SgtMaj R. W. Schlager USMC, Retired

NCOIC Bien Hoa Detachment

SgtMaj Schlager USMC, Retired is seated where the arrow is pointed.  SgtMaj Schlager was the Staff Non Commissioned Officer in charge of 
Bien Hoa Detachment.  After he and his Marines evacuated from the Bien Hoa Detachment he went to the American Embassy, Saigon.   SgtMaj Schlager was on the last chopper off the American Embassy roof during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.  The arrow is pointing to Bob.

Bob passed away on February 1, 2003.


On April 30, 1975, Gunnery Sgt. Bob Schlager and 10 other Marines finally caught the last helicopter off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon as North Vietnamese tanks prepared to take the city.   At the time, the United States' role in the war supposedly had ended almost two years earlier, and Schlager, who has lived in Richland the past nine years, already had served three combat tours in Vietnam.   The 11 Marines literally were the last of the 2.7 million American military personnel to serve in Vietnam, and, until that last helicopter got in the air, they weren't sure if they ever would see home again.  For more than 70 straight hours, military helicopters evacuated American civilians, then military personnel and thousands of South Vietnamese that had scrambled to the embassy to flee the city.  After seeing those people to safety, the remaining Marines found themselves stuck on the embassy roof. The constant flow of incoming helicopters had been ordered stopped.  Thousands more South Vietnamese were struggling against the gate of the compound, and some were scaling embassy walls. For six hours, Schlager and his fellow soldiers waited for the final helicopter.   "I've had dreams where I see the faces of the people trying to get in, and there's nothing we could do about it," Schlager said. "That's what really hurts. They were our people, not our enemies. We couldn't do anything for them. I would have loved to take 10,000 more out of there."  On Friday, Schlager, 59, stopped in at the Richland Veterans of Foreign Wars Cook-Erickson Post No. 7952 and at a back table, away from the increasingly growing late afternoon crowd, talked about his experience as the 25th anniversary of that unforgettable day closed in.  "You can't imagine the chaos that was going on," Schlager said. "You just tried to get them on a chopper. It was horrible."  Schlager estimated he and his fellow Marines loaded 700 helicopters, taking between 5,000 and 8,000 Vietnamese out of the country.  Seemingly forgotten on the roof, the 11 Marines wondered what their fates would be.  "In combat, you knew what you were up against," Schlager said. "But this was like - what's going to happen? Are we going to be prisoners? We couldn't fight, because there wasn't a war anymore. It was an eerie feeling."  During the midst of the evacuations, Schlager recalled people throwing babies over the fence. A wealthy Chinese man threw Schlager a bag full of uncut gems to make sure he and his family were evacuated.    "All I could do was throw it back over the fence to him," Schlager said.     On Friday, Schlager said he was on the Internet all day, talking with some of the other Marines involved.  "It means a lot to us," he said. "It seems like every April 30 to us is kind of a special day."   The group was featured in People and Time magazines in 1994, when nine of them traveled back to Saigon for a 20th reunion.    He enjoyed seeing his fellow Marines, but there were drawbacks.
"It was such a sad thing," he said. "South Vietnam was a very prosperous place. Now, it's very poor - no money, no nothing."  During the reunion, Schlager sought out an old South Vietnamese soldier he once knew. He found him and had dinner with him.
His old friend had spent 10 years in prison after the North Vietnamese took over the city.  "I could tell a change in him," Schlager said. "He was the same person, but his life, his happiness wasn't there like it used to be. He wouldn't talk about the prison."  Now a quality control manager for the Allied Technology Group in Richland, Schlager doesn't make a big deal about his place in history.
In fact, he had a hard time finding the article in the 1994 People magazine he brought Friday to the VFW.   His eyes took on a moist shine as he made his point.   "There's a few people in the club who know about it," Schlager said as he as he looked across the hall. "But I don't go out of my way to talk about it. Why? We did our job. That's what we were sent there for.   "We try not to get too tear-jerky," he added and nodded toward the bar full of veterans. "But we all do sometimes."


Memorial Services

Robert Wayne Schlager
May 20, 1940 - February 01, 2003

Birthplace: Platteville, Colorado
Resided In: Richland Washington
Visitation: February 06, 2003
Service: February 07, 2003
Cemetery: Willamette National Cemetery

Robert W. Schlager 13 year Richland resident, passed away at Kadlec Medical Center on February 1, 2003. He was a retired Quality Control Supervisor and retired from the Marine Corps after 23 years of service. During the war, he did three tours in Vietnam. When he arrived in Vietnam for the 3rd time, he was in charge of 6 men in the American Consulate, Bien Hoa.

After the consulate closed, he was transferred to the American Embassy in Saigon. During the fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975, he was one of the last eleven men to leave the embassy roof after helping thousands of people evacuate to safety.

Bob, during the last frantic moments on the embassy roof, received a special Navy Commendation medal for exceptional bravery immediately prior to liftoff on the last helicopter to leave Vietnam. Bob is another example of millions of Americans who gave their all for this wonderful nation. He was very patriotic and loved the Marine Corps.

He was a member of VFW Post 7952, American Legion, and enjoyed socializing with the veterans of both groups.

One of his main interests was camping with his wife, Vicki. They went on many camping trips where they hiked many a trail. He loved being outdoors watching the birds, fishing, and gardening.

Services will be held Friday morning February 7, 2003 at 11:00 a.m. and viewing is Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., both at Einanís Funeral Home, 915 By-pass Highway, Richland, WA. All are welcome.

Friends and family are invited after the service Friday for a luncheon at Richland V.F.W. Post 7952, 1369 George Washington Way, Richland.

My name is Keith Birkhofer. I served as a United States Marine at the American Embassy, Saigon, Vietnam from February 1968 until March 1970. I would like to take a few moments to offer my thoughts about Bob, as a Marine.

Bob was selected to attend the most elite school in the United States Marine Corps - - Marine Security Guard School. Some of you might not be aware that all American Embassies and Consulates in the world are guarded by Marine Security Guards. During this school all students are put through a grueling mental and physical regimen. Only about 40% of the students graduate. Bob was one of approximately 1,000 Marines serving as a Marine Security Guard around the world. Consider that there were approximately 275,000 Marines on active duty at that time. Just to serve in that capacity was, indeed, a rare honor.

Bob was one of a handful of Marines that were positioned on the roof of the American Embassy, Saigon, Vietnam during the last days of the American occupation in Vietnam in April, 1975. During the evacuation of the American community in Saigon Bob played an integral role in the evacuation. To quote one of his comrades, Mr. Ken Crouse "As a young Lance Corporal I was on the roof in Saigon during a rather hectic period. Gunny Schlager was a very calm voice and someone with the maturity and experience to help us carry out our duties".

I have listened to several of the Marines that were with Bob on the roof those last days and, I can assure you, that Bobís leadership helped many, many Marines keep a level-head that allowed them to complete the roof evacuation with no casualties. Indeed, Bob was an unsung hero who never mentioned his deeds.

I was saddened to hear of Bob passing last Saturday. I find it ironic that Bob began his last journey the same day that the seven astronauts perished. I believe that Bob was the eighth hero to leave this world for a higher place on that day.

In the Marine Corps Hymn the words "and Heavenís streets are guarded by United States Marines". I feel humbled to know that Bob is standing guard in Heaven, as he did almost twenty-eight years ago in the streets of Saigon.

All Marine Security Guards that are members of the Fall of Saigon Association, all Marine Security Guards that served their nation at any embassy or consulate, and all Marines, former or presently serving, send their condolences and sorrow to the family and friends of Bob. We consider it an honor to share the title United States Marine with him.

Bob, Godspeed and Semper Fi.

Thank you.

- Rest in Peace Marine-