Kean Commanded Vietnam Embassy Evacuation

One of the last men on the roof of the United States Embassy at
the Fall of Saigon has died on Cape Cod, according to his family.

Lt. Col. Jim Kean was in command of the embassy evacuation on
April 30, 1975.  The U.S. signed a peace
agreement ending its involvement in the Divisive Southeast Asian conflict in
January 1973. By 1975, with North Vietnamese forces moving in, Americans fled
the South Vietnamese capital as throngs of Vietnamese civilians scrambled to
escape with them. 

Helicopters from U.S. carriers in the South China Sea landed at Saigon’s
airport and on roofs at the United States Embassy compound to pick up most of
the approximately 1,000 remaining Americans and several thousand Vietnamese
trying to flee the country in advance of approaching North Vietnamese forces,
according to New York Times archives.

Kean was among the last Marines to leave the rooftop of the American
Embassy, thus ending the U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the Vietnam War
era.  The final stage of the evacuation
lasted 19 hours and four Marines died in the effort, two when their helicopter
crashed into the South China Sea.  The
last Americans out of Saigon were 11 of the 800 Marines who had guided the
evacuation effort.  They fired a red
smoke grenade to guide the last helicopter in, then scrambled aboard as
hundreds of other desperate refugees swarmed the rooftops hoping to be picked

Kean’s family said he died suddenly while he was having his
daily swim. The exact cause of death has
not been determined.  He lived in the
Cummaquit neighborhood of Barnstable.

A service will be held on Monday, May 12 at the Massachusetts
National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass., his daughter, Pamela Kean, said.

Jim Kean was 66 years old.


  1. Thoughts and prayers to Lt. Col. Kean’s family. I am grateful for men such as him who gave so much on behalf of our nation.

  2. MjrP
    My most heart felt condolence to the family.
    May St.Peter greet him with —
    ‘Semper Fi Marine. Job well done. We have been holding your position for you. Glad to have you here. The COMMANDER sends you his greetings.’

  3. Col Jim – Ah hell yes – what a life… As one of your Oxnard High buddies – am gonna miss ya… God bless and keep you until I get there – then we’ll have a beer or two and talk about old times playing football, swimming and the great times at Santa Catalina…. You are one of the best and I am sure ur family is devistated by their loss… But know that there is a room up there for Jim – the bible tells me so.. Tell I see ya there – Your bud Neil

  4. Lt Col Kean was my XO as a Captain; my CO as a Major from 72-74 while assigned in Cambodia. He was ex-enlisted and drew tremendous respect from all his subordinates. He continued to communicate with me over issues I had shortly before he retired and remained the poised professional we all remembered he was. A true hero in my mind.

  5. Hi, i just noticed out about your page today.Man i love the way your work looks, you’re truly know the way to let old materials appear great.I’m gonna appear over all of you are internet site.

  6. Just read the book “Last Men Out” about the final exit from the embassy in Saigon. My son is a Marine and I am proud to acknowledge the quality of leadership and the quality of men in the Marines. The story reveals the true quality of what it means to be a Marine. Your legacy lives on Col. Kean,
    Semper Fi Col.

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