HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — As the Marines scrambled to the roof of the U.S. Embassy, they locked a chain-link gate on every other floor to slow the throng of panicked Vietnamese civilians sure to come behind them. They knew if the crowd pushed through to the top, they could easily be overrun by hundreds of people desperate to get a seat on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon.
The men barricaded the rooftop door using heavy fire extinguishers and wall lockers and waited nervously as Vietnamese gathered outside rammed a fire truck through an embassy entrance. They could hear looting going on below and watched as cars were driven away and everything from couch cushions to refrigerators was carted out of the offices. South Vietnamese soldiers stripped off their uniforms and threw them into the street, out of fear they would be shot on sight by the northern enemy.
As the sun came out, the remaining Marines realized they had been forgotten. The pilots mistakenly believed that the call meant everyone had been evacuated. The Marines had no way to contact U.S. airmen ferrying Vietnamese allies and Americans to aircraft carriers offshore because their radio signals didn’t carry that far.
The last U.S. servicemen in Vietnam were stuck alone atop the embassy, hoping someone would realize they were there before the city fell to rapidly advancing communist forces.
Marine veterans pose for a group photo during the unveiling of a plaque more
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