Lance Corporal Ken Crouse's Story
Lance Corporal Ken Crouse
Secretary - Fall of Saigon Marines Association
Lance Corporal Ken Crouse's
Hi Michael - Thanks for your note and request. One of the best ways to get some first-hand information is the "Our Story" section of the website, http://www.fallofsaigon.org - another site that I have not spent much time on but came to my attention recently is http://www.teachvietnam.org As for me, I was 19 years old when I went to Henderson Hall in Arlington, VA to attend Marine Security Guard School (the school is now located at Quantico, VA). I had been in the Marine Corps for about a year and a half at that time, having entered two weeks after high school graduation and spent my first year in an infantry platoon, "A" Co., 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, on Okinawa and aboard ship in the Far East. At guard school we were organized into "detachments" of about 8 - 10 Marines each. Also in my detachment at guard school were Dean Kinzey and Darwin Judge, Marines who would also be assigned to Saigon. Steve Stratton, Jerome Thomas and Thomas Cole were also in that class I believe.
From right to left: LCpl Kinzie, LCpl Judge, LCpl Stratton, LCpl Thomas, LCpl Cole
I arrived in Saigon in February, 1975. There were many posts for new
detachment members to learn and we were assigned to one of the more
experienced Marines that would help us "snap in" and learn the various
responsibilities assigned to each post - Manny Bispo was assigned to help
me through this process.
One of the off-duty things that Saigon MSG's did that has not received
any attention is volunteer work at an orphanage that was several miles
out of town. we would load up into the Marine van (a panel truck about
the size of a bread delivery truck) and Ken Geagley or one of the
Sergeants would drive us there. I believe that the orphanage was run by
a priest from one of the European countries and they needed quite a bit
of help with various construction projects around the facility. We went
up there a couple of times a week and it was good to get out into the
Ken Crouse is on the left with hands in the air.
In early April I was on Post 4 late one day (the vehicle entrance to the embassy compound) and secured the gate after the charge de affairs left (he was in charge when the ambassador was out of country). While on my way to the main building, I received a radio report to return to the gate as the charge would be returning. I found out later that Operation Baby Lift, the evacuation of several hundred orphans, nurses and secretaries who were accompanying them had crashed and all had died. This incident for me was the beginning of the end.
American Embassy Saigon compound during the Fall of Saigon
Things went downhill rapidly from there and fixed wing evacuations (regular air planes flying out of Tan San Nhut airbase) began and were carried out on a daily basis. Several thousand people were evacuated through these means in the weeks prior to the helicopter evacuation. The Marine Guards at one point moved out of the Marine House and into the Embassy compound working non-stop from then until the evacuation. About a dozen Marines, including Darwin Judge with whom I went to guard school, were assigned to Tan San Nhut and remained there providing security at the airport.
Defense Attaché Office during the Fall of Saigon
On the morning of April 29th I was standing a night-shift on the roof of the embassy when I saw a large explosion out towards Tan San Nhut (about 5 miles away). From the roof of the embassy I could not tell exactly what it was, but felt that it somehow affected our Marines - I would learn about an hour later that my friend, Darwin Judge, and another Marine, Charles McMahon, Jr., were killed by one of the incoming rockets. They had been walking a security patrol around the exterior of the fence at the airport and a rocket had landed in between them. My friend, Steve Stratton, would be one of the Marines who helped recover the bodies.
Roof of the American Embassy, Saigon
The next day and a half were very hectic as the helicopters came and left with the thousands of Americans, third country nationals (non-Vietnamese foreigners) and Vietnamese families that were evacuated. After the embassy was secured, the only people remaining on the embassy roof were Marine Security Guards and I left on a helicopter that lifted off shortly before sunlight. This would be the next-to-the-last helicopter to evacuate Marines from the roof.
CH-46 Marine Corps chopper taking off from the roof
during the Fall of Saigon
From Vietnam, we traveled by ship, the U.S.S. Blue Ridge, to Manila and from there I was assigned to the American Consulate General in Asmara, Ethiopia (now the country of Eritrea in northern Africa) and then later to Brussels, Belgium.
I trust that helps, Michael. Thanks again for writing - as you know from our website, those experiences in Vietnam helped to form a bond that remains to this day - I will be 46 years old in October. I've been working with some of the other Marines since 1992 trying to locate other members of our Saigon detachment and I think we've done a pretty good job to date having found or them finding us of about 75% of the Marines who were stationed there 26 years ago.
I had the privilege of meeting Darwin's parents last year for the first time and sent them a plant this year, the 26th anniversary of their family's sacrifice in the name of freedom.
The Judge family. Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Ida Judge and Darwin's sister Laura Judge
during our 25th reunion of the Fall of Saigon at Marshalltown Iowa.
Link to our 25th Reunion in Marshalltown, Iowa
Lance Corporal Ken Crouse is on the top row 4th from the right.
Mr. and Mrs. Judge and on the bottom row 2nd and 3rd from the left
Ken Crouse, Secretary of the Fall of Saigon Marines Association attends the Scholarship in Marshalltown, Iowa. From left to right Lori Judge, Ida Judge, the two scholarship awardees, Ken Crouse.
LCpl Darwin Judge's Annual Scholarship Awards
Sgt Ken Crouse is on first person on the left. Sgt Kinzie is on the for right.
Lance Corporal Ken Crouse with hands up next to wife talking to the Fall of Saigon Marines at our
25th Reunion in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Ken Crouse on left side of tables with hands up.
Ken Crouse third from the left for reunion in San Diego.
Fall of Saigon Marines at the Vietnam Wall near our KIA Names
From Left to Right: Kevin Maloney, Don Nicholas, Ken Crouse and Doug Potratz