Sgt D.R. Nicholas

Sgt D.R. Nicholas

Its your Country

  The Fall of South Vietnam was inevitable">

Sgt D.R. Nicholas

Sgt D.R. Nicholas

Its your Country

  The Fall of South Vietnam was inevitable, or was it? We, the Marine Security
Guards, were aware that things were coming to a head as early as November,
1974. Rumors abounded of falling northern provinces, one right after the
other. In reality, I believe we were hoping the U.S. would intervene as most
of us came to appreciate the COUNTRY of Vietnam if not the people.

The full reality of the war came to rest as several of us attempted to make a
phone call home during the Easter holiday time of 1975. As we stood in the
communications room at Ton Son Nuht, what we at first thought were the
rumblings of thunder, turned out to be exploding bombs.

This precipitated a
rush back to the Marine House to discover defensive sandbagging preparations
underway. I had the opportunity to return to the airport the next day where I
witnessed first hand the bombing runs directly over my position on the
airport. Armed with a pistol, six rounds and a squad of Marines with M-16's,
we had no weapons to stop it, I felt totally useless. The only compensated
comfort being the removal of several Vietnamese from exposed areas to the
bunkers at the DAO compound.

The day before the evacuation proved to be my most potentially deadly, and
emotional. Somehow, I missed the communiqué concerning restriction to the
Embassy. As I walked around Saigon, unarmed, dressed in civilian clothes there
were no other Americans, no other Marines and none of the usual hustle of the
city. As it was still early in the day, I figured it normal considering
current events and the usual hustle of civilians would return later. Upon
entering a bar on Tu Do street, I noticed a couple of the bar girls and again,
no other Americans. Cozying up to the bar I observed in the corner of the room
five ARVN troops. They appeared disheveled, dirty and armed. In addition, they
were drinking and talking loudly. At this point, understanding what we
Americans were about to do, I began to
believe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, I was there and there
was no turning back. Soon one of the troops spotted me, the talking turned to
whispers and then all was quiet. Attention was focused in my direction as one
ARVN troop stood and threaded his way through the tables toward me. I realized
they weren't drunk and I was in deep trouble. Turning toward the oncoming
troop, I stood up ready for whatever was about to happen. As he came closer,
he started to speak in English. "You are a Marine, No?" I resounded with a
proud and deliberate "Yes". It was then he struck out his right hand and
looked at me. He started to speak again. " I would like to buy you a drink. My
country is losing and I have been in the field flying helicopters for the last
week fighting the VC. We came in to rest for a couple hours before going back
out to the field to do what we can. I just wanted to say thanks to you and all
the Americans for what they have done for my country." With that, we shook
hands and he returned to his table to enjoy what little time fate would allow.
I got what I went for and left. Before and during my stay in Saigon, I was led
to believe that all ARVN troops were cowards and ran at every turn. A joke I
learned in 1972, went, 'Anyone want a slightly used rifle, has never been
fired and only dropped once.'. This encounter changed my way of thinking...
for at least some troops. The events that transpired the next day did nothing
to bolster my new understanding of them.

Upon returning to the embassy compound, I was greeted by a very content "Nich-
Oy". Looking, I saw no one immediately and it came again. I followed the sound
trail up where I saw Sgt. Steve Schuller laying atop the edge of the roof of
the Embassy. He updated me on the situation and I was later assigned the back
Embassy gate where for the next for the rest of my time in Vietnam, we
controlled the masses that gathered.

MSgt Steve Schuller USMC, Retired

My job was to admit those Americans,
dependents and certain Vietnamese workers who worked for the U.S. Early in the
day, as we manned a tower over the gate, we heard a loud explosion across the
street. Cautiously looking over the edge of the tower, I observed a vehicle on
fire, but no fatalities. We stood fast. At that time we were still the only
Marines on board. Fortunately, there was no further action. All through the
day and night I kept hearing the cries of "Please let us in. Take my children
so the communists won't get them. We will do anything you want to leave." We
were offered everything from money to sex to escape the anticipated carnage.
We couldn't have slept more than two hours in the past 48 hours and I kept
thinking as I looked at the men in the crowd, If only you would put this much
passion in repelling the enemy instead of being here, we would not have lost
so many of our men and your country would be free. In addition, my encounter
earlier created a built in disgust for these 'men'. In addition to several
other events that occurred that night, I observed one individual clamber over
the gate rather than waiting for me to open it. His route was initiated with a
soft sandaled shoe on top a solid iron spike making up a part of the gate.
Naturally, the spike went though the shoe, and foot. He said nothing as his
mind was anesthetized from the fear of remaining in Saigon. We had to Medivac
him out due to the extreme blood loss. And so it went.

We did what we could in the time we had. No one faltered at their post and if
one Marine had to be removed from a position, another quickly volunteered to
replace him. We watched the smoke during the day and flames at night at the
airport knowing that two of our comrades had just been killed. The sound of
gunfire was all around us, We heard the screams of dying as they were driven
by in ambulances and saw their charred bodies. We were animals in a cage
waiting for the onslaught to begin, with nowhere to go except up, and
eventually, that is where we went.

Don Nicholas, DPM

Don is on bottom row.  4th from right.
At 25th Reunion/Memorial
Marshalltown, Iowa

Fall of Saigon Marines at the Vietnam Wall near Cpl McMahan and LCpl Judge's names.

From Left to Right:  Kevin Maloney, Don Nicholas, Ken Crouse and Doug Potratz

From Left to Right
CWO Kevin Maloney, CWO Doug Potratz, Lance Corporal Ken Crouse,
SSgt Nicholas