Last Men Out: The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam

Last Men Out: The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam

4.5 11
by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin
     
 

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The monsoon winds swirling up from the South China Sea had doubled in magnitude as Marine Staff Sergeant Mike Sullivan stood on the roof of the American Embassy, watching North Vietnamese artillery pound Saigon’s airport. It was late in the afternoon of April 29, 1975, and for the past eight days the airstrip had been the busiest in the world as flight after

Overview

The monsoon winds swirling up from the South China Sea had doubled in magnitude as Marine Staff Sergeant Mike Sullivan stood on the roof of the American Embassy, watching North Vietnamese artillery pound Saigon’s airport. It was late in the afternoon of April 29, 1975, and for the past eight days the airstrip had been the busiest in the world as flight after flight of United States cargo planes ferried Vietnamese refugees, American civilians, and soldiers of both countries to safety while 150,000 North Vietnamese troops marched on the city. With Saigon now encircled and the airport bombed out, thousands were trapped.

Last Men Out tells the remarkable story of the drama that unfolded over the next twenty-four hours: the final, heroic chapter of the Vietnam War as improvised by a small unit of Marines, a vast fleet of helicopter pilots flying nonstop missions beyond regulation, and a Marine general who vowed to arrest any officer who ordered his choppers grounded while his men were still on the ground. It would become the largest-scale evacuation ever carried out—what many would call an American Dunkirk.

In a gripping, moment-by-moment narrative based on a wealth of recently declassified documents and indepth interviews, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin focus on the story of the eleven young Marines who were the last men to leave, rescued from the Embassy roof just moments before capture, having voted to make an Alamo-like last stand. As politicians in Washington struggled to put the best face on disaster and the American ambassador refused to acknowledge that the end had come and to evacuate, these courageous men held their ground and helped save thousands of lives. They and their fellow troops on the ground and in the air had no room for error as frenzy broke out in the streets and lashing rains and enemy fire began to pelt the city. One Marine pilot, Captain Gerry Berry, flew for eighteen straight hours and had to physically force the American ambassador onto his helicopter.

Drury and Clavin gained unprecedented access to the survivors, to the declassified “After-Action reports” of the operation, and to the transmissions among helicopter pilots, their officers, and officials in Saigon secretly recorded by the National Security Agency. They deliver a taut and stirring account of a turning point in American history which unfolds with the heart-stopping urgency of the best thrillers—a riveting true story finally told, in full, by those who lived it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The dramatic story of the chaotic last days of the Vietnam War in April 1975 is an iconic chapter in this controversial war. Books, indelible photos, and news footage have recorded the anarchy at the gates of the U.S. embassy and the departing helicopters loaded to the gills with panicked Vietnamese civilians, distraught State Department employees, and their U.S. Marine protectors. Journalists and authors Drury and Clavin (coauthors of Halsey's Typhoon) give a sprightly account of these events focused on the Marine Security Guards stationed in Saigon and a handful of provincial capitals, and the nearly impossible job they faced as the North Vietnamese Army moved in on the embassy and as U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin dithered while Saigon burned. It's an absorbing tale, filled with selfless and courageous actions by the Marines. The authors relate the experience in docudrama style, replete with reconstructed dialogue that will leave historically exacting readers wishing for more detailed documentation of their research. (May)
Nathaniel Fick
Last Men Out tells the real story behind one of the most-referenced but least-understood episodes in recent American history. It’s a gripping tale of heroism and heartbreak – and a reminder of the price paid by those who do our nation’s bidding.”
Karl Marlantes
“This totally riveting and moving story tells how a small band of Marines risked everything to accomplish the harrowing evacuation of American personnel in the last days of the Vietnam War. You feel the fear of facing overwhelming odds, the frustration of a self-serving bureaucracy turning an orderly evacuation plan into a shambles, and the terror and despair of our shamefully abandoned allies. This book tells with authority and power how the light at the end of the dark tunnel of the Vietnam War proved to be the courage, nobility, and discipline of the United States Marine Corps.”
From the Publisher
"Last Men Out tells the real story behind one of the most-referenced but least-understood episodes in recent American history. It's a gripping tale of heroism and heartbreak—and a reminder of the price paid by those who do our nation's bidding." —Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away
Kirkus Reviews

An exciting, focused account of the bitter evacuation by helicopter of the last Marines securing the U.S. embassy compound in Saigon on April 30, 1975.

The Americans washed their bloody hands of the Vietnam War with the Paris Peace Accords of January 1973, which stipulated withdrawal from South Vietnam except for a handful of Marine Security Guards (MSGs) and other personnel posted at the embassy and at a defense outpost (DOA) adjacent to the airport in downtown Saigon. The North VietnameseArmy broke the treaty by late 1974 and invaded its southern neighbor, and the Americans at the provincial Da Nang consulate in central Vietnam had already been forced into a horrifically chaotic evacuation by sea. Encircled by the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong by April 29, 1975, Saigon was braced for an invasion, with the North Vietnamese's Gen. Van Tien Dung calling for evacuation of all Americans. The airport, guarded still by U.S. Marines, had been operating nonstop during the preceding weeks to remove tens of thousands of high-risk South Vietnamese, civilian contractors as well as refugees and war brides, but there were still guards at the DOA and numerous personnel at the embassy. As if to prod the Americans not to try anything sneaky, the North Vietnamese shelled the DOA, then the airport, sending up the VC flag, and the only option for evacuation of the Americans was by helicopter. Drury and Clavin (The Last Stand of Fox Company, 2009, etc.) ably narrate this suspenseful saga, full of conflicting personalities including Sgt. Juan Valdez, who was in charge of the MSGs; and the intractable Ambassador Graham Martin, immovable and holding out for peace talks until ordered by presidential request to get out. The authors also skillfully wade through the staggering details of the 600 chopper runs over an 18-hour period.

A thrilling narrative of bravery, bravado and loss.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451610253
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
05/03/2011
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
468,487
File size:
7 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Last Men Out tells the real story behind one of the most-referenced but least-understood episodes in recent American history. It's a gripping tale of heroism and heartbreak—-and a reminder of the price paid by those who do our nation's bidding." —-Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away

Meet the Author

Bob Drury is the author/coauthor/editor of nine books. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Men’s Journal, and GQ. He is currently a contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health. He lives in Manasquan, New Jersey.
Tom Clavin is the author or coauthor of sixteen books. For fifteen years he wrote for The New York Times and has contributed to such magazines as Golf, Men's Journal, Parade, Reader’s Digest, and Smithsonian. He is currently the investigative features correspondent for Manhattan Magazine. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

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Last Men Out 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Pogeybait More than 1 year ago
Excellent book......A perfect example of how things can go wrong in a very short time. I am a former Marine and the book got me into a place that I never want to be in. I served with then Major (now he is a Lt. General) Carey and you could never find a more Honorable man. You have to read the book to discover how our government failed our military. A real page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding history of something most of us know or remember as a few minutes of footage on television. There is so much more to the story and its handled here with well drawn characters, drama and insight. Theres a real "you are there" vibe to the writing. A powerful page turner you hate to see end. Well worth the money.
senated More than 1 year ago
The whole Viet Nam experience can be summed up reading the account of the United States last day of active involvement. Frustration with the political process in conducting the war, betrayal of "allies", the pain and suffering of the Viet Nam people, but most of all the true bravery of the soldiers, are all present in this excellent and moving story. Why the soldiers of this war were not treated with the respect they deserved, I'll never understand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read with tears this amazing account of a group of fearless men who loved their country and honored it in the worst of times. Still one of the hardest eras to read about even 55 years later. The waste of such young lives on both sides.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Well written and a very interesting story. Yet there are parts where one has to wonder how much liberty the authors have taken with the events and dialog which really took place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago