able to help.
Sometimes blaming yourself, the flashbacks, the nightmares. My goodness, I got to help a lot of people. You sure did.
And now, now James is helping himself and God did have a plan and it was time for James to be with his family and find peace. James Pritchard story in Oxford, Mississippi story, our hometown here on Now American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history from war to innovation, culture and faith are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.
Go to hillsdale.edu to learn more. And we continue with Our American Stories. In a thrilling moment by moment narrative based on a wealth of recently declassified documents and in-depth interviews, authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin tell the remarkable story of the evacuation of Saigon in Last Man Out, the true story of America's heroic final hours in Vietnam. This closing chapter of the war to become the largest scale evacuation ever carried out as improvised by a very small unit of Marines.
Here's Bob Drury with the story. In 1973, the United States, South Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords. Now, according to those accords, everybody hoped and wished, especially in the United States, that we were going to have another Korea situation, that it was going to be a country divided in two, there was going to be a DMZ, there was going to be a peace line for whenever. The North Vietnamese never had any idea of standing by these accords.
They were constantly probing, probing, probing. They even were allowed to leave men, 130,000 men, construction workers, on the soil of the Republic of Vietnam. Finally, in the fall of 1974, led by a charismatic and strategic and tactical genius, an unfortunately named genius, General Van Thien Dung, they decided to invade. They broke the Paris Peace Accords.
Now, we knew they were doing this. We had satellites, we had B-52 photos, we had everything. But Congress was just so sick of the war in Vietnam, we were out, we had some men, we had marine security guards, MSG's, provincial consulars, we had half a platoon in Saigon, we had some advisors in. We were in the middle of a recession here in the United States. We just didn't want to spend any more money. We just wanted to kind of wipe our hands in Vietnam.
It was a bad deal. Dung didn't believe that. He thought us capitalist running dogs, we have something up our sleeve. So he probed at first, sending out scout teams.
They met with no resistance. The South Vietnamese Army, the Arvins, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, fell apart. Their officers deserted. Men were left leaderless, nowhere to go, did not know what to do. What happened was, is after a while, General Dung, the North Vietnamese General Dung said, you know what?
The Americans aren't going to do anything. He was expecting a B-52 strike like the last time North Vietnam had invaded South Vietnam. It never came. So gradually, he picked up speed. And the North Vietnamese Army, 150,000 men, more than 150,000 men, sluiced through South Vietnam. Provinces, cities fell, Plei Ku fell, Hue City fell. Da Nang, a beautiful little port city of half a million people, became a swollen, breathing cauldron of Arvin deserters, Arvin retreaters, civilians on the road. The roads were just, as the Arvins, as the South Vietnamese soldiers retreated into Da Nang, they raped and they looted. And Da Nang just became this swollen city. And finally, we decided we have to, we have to have a plan.
We have to get people out of here. What we tried to do is we tried an evac, both a fixed wing and a helicopter out of Da Nang, fell apart immediately, in large part because our own allies, our former allies, the Arvins, thought we were cutting and running, which we were, and started firing on the American aircraft coming in. The MSG unit, the Marine Security Guard unit, a small unit in Da Nang, got, almost got into several firefights with their ostensible allies until they were finally snuck out in the back of a garbage truck. Finally, a sea lift was instituted. The U.S. and South Vietnam took as many boats, barges, ships as they could, sent them up there, and it became a total mess.
Women were tossing their babies into the water. Arvin units were, were boarding fishing smacks, throwing the civilians overboard, old men and old women, just throwing them overboard, and commandeering these fishing smacks to get south. It was ugly. There were no Arvin commanders, no South Vietnam commanders to keep any kind of order. And we learned something from Da Nang, and that was, ooh, a sea lift from anywhere else is gonna be kind of dicey. So now, General Dung, he hadn't planned on taking Saigon until perhaps late in 1975, but most likely in 1976 after the rainy season. Yet here he is, he finds himself, this started in late 1974, in early April, mid-April 1975, he finds himself with an army of 150,000 people encircling Saigon.
He's going back and forth with it. Dung was a smart man. He knew that now was the time to strike. It was just what were the Americans going to do, the Americans in Saigon. Now, as I said, there was this Marine Security Guard Battalion, but it wasn't really a battalion, it was between 50 and 60 people. And three days before, the 7th Fleet, which was cruising the waters off South Vietnam in international waters out on the South China Sea, they sent in a platoon of Fleet Marines, early-reaction commando types. According to the Paris Peace Accords, we weren't allowed to have more than X amount of soldiers in South Vietnam, and the MSG's pretty much took up that quota. So they sent 50 young men, and they had them wearing leisure suits and carrying their guns and uniforms in duffel bags. I remember Top Valdez, who was the NCO in charge of the MSG's in Saigon, said, oh yeah, that's really gonna fool the North Vietnamese.
They're never gonna know we're here. And there's all kinds of Americans still in there, not only civilians, but State Departments, Spooks, CIA, there's Army Advisors, Air Force Advisors, Navy Advisors, but let's face it, the two main players in Saigon right now are the Ambassador, Graham Martin, an elegant man, tall, a shock of white hair, always had a jaunty cigarette dangling from his lips. Unfortunately, he was a young man, he was only in his late 50s, but he looked about 75 because he was sick. He was physically sick, he had walking pneumonia, and he was under the mental stress that I just can't imagine being under. He, not only the walking pneumonia, he was taking drugs for an old car accident, and he was deluded. Now, when I say deluded, I'm not trying to be pejorative, but he thought he was the only man, he was the Ambassador, he was the man in charge of South Vietnam. He thought he was the only man who could cut a deal with the North Vietnamese, who were slowly but surely encircling Saigon.
And he would not call for any kind of evacuation because he thought a deal was imminent. His powers of diplomacy were going to cut a deal with the North Vietnamese, and it was delusional. So finally, enough is enough for General Dung, and he thinks he's going to poke a little stick at the Americans to get them out quicker, because he knows once the Americans go, he's got the country. He saw what happened to the 4th largest army.
South Vietnam had the 4th largest army in the world. He went through it like, you know what, through a goose. He saw what happened up north, he said, I'm going to take Saigon, then there's troops down in the breadbasket down in the Mekong Delta, but you know what, I'm just going to encircle them and take them the same way. Let's get these Americans out of here, I don't want to start another war. I will if I have to. They're running dogs, he hated us.
They're capitalist running dogs. He hated us, but my orders are, don't start another war. So before the morning of April 29th, the Ambassador Martin had ordered Jim Keen to split his MSG detachment. He said, I need extra people out at the airport. There was a defense attaché's office next to the airport, adjacent to the airport. It's where we had run everything during the Vietnam War. Westmoreland was stationed there, all the big generals were stationed there.
Now it was still the same buildings, but it just had advisors. And he said, I need men out at the DAO because if we're going to do a helicopter evacuation, it's got to be from the DAO, this defense attaché's office adjacent to the airport. So Keen's like, no, I can't split my command.
I only have 55 people, I can't split my command. And here's something about the MSG's, they're the only branch of the Marine Corps that takes their orders from a civilian. They're not in the normal chain of command. So what the State Department says, usually through a regional security officer, an RSO stationed at every embassy, and the RSO said, send them out there. The Ambassador wants them out there, send them out there. So Keen went to top Valdez and he said, we've got to send 16 guys out there.
You pick them top. Don't get any of my newbies in trouble. Now there were a couple kids who had just come into South Vietnam. Valdez is thinking, you know what? The North Vietnamese want us out of Saigon so badly.
They're never going to bomb the airport. I'm going to send all my inexperienced newbies out there. And you're listening to a riveting account of the evacuation of Saigon. You're listening to Bob Drury, co-author of Last Men Out.
When we come back, more of this compelling story, a story you haven't heard probably, here on Our American Stories. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So, if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So, the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs, they have your back.
Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue with our American stories and with Bob Drury telling the story of our evacuation of Saigon. In the end, he's telling the story of the last days of Vietnam and the Vietnam War.
Let's pick up where we last left off here again, Bob Drury. Before dawn on the morning of April 29th, General Dung rocketed and shelled the airport with heavy artillery. It was like 6,000 rockets and shells landing every minute. Well, one of those shells landed right on a Darwin judge.
He had been in country two months. Corporal Charles McMahon. They were manning a guard post. They were obliterated by a rocket.
Yeah. The airfields are now, you can't land a fixed wing. They're cratered.
And Martin's still in his delusional state. We could fix this. We could fix this and start getting the C-130s in here. He gets back to the embassy and Major Jim Dean knows his two men are dead now, his two kids. And he says, I don't want you to report this to the Marine Corps chain of command. Major Keene says, what do you mean you don't want?
He said, you take orders from me. If they find out these guys are dead, they're going to pull the plug on me. And Keene is thinking, pull the plug on you? The plug is already pulled. Plug is pulled for Darwin judge.
Plug is pulled for Charles McMahon. That's when Keene realized he and top Valdez were going to have to manage this evacuation with the Marines they had on hand. Now these MSGs, what happens is commanders take the top 1%, they're less than 1% of the Marine Corps. The commander, company commanders, pluck the top guys in their units. They have to go through a selection process.
And if they get to MSG school, there's still a 30 or 40% attrition rate. So these guys are kids, but they're tough kids and they're smart kids and they're dedicated kids. These are some of the kids that boom, not only the personal tension between the ambassador and Keene, but now the city of Saigon is turning into a churning, roiling, chaotic mess. They have to keep it together. So the original plan was everybody from the embassy was going to go over to the defense attaché's office and we're all going to helicopter out from there. Well, Keene and Valdez said, nah, that's not going to happen. You know, people are going to run to the flag. We're not going to be able to get through these choke streets. Saigon is now like Da Nang. There's 2 million ARVN, whether you want to call them deserters, whether you want to call them defeated soldiers. But the fact is they're walking around with guns and they're very pissed off at the Americans who they're obviously leaving.
So all day this is going on. The ambassador had Henry Kissinger on his side. Graham Martin and Kissinger were kind of the leftover from Nixon legacy. And they kept saying, if Nixon were still in office, we'd be given General Dunne a good dose of vitamin B 52. But Nixon had been impeached. Gerald Ford wanted to wash his hands of it. So Kissinger had the most to lose. So they kept kept stalling.
Finally, the Marine High Command, the secretary of defense and Gerald Ford convinced Ambassador Martin Kissinger, it's time to get out. So begins a day, April 29th, 1975, of just manic helicopters in out in a 5500 feet out of 4500 feet. Small arms fire the entire time. Is it coming from ARVN's? Is it coming from NBA snipers who are now they could see the NBA.
The M.S. G's are up on the roof. They're working 24 hours shoveling classified information into this brace of furnaces. They could see they could look over the roof. They could see firefights between the NBA and the few ARVN's, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, who are still fighting. They're still standing tall and fighting. They're watching these firefights while they're shoveling. They shoveled five million dollars in cash into these furnaces, American cash, who knows how many Vietnamese piasters.
All day long, this goes on. So finally, during the daylight hours, they managed to clear out the defense attaché's office. The fleet Marines send a small platoon over to the embassy.
Now the only thing that's left in the city is this one little outpost, United States Embassy, a three square mile outpost. And the crowds around it, which had been 2,000, which had been 10,000, which had been 50,000, are now 60,000. And a lot of them are armed and a lot of them are peed off soldiers. So all day long, this is going on. The crowd's surging.
And some of the stories, I mean, Jim Keen and Tom Valdez, and to an extent Mike Sullivan, are kind of like the little Dutch boy. They're plugging holes in the dike. Here, here, they're coming over the wall. Here, lock that gate, lock that gate. And the guys, they're standing there and they have to let in Americans, American reporters, American State Department guys who maybe were stuck downtown. Everybody's got an American passport. And third party nationals, our allies are Koreans.
There's a few Brits left in town. And they're standing at the gate and they're lifting people over the gate. And while they're doing it, people are coming up to them and they're opening bags of jewels or Krugerrads. Bobby Frain's watching one time and this woman comes, her husband's making way through the crowd with his elbows.
The woman's carrying something. Sure enough, they get close. The husband takes it, heaves it up. It's a baby, gets caught on the barbed wire on top. One of the MSG's runs up, unhooks it, but per orders gently drops it back down. Can't take it in.
Heartbreaking stories. Mr. Na came up to an MSG and he got close enough to the gate and he's kind of a withered old Vietnamese man and he's got an old Vietnamese army jacket on with a row of medals. And he pulls a yellowed envelope, creased envelope out of his pocket and he slips it through. And one of the MSG's opens it up and it's from the Pleiku Officers Club dated 1967. And it says Mr. Na has served not only his country but the United States of America well. Please consider that when you deal with Mr. Na. Mr. Na had one arm and he starts, he holds a thing and he starts wash dishes, wash dishes officers club, wash dishes.
And I remember the MSG just turned around and just said, who am I to play God like this? Who am I to say yes you can come in? And in the meanwhile, all the Vietnamese that are in there, there's like a thousand Vietnamese inside the compound already, they're all the fat cats. There they go soldiers, the sons of politicians that didn't have to go into the army that bought their way out. Fat cats with suitcases and you know what's in those suitcases.
They're smuggling out gold, they're smuggling out jewels, they're smuggling out money. And these poor MSG's, they're on the gates and even though they were kids, they had to make this decision. These are 19, 20 year old kids put in this position who joined the Marines.
Don't forget you're not drafted by the Marines, who joined the Marines to fight for their country, to fight in Vietnam for their country. It went on all night. The big sea stallions, you know the Chinook, the army Chinook, the helicopter that's emblematic of Vietnam, they were landing in the parking lot.
The CH-46 sea knights were landing on the roof. They had an assembly line going. The DAO is already empty so now it's just the embassy. Jim Keen, the sea stallions are made to carry maybe 30, 35 Marines. Jim Keen is packing 70 Vietnamese, smaller, lighter Vietnamese. At first he was letting them take one bag. After a while, no bags, no bags.
But the crowd, so many people are sneaking in, the crowd doesn't seem like it's getting any smaller. This goes on all day, all night. They line up every vehicle they have to form a ring of light. And these helicopter pilots were just magnificent. The only room these big choppers had to come down was straight down, fill up. Keen would throw 75 on. If the guy couldn't get air, he'd take five off.
If the guy got a little air, straight up. One crash, one crash and boom, there goes your chopper pad and the evacuation's over. And you've been listening to Bob Drury tell a heck of a story. And by the way, he is co-author along with Tom Clavin of the book, Last Man Out, The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam. And heroic indeed they were.
Remarkable were these final hours. And it's a story most Americans don't know and should know. And that's what we do every day here on Our American Stories is tell stories about what we did. Because if we don't remember what we did, we won't know who we are. And that's a great quote from Reagan's last address to the country, his farewell address in 89.
And John F. Kennedy thought similarly about American history, a great Democrat president and a great Republican. We need to know our stories. And by the way, Clavin and Drury have told all kinds of stories on this show. Go to our American stories.com to find them.
When we come back, more of this remarkable story, our final days in Vietnam, here on Our American Stories. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.
And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious. And there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done.
I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.
Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue with our American stories and with Bob Drury telling the story of our final days in Vietnam. Let's go back to Bob with the rest of the story. And finally Gerald Ford sends word to the seventh fleet where he says, we've got to get the ambassador out of there.
The ambassador? What the hell is he still doing here? He was supposed to be out of there 12 hours ago. He won't leave President Ford. What do you mean he won't leave? And this dithering is going on in Washington when one of my favorite characters in the book, Jerry Berry, handsome as the day is long, still is, still is.
I mean he looks like a movie star. He's been flying 18 straight hours. He lands on the USS Dubuque. Marine Commandant comes out. The Marine General in charge of the seventh fleet comes out. He says, Colonel Berry, you will take the ambassador out on your next run. You're a marine colonel. You don't ask a three star why.
Yes sir, I will is the answer. He gets in. He's flying in. He and his co-pilot, it's dark. They're taking small arms fire. There's a monsoon moving in. They can't use the 45 and 5,500 lanes anymore.
Now they're flying ground level because they have to fly into the clouds. What are we going to do? And Berry's like, I don't know. I don't know.
I'll figure something. They land on the roof. He's got the little, the scratch pad here. He scribbles something on it and he, one of the ambassador's personal security unit guards comes up and says, yes, what's this?
And he said, direct orders from the president. I'm not leaving this roof until I have the ambassador. Sure enough, he's there for a good 20 minutes. The ambassador comes out. Even at this point, poor decrepit, broken realizes that it's time to go. So then word comes, the MSG's are still manning the gates.
They're still manning the walls. While at the same flight, the ambassador goes on, Jim Keens gets a message from the fleet, button it up. He goes downstairs to top Valdez and he says, button it up top. Top looks over and he's, not only are there still 10,000 people trying to get in, but there are four, five, 600 people that have already gotten in legally. Tom says, doesn't even say anything.
Just looks at him and Keens says, orders, button it up. They shut the door. They disabled the elevators. They run upstairs.
And by this point there's about 60 of them. Fleet Marines, few fleet Marines are mixed in with the Marine security guards. Still dark out. They get up to the roof. Boom, everything all hell breaks loose downstairs. The people steal, the heartbreaking thing. People outside the gate stole a fire truck, broke through the gates, broke through the big mahogany doors of the chancery in the embassy and made their way up the stairs to the sixth floor where the Marines are like barricaded against them. But some Marines are looking over and the 400 who were left, who were supposed to get out, are just standing there and they called them sticks. They had them in sticks of like 60 people a piece and they're just standing there with the sticks with their luggage and with their kids, with their wives, waiting for the Americans to come and save them.
And once again, I'm telling you, people were broken hearted up there. So there was a brief pause where the helicopters stood down because of flying time and an even bigger Marine general in Hawaii, Lou Wilson, Medal of Honor winner, he put out an order. He said, anybody that doesn't go and get my Marines, I don't care what service they're in, I'm court-martialing.
So they started flying again. They come in. Jim Keen does a head count. He realizes, even stripped of their vest, stripped of their helmets, stripped of their weapons, he said, I'm not going to get all my men in.
I'm not going to get my MSGs. He turns to top Valdez. He says, top, give me 10 men I could die with. So these helicopters take off. Now there's 11 men left on the roof. A few minutes later, the sun comes up.
The irony is several. It's the most beautiful sunrise. It's a beautifully clear day. The monsoon clouds have cleared.
It's the most beautiful sunrise that Jim Keen has ever seen in his life. In Washington, Henry Kissinger holds a press conference, gets up at the same podium where two years before he announced peace in our time after the Paris Peace Accords. At the very same podium, he now announces that all Americans who wanted to get out of South Vietnam are out. When he said wanted to get out, some reporters remained behind. And Kissinger seeds an aide talking to him.
He says, excuse me, cut short his press conference, walks off. The aide whispers, and we've got 11 Marines unaccounted for. 11 Marines unaccounted for?
What do you mean unaccounted for? Are we losing? In the confusion, what happened was when the ambassador went out at 3.48 a.m., Jerry Berry's callsign, the tiger is out. The tiger is out of his cage. In the original evacuation plan, the ambassador was gonna be the last to leave.
So they were still working on that. Oh, the tiger's out of his cage? There's nobody left. So the 11 Marine security guards, Keen, Valdez, Mike Sullivan, eight kids, eight tough kids, eight dedicated kids, but eight kids. They're up in this roof.
They barricaded the door. Dawn comes, and the small arms fire just increases. Is it coming from Arvins? Once again, is it coming from NVA snipers?
Probably a little of both. Valdez is monkey walking around the perimeter kind of counting the weapons. You know, everybody's got an M-16. Everybody's got a sidearm. We've got a couple of shotguns up here, it looks like. We've got two 50 cal machine guns. And he's saying to himself, what is this?
This is nothing. We've got 150,000 hardened angry NVA soldiers out there. Jim Keen senses the tension, senses his 10 other Marine security guards are wondering, where's our chopper? He calls a meeting. They all get in a circle, they huddle up, and he says, listen, here's the deal. General Dunn does not want to start a war with the United States. If he kills us, he starts a war with the United States. But you know what?
I've been in action. In small units, things go wrong. So there could be a small unit fight. We don't know what's coming through that door next. It could be pissed off Arvins.
It could be NVA. I don't want you firing back at anyone. He said, I want everybody laying low and I want everybody on their toes. We're going to get out of here.
We're going to get out of here. But he didn't believe in himself. In his after action report, he wasn't sure.
So there's just scenes. Steve Bauer, an MSG from Long Island, he had smuggled two bottles. He had been carrying them for three weeks in his rucksack. He had a bottle of Johnny Walker Black and he had a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. He called the MSG's except for top Valdez and Jim Keen around, and they kind of sit Indian style in a circle and they pass the bottles around. Top and Major Keen are over in the corner. As they're speaking, Keen looks over and he sees there's something going on in that circle, the two bottles of whiskey. Top, go see what's going on. Valdez walks over and just in time to hear Bobby Frain saying, no tiger cages for me, no Hanoi Hilton for me. We're going to take a vote right now.
If those gooks are going to take my dog tags, I want them to have to dig through a pile of dead gooks before they can get their hands on them. And somebody else said, let's take a vote. It's a unanimous vote.
They vote to fight. So they kind of dispersed. The sun is up now.
It's getting hotter. Bobby Frain gets behind his M50. He's got a clear field of fire of not only the stairwell, but the British embassy across the street where maybe they might take fire from. Terry Bennington, hard scrabble kid, a hard scrabble. He grew up, he had a Dickens childhood. His mother committed suicide trying to kill Terry and his two brothers, but she failed, but she killed herself.
She tried to blow up the house. His father was an alcoholic who basically rented him out to subsistence share farmers who kept him feral, barefoot in a shack to farm tobacco. The Marine Corps was the only family he had ever known. And he's looking around and he's looking around at the 10 other Marines that there is, it's like 11 frayed nerve ends. We're all connected. It's more than being brothers. It's more than loving each other.
We are each other. Dave Norman, a 19 year old from Ohio, he's up on the helipad. He's laying, he can hear the clanking of the Soviet tanks that the NBA is using.
He could hear the treads clanking coming over the Newport bridge. And he's thinking, I don't mind dying with these men. I just wish I could get to see my mom and dad one more time before I die. But if I'm going to die, I'm proud to die with these men. Steve Schuler, once earlier in the day, they had opened the gates to let in two American reporters and they had formed a V and Steve was at the end and this Arvin rushed him with his gun and boom, bayoneted him in there. And he stuck his finger in there and he lost consciousness for a moment or so, stuck a dirty rag in there and top wanted to evacuate him out. He wouldn't evacuate unless his guys were going to.
Steve Schuler is now up on the roof. He's picking through some of the clothes, looking for a clean t-shirt or at least a not so much dirty t-shirt so he could stuff up the, the, the, the pussy bloody wound he has. I mean, these men are, are, are all alone with their thoughts. Bob Valdez is thinking of his two teenage boys, not much younger than the guys he's in charge with.
And he is thinking how proud he is. And if we die up here, somebody better tell this story. And a superb job on the production of that story and the editing by Greg Hengler. And if you want to read the rest of the story and much more pick up Bob Drury's Last Men Out, the true story of America's heroic final hours in Vietnam. Again, Bob co-authored this fantastic read with Tom Clavin, both of them regular contributors here on Our American Stories. By the way, 11 frayed nerve ends, Bob said about these 11 Marines, these MSGs. It was more than they knew each other. It was more than they loved each other.
We were each other, he said about these 11 guys. The story of the last men out of Vietnam here on Our American Stories. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
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What up, it's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.
Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Hi, I'm Ebony Monet. And I'm Rick Schwartz. And we're here from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. We're the host of Amazing Wildlife, a show from iHeartRadio that deep dives into the fascinating world of the animal kingdom and our conservation efforts through San Diego Zoo partnerships. So Rick, I cannot tell the difference between a leopard and a jaguar. What sets them apart? Well, I'm glad you asked that. And honestly, it is challenging to be able to tell them apart at a glance, especially if you want to really get good at, here we go, spotting the difference between a leopard and jaguar. Remember those cluster of spots those leopards have? All episodes of Amazing Wildlife are available to stream now on the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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