PPSU/MSG/DAO Compound


Sgt Kevin Maloney
(The Ambassadors Bodyguards)
Call Sign: 
Squirrel

PPSU Story
PPSU House

"all animals - 10/7 fox-4"

- Sgt Kevin Maloney's Fall of Saigon Marines Association Page -

I was a Sergeant of Marines, Saigon April 1975. At dawn on 30 April 1975 beaten, bewildered and dazed I was lifted from the roof of the American Embassy in a CH-46 Helicopter. The days and hours preceding the fall were full of action, boredom and turmoil. The years afterward were no less notable.

I was a veteran of four years service with the FMF, sixteen months of which were spent sampling the liberty ports of WestPac. In the fall of 1974 I was posted to Warsaw, Poland as an Embassy Guard. I thought that all the action in Vietnam was over with. In January 1975 I eagerly accepted a transfer to Saigon. I served with six other Marine NCOs at the Ambassador's residence. We were the Personal Protective Security Unit (PPSU), the bodyguard for Ambassador Martin. A separate, larger detachment the Marines Security Guard (MSG), secured the Embassy Complex and numerous US government buildings through out Saigon. For a young Marine, Saigon had much more interesting attractions than a dreary Eastern Europe under Communist rule.


Ambassador Martin briefing President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  General Wymand in attendance.

I grew up on a steady diet of John Wayne and Humphry Bogart movies. I was a patriot, fueled by John F. Kennedy inspired idealism. I was totally dedicated to the concepts of freedom and liberty for the South Vietnamese. (The cynicism of later years leaves me amazed at my own naiveté.) I am addicted to adrenaline, I love action. Parachute jumping, SCUBA diving, flying airplanes, skiing, motorcycles, fast cars, fast girls and cold beer. I was a child of the Sixties, drugs, sex and rock and roll. At Twenty two years old I was full of wanderlust and I was absolutely invincible, bullet proof. Yet, I was also aware of a Holy and All Mighty God. There was a constant strain of tension in me, an incompatible coexistence of mores and ideas. The mind cannot hold two opposing paradigm and not be in conflict. I was torn as a person. Torn within on the same magnitude as our nation was convulsing culturally. Just as the epic events surrounding us raced toward their brutal end, the struggle within me drove toward it's showdown. Saigon would prove to be the place of reckoning.

I can stand anything except inactivity. Guard duty is boring, BORING. I found my distractions in Saigon's red light district. Perhaps too much so. My attitude and self-centeredness was juxtaposed with other ego driven Type-A personalities in leadership positions. There was friction and I was in no position to win.

My own deeds of misconduct and exaggerated reports by junior leadership personnel came to a head. On the 28th of April Major Kean reassigned (banished) me to Than San Nhut Airfield out side of Saigon. His words to me were: do a good job out there and all the paperwork will get lost. I arrived there to serve with the sixteen newest arrivals of the Marine detachment (read FNGs). [The conduct of these young Marines during the evacuation was outstanding. These Leathernecks proved their metal in the face of almost constant bombardment from the enemy and armed threat from hostile South Vietnamese. No other group was exposed to as much fire.] The duty was to supply security for the former MAC-V complex then known as the Defense Attaché Office (DAO). While being introduce to the other Marines and stowing my gear we were bombed by a flight of A-37 jet attack aircraft. The US manufactured aircraft had been captured by the North Vietnamese. We fired back with automatic rifles and hand guns. Later in the quiet of the evening LCpl. Darwin Judge and I talked about Jesus, I new that he was right in what he said.

Commanding Officer, Major Jim Kean (LtCol Retired)

I was scheduled to go on watch at midnight with Cpl. Charles McMahon. McMahon and Judge were buddies (McMahon and I both spoke with thick Boston accents, Judge, from Iowa mimicked us). I changed the roster. I reasoned that no real action would occur until morning, I should be where the action was. At midnight I posted the guard relief. Post 1 was the compound's outer gate, McMahon and Judge took their position there. Post 2, the inner gate was some 30 yards away. This position was taken up by Cpl. Otis Holmes. They chatted between themselves. I laid down to sleep.


From left to right:  LCpl Darwin Judge, Cpl Charles McMahan, Cpl Otis Holmes

McMahon and Judge would not live to see that sun rise. In the early morning hours North Vietnamese 122mm rockets slammed into the compound. Post 1 took a direct hit. McMahon and Judge were killed, Holmes was wounded. I grabbed a rifle and ran to the gate. I found Holmes dazed but still able to fight, we made our way to Post 1. Judge lay near a pile of burning Honda motorcycles, his ammo belt cooking off from the heat. Hot metal stung my hand as I attempted to drag him away. McMahon was dismembered by the blast, pieces of him lay strewn around the area. I sent Holmes to the rear, shock was setting in. A Vietnamese ambulance crew completed the grizzly task of policing up the shattered remains. I was of little help to them. I struggled to suppress my terror. GySgt. Martin and the other Marines approached to the fence then retired to accomplish other tasks. The warm, sticky tropical air was heavy with the stench of cordite and death. I was sick. Why them and not me? I prayed.


GySgt Martin (Officer in charge of security at the DAO) (Retired MSgt) RIP

I was joined by Captain Stuart Herrington, a US Army Intelligence Officer. We took shelter in a shallow ditch as NVA 130mm artillery fire began to tear up the airfield. The shells sounded like freight trains as they passed over our heads. The fire was accurate and shifted from target to target. The enemy had a forward observer close by. Illuminated by the flashes of exploding shells I watched two Vietnamese approach our position. They carried a radio but I saw no weapons. As they passed within a few feet of our ditch, rifle in hand I jumped up and screamed at them, hands went up. They were friendlies but I came so close to shooting them. Several senior US officers passed through the checkpoint. They were evaluating the damage to the airfield. The crew of a USAF C-130 straggled in from the flight line. Their aircraft was hit by enemy fire as they taxied to a runway. It was now a burning hulk. The South Vietnamese Air Force made a gallant attempt to silence the guns. I watched and listened as an AC-119 hosed down NVA positions. An anti-aircraft missile tore the wing off the gunship. I saw one crewman exit the rear of the aircraft but his parachute did not open.


C-130 Cargo Plan

Other Marines joined me at the gate. Ambassador Martin inspected the airfield. President Ford and the Ambassador made the decision to evacuate. I knew the streets of Saigon. As bodyguards we memorized street names and routes to various locations. This supplemented my knowledge gained from carousing. Marine Captain Anthony Wood and I led convoy after convoy of busses through the streets of Saigon. We were accompanied by an embassy staffer, Ken Moorefield (Just what we needed, I thought, some civilian State Department junior clerk tagging along. As it turned out Moorefield was a tough resourceful combat veteran who contributed greatly to the effort.). We ferried hundreds, perhaps thousands of American, third country nationals and Vietnamese to a makeshift helicopter LZ at the DAO. We played a nerve racking game of Chicken with ARVN road blocks. America was running out on them and we were leading the parade. I drove the jeep. As we approached one of the road blocks an ARVN soldier moved in a threatening manner. I reached between the seats for my M-16. Captain Wood grabbed my wrist and damn near crushed it. We would have been the losers in that fire fight. To their great credit those angry and betrayed ARVN soldiers maintained their discipline. We were escaping to live they were staying to die. Later, other roadblocks would be closed to us.


Defense Attaché Office at Tan Shan Knut Airbase during the Fall of Saigon

Late that morning we exchanged the jeep for a police car equipped with flashing lights. At one of our stops sniper fire separated Capt. Wood and me. I grabbed our automatic weapons from the jeep and ran to the sound of the gun fire. Moorefield turned me around and told me to get the convoy moving, NOW. Ken and I drove away leaving Wood with just his .45 and luck. The road to Tan Son Nhut was blocked to us. Intermittent radio communications directed us to avoid the embassy. There was no sealift available at the Saigon docks. We drove through the streets of Saigon for hours. The busses were filled beyond capacity. Armed groups of South Vietnamese soldiers joined our procession and presented a problem. We could go no where with them in tow. I circled around the block and approached their rear. Eye ball to eyeball, a tense stand off occurred while the busses drove off. Now without effective communication, busses, gasoline for our vehicle or fresh ideas we made our way to the embassy.

We abandoned the vehicles. Moorefield and I muscled our way through the mob of people and squeezed through a partially opened gate into the embassy compound. I reported to Major Kean. MSgt. Valdez assigned me to secure the outer gate of the embassy's CRA compound. We were spread very thin along the wall (Davy Crockett on the wall of the Alamo). We were reinforced, men of the Forth Marine Regiment were flown in from ships offshore. I went over the wall repeatedly that evening, escorting selected people into the compound. The crowd clawed at us as we pushed and shoved our way through. God forgive me, I used force on some of the poor Vietnamese. At some point in time during that night we gave up the wall. We retreated into the Chancellery. Some Marines destroyed communication equipment while others kept the desperate Vietnamese at bay with tear gas. Floor by floor we cleared the building, working our way to the roof top helicopter pad. This was the bottom of the ninth. We threw off our helmets and flack jackets to allow more Marines to board the helicopters. There we waited.


MSgt J. Valdez (SNCOIC of the American Embassy Saigon) (MGySgt Retired)

My turn to leave came as the darkness of night yielded to the morning twilight. No longer the blackness of night but not yet light. I could see movement in the streets below but my attention was held by the streams of tracers coming from anti-aircraft guns. Somebody was pissed.


CH-46 off the roof of the American Embassy during the Fall of Saigon

The first rays of sunlight streaked a bleak gray dawn and beckoned us eastward as we went feet wet over the South China Sea. Below a thousand surface craft of all descriptions, singularly and in small groups sailed toward the great fleet beyond the horizon. Our helicopter landed aboard the USS Okinawa. We rode the elevator down to the plane deck there we were disarmed. I threw my ammunition into the sea. The war was over. Sickbay was crowed. I waited my turn while the medical personnel attended to people with more serious needs. My hand was tended to and I showered. For more than a day I had worn the blood of others. I slept. When I awoke I stood in line for a few hours to eat. Later, on the plane deck I was reunited with some of the others. Stuart Herrington took my photograph with Colonel John Madison USA. (That photo was published in Herrington's book, "Peace with Honor?" and again in the February 1992 issue of "Vietnam" magazine. Colonel Madison was the head of the Joint Military Team. He was the person responsible for the accounting of our POW/MIAs.


USS Okinawa

 

The hectic withdrawal left the Embassy Marines spread about the many ships of Tasks Force 76. Eventually we were regrouped aboard the USS Blue Ridge. On the Blue Ridge I found Captain Wood. The task force stayed in Vietnamese waters for a couple of days and then made for Subic Bay in The Philippines. We rode a Victory Liner Bus to Manila were we were quartered in a government building. My bed was a ping pong table, someone else had the pool table.


USS Blueridge

I thought that all my problems were behind me. Major Kean had promised me that if I performed well during the evacuation all would be forgotten. Not so. Apparently no one told him of my actions. I was sent back to Washington and thus ended my duty with the State Department. The Secretary of The Navy investigated the incident. In 1978 SecNav concluded that I had been done an injustice and I was exonerated. Larry Engelmann wrote an emotionally moving book, "Tears Before the Rain: An oral history of the fall of South Vietnam". In the course of writing this book Larry interviewed hundreds of people. Seventy eye witness accounts are presented, two of them are Marines. Larry chose to use the stories of Major Kean and me.

I left active duty in 1979. In 1985 I resigned from the Marine Corps Reserve and accepted an appointment in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Today I am a Chief Warrant Officer and a Senior Army Aviator. My Guard Unit was not activated during the Gulf War. Our obsolete Vietnam era aircraft were not suitable to the modern battlefield. I am an airline pilot in civilian life. In the Spring of 1991 I had the wonderful opportunity to be featured on camera in two documentary films. I was thrilled by the invitation to be an advisor to the Broadway musical "Miss Saigon". I was interviewed on morning news programs and my hometown newspaper ran a full page story. It was a great release to finally talk about my experience and have a long overdue confrontation with some bottled up emotions.


 

War leaves no one the same. All of us were effected in different ways and to different degrees. It is estimated that between 40-60% of combat veterans experience persistent problems with emotional adjustment. I have had my share of sleepless nights and heightened anxiety. Fifty-eight thousand Americans lost their lives in Vietnam. Since returning more than three times that number of veterans have committed suicide. On January 24, 1997 one of our Saigon Marines took his own life. SSgt. Jim Daisy was an outstanding Marine and a good friend. At the time of his death Jim was being treated by the VA for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Shortly before his death Jim telephoned several former members of the PPSU Detachment. I rejoiced thinking that he was on his way out of the darkness. In his despondency Jim had thrown away his uniforms. For twenty years a Marine Dress Blue Uniform sat in a sea chest in my mother's attic. On a very cold January day at the National Cemetery at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA. Jim's widow Heidi, her family and I buried Jim. We buried Jim in that uniform. In my Dress Blues. I get the point. Once, we trusted our lives to each other, today we must continue to care for the other's needs. This did not have to happen. I does not have to happen again. In my search for some kind of understanding a very compassionate former Green Beret, Ron Crecelius introduced me to a book by Chuck Dean. "NamVet" relates the story of a tour through hell which emerged in the return to sanity and faith. There is a good life to be lived and enjoyed. With the help of God we can find that life.


SSgt Jim Daisy (PPSU)


SSgt Dwight McDonald, SSgt Steve Johnson, SSgt Colin Broussard, Sgt Kevin Maloney
Missing
SSgt Clem Segura (SNCOIC), Sgt Paul Gozgit and SSgt Jim Daisy


Kevin is second from left
At the 25th Memorial/Reunion in Marshalltown, Iowa


Kevin is on top row six from left
At the 25th Memorial/Reunion in Marshalltown, Iowa
Photo was taken at Iowa's Vietnam Memorial

Kevin serves the Fall of Saigon Marines Association as a Officer


PPSU House