Charles McMahon Darwin L. Judge
Charles McMahon (May 10, 1953 - April 29, 1975) and Darwin Lee Judge (February 16, 1956 - April 29, 1975) were the last two United States servicemen killed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The two men, both U.S. Marines, were killed in a rocket attack one day before the Fall of Saigon.
Charles McMahon, 11 days short of his 22nd birthday, was a corporal from Woburn, Massachusetts. Darwin Judge was a 19-year-old lance corporal and Eagle Scout from Marshalltown, Iowa.
McMahon and Judge were members of the Marine Security Guard Battalion at the US Embassy, Saigon and were providing security for the DAO Compound, adjacent to Tân Sơn Nhứt Airport, Saigon. Both died in a North Vietnamese rocket attack on Tân Sơn Nhứt on the morning of April 29, 1975..
In accordance with procedures for deceased Americans in Vietnam, their bodies were transferred to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, nearby Tan Son Nhut. In telephone calls to the hospital on the afternoon of April 29, the few remaining staff advised that the bodies had been evacuated; in fact the bodies were left behind.Operation Frequent Wind, the American evacuation of Saigon was completed the following day, April 30, 1975. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, through diplomatic channels, secured the return of the bodies the following year.
Judge was given Marine burial honors 25 years later; retired USMC Lieutenant Colonel Jim Kean, the commanding officer of the Marines during the Fall of Saigon, presented a flag to Judge's parents. The Fall of Saigon Marines Association, a California non-profit, public benefit corporation, was formed to honor the last two Marines to be killed in action in Vietnam. The association sponsors two $500 scholarships for Eagle Scouts attending Marshalltown High School in Marshalltown, Iowa (as a memorial to Eagle Scout Judge).
First and last American casualties in Vietnam
The first U.S. casualty in Vietnam was Flying Tiger John T. Donovan who was killed on May 12, 1942, but American involvement in Vietnam was not considered official at that time and as such his name does not appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial .
For over 40 years the first person who died in Vietnam was in controversy. Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr.'s death in June 1956 was deemed to have taken place before the start of the Vietnam War. However, the family of Fitzgibbon had long lobbied to have the start date changed and their cause was taken up by U.S. Representative Ed Markey of Malden (D - 7th District). After a high level review by the DoD and through the efforts of Fitzgibbon's family the start date of the Vietnam war was changed to November 1, 1955. The November 1955 date was chosen as the new start date because that was when the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Vietnam was separated out from MAAG, Indochina in a reorganization into the different countries that the deployments were stationed. With this new date Fitzgibbon became the first person to die in the Vietnam War, Fitzgibbon's name was added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1999. The former first two official casualties were U.S. Army Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Charles Ovnand who were killed on July 18, 1959.
While McMahon and Judge were the last American ground casualties in Vietnam, they are not the last casualties of the Vietnam War (a term which also covers the U.S. involvement in Cambodia and Laos) recorded on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; those names belong to the 18 Americans killed in the Mayaguez Incident.
1.^ "CPL Charles McMahon". The Virtual Wall. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=34309.
2.^ "CPL Darwin L Judge". The Virtual Wall. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=27030.
3.^ "The Long Last Day". CBS News. April 26, 2000. http://www.cbsnews.com/stor...al/main188943.shtml.
4.^ Major James H, Kean SSN/0802 USMC, After Action Report 17 April ~ 7 May 1975 p. 5 & 8
5.^ Dunham, George R (1990). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End, 1973-1975 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. ISBN 978-0160264559.
6.^ "Vietnam hero finally honored". http://www.scopesys.com/cgi-bin/bio2.cgi?bio=J052.
7.^ "First veteran classified as killed in country". http://www.touchthewall.org/facts.html#1v.
8.^ Al Turco (June 2, 1999). "Fitzgibbon's name is on the Wall". Stoneham Independent. http://www.stonehamindepend...chives/1999/06/02/3.
Retrieved March 31, 2010.
9.^ "Name of Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon to be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial". Department of Defense (DoD). November 6, 1998. http://www.defense.gov/rele...aspx?releaseid=1902.
Retrieved March 31, 2010.
10.^ Lawrence, A. T. (2009). Crucible Vietnam: Memoir of an Infantry Lieutenant. McFarland. p. 20. ISBN 0786445173 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
11.^ Al Turco (June 2, 1999). "Fitzgibbon's name is on the Wall". Stoneham Independent. http://www.stonehamindepend...chives/1999/06/02/3.
Retrieved March 31, 2010.
Final Combat: The Mayaguez Incident at Koh Tang
After South Vietnam fell to communist forces, the U.S. was again involved in combat in Southeast Asia. In May 1975, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge navy seized the American cargo ship SS Mayaguez and its crew of 39 in international waters.
President Gerald Ford acted decisively to rescue the crew. The Mayaguez was anchored at Koh Tang Island near the Cambodian coast, and military planners believed the crew was on the island. Air Force gunships sank three Cambodian patrol boats to prevent them taking the Mayaguez's crew from Koh Tang to the mainland. Soon after, Marines boarded the Mayaguez and found it abandoned.
Marines landed on Koh Tang in Air Force helicopters to rescue the crew, but incomplete intelligence made the operation a near disaster. Expecting only light opposition, the USAF helicopters instead faced heavy fire from a large force. The Cambodians shot down four helicopters, damaged five more and killed 14 Americans. More U.S. troops and aircraft urgently moved to reinforce the 131 Marines and five USAF aircrew trapped on Koh Tang.
As the assault unfolded, the Mayaguez crew appeared in a small boat, and were rescued unharmed. President Ford halted offensive action, and the operation shifted from assault to rescuing the trapped Marines.
Another 100 Marines moved into Koh Tang to reinforce and extract the trapped Marines. Coordinated USAF support by attack aircraft, forward air controllers, rescue helicopters and gunships pounded Cambodian targets while the Americans on the ground fought hard to maintain their positions.
Only three USAF helicopters were left to extract more than 200 troops. They tried time and again, braving fierce, accurate fire, but were repeatedly driven off. Finally, they reached the beach and recovered 129 Marines in multiple trips, landing them quickly on Navy ships and returning to the island for more. On the last trip to the beach, USAF pararescueman Tech. Sgt. Wayne Fisk left his helicopter to find two missing Marines still laying down covering fire. He led them to the helicopter, and the 14-hour rescue ended as the aircraft left under fire.
Three Marines, inadvertently left on the island in the darkness and confusion, were killed and buried there within a few days by the Khmer Rouge. Total U.S. casualties included 18 dead and 50 wounded. Twenty-three more USAF personnel died in a support force helicopter crash in Thailand due to mechanical failure.
Quick, effective action at Koh Tang by USAF, Marine and Navy forces prevented a bad situation from becoming much worse. In particular, the persistence, determination and heroism of USAF helicopter crews saved many lives. The action at Koh Tang between May 12-15, 1975, was the last combat in Southeast Asia for U.S. forces.
[This message has been edited by Gokart Mozart (edited 01-24-2011).]