Graham Martin

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Graham Martin
Graham Martin (cropped).jpg
Graham Martin (1975)
United States Ambassador to South Vietnam
In office
September 6, 1973 (1973-21-06) – May 4, 1975 (1975-29-04)
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded byEllsworth Bunker
Succeeded byPost dissolved
United States Ambassador to Italy
In office
June 10, 1969 (1969-30-10) – October 2, 1973 (1973-10-02)
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byGardner Ackley
Succeeded byJohn A. Volpe
United States Ambassador to Thailand
In office
September 10, 1963 (1963-09-10) – September 9, 1967 (1967-09-09)
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byKenneth Todd Young
Succeeded byLeonard S. Unger
United States Ambassador to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva
In office
June 9, 1960 (1960-18-09) – March 4, 1962 (1962-15-04)
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Preceded byHenry Serrano Villard
Succeeded byRoger Tubby
Personal details
Graham Anderson Martin

(1912-09-22)September 22, 1912
Mars Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 13, 1990(1990-03-13) (aged 77)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Spouse(s)Dorothy Martin (nee Wallace)
ChildrenJanet Martin Tantemsapya,[1] Nancy Lane, Michael Martin
Alma materWake Forest College
CommitteesNational Recovery Administration
AwardsDistinguished Honor Award
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUS Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
Years of service1930s-1946
UnitMilitary Intelligence Corps (United States Army)
Battles/warsWorld War II

Graham Anderson Martin (September 22, 1912 – March 13, 1990) was an American diplomat. He was the ambassador to Thailand and as U.S. representative to SEATO from 1963 to 1967, ambassador to Italy from 1969 to 1973 and the last United States Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1973 until his evacuation during the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

Early life[edit]

Martin was born and raised in the small town of Mars Hill, North Carolina, in the state's western mountains. His father was an ordained Baptist minister. He graduated from Wake Forest College in 1932. During World War II, he was a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer, and he was aboard USS Missouri for the Japanese surrender in 1945.[2]


Martin first worked in the diplomatic field at the U.S. embassy in Paris, France, from 1947 to 1955. His abilities as an administrative counselor and deputy Chief of Mission gained him attention from the State Department, which rapidly advanced his career. President Eisenhower appointed Martin as the Representative of the United States to the European Office of the United Nations in Geneva, and he served in that office 1960–62.[3]

Ambassador to Thailand[edit]

Martin was appointed on 10 September 1963 and left this post on 9 September 1967.[3]

While serving as ambassador to Thailand, Martin came to the attention of Richard Nixon, during a banquet for King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Embassy in Bangkok. Nixon was in Thailand acting as a corporate attorney, accompanying Vice President Hubert Humphrey. When the King toasted President Johnson, Humphrey tried to return the toast with a toast to the King. Martin interceded and gave the toast himself, explaining later to both Humphrey and Nixon that as the Ambassador, he was the President's personal representative.[4] He finished his explanation by saying "If you become President yourself someday, Mr. Vice President, you can be sure that I will guard your interests as closely as I did President Johnson's tonight".

During Ambassador Martin's tenure in Thailand, he forged close bonds with the local government and the Thai Royal family. President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara heeded the Joint Chiefs' request to escalate bombing runs over North Vietnam; and to provide close air support cover for covert missions in the highlands of South Vietnam; the secret war in Laos; and Cambodian excursions. The U.S. military needed more air bases for staging, and to launch B-52 bomber missions. Using his personal relations with Thai royals and government leaders, Martin convinced Thailand to allow more U.S. troops and materiel to be stationed at bases on Thai soil. Ambassador Martin advised that if Thai commanders were "in charge", these would remain "Thai bases"...and avoid embarrassment or public support for the escalating U.S. war. [4] The U.S. military worked to expand existing bases and build new ones; including Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base; and the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in October 1965. From 1966-1975, U-Tapao became the most important strategic air base for U.S. bombing and cover missions of the entire war. [3]

Ambassador to Italy[edit]

Martin was appointed on 30 October 1969 and left this post on 10 February 1973.[3]

Ambassador to South Vietnam[edit]

Martin (left) meeting with President Ford, Henry Kissinger and Frederick C. Weyand at the Oval Office in 1975

Martin was appointed as Ambassador to South Vietnam on 21 June 1973[3]

Martin was a controversial U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam; he was ill-prepared to act as an ambassador in a country fighting for its survival. In 1975, he ignored intelligence and field reports that the North Vietnamese invasion was achieving great success with the fall of provincial capitals. He continued to believe that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would hold Saigon and the Mekong Delta area after observing ARVN's tenacious 12 days of fighting in the Battle of Xuan Loc under the command of General Le Minh Dao. His delays in initiating an evacuation meant that only a limited number of people could be evacuated in the final airlift..

In fact, in the NSA history The Secret Sentry, the author says: "In Saigon, Ambassador Graham Martin refused to believe the SIGINT (signals intelligence) reporting that detailed the massive North Vietnamese military buildup taking place all around (Saigon) ... and repeatedly refused to allow NSA's station chief, Tom Glenn, to evacuate his forty-three man staff and their twenty-two dependents from Saigon." Because of Martin's refusal to believe the SIGINT, and his refusal to allow the evacuation of the intelligence staff from the embassy, "The North Vietnamese captured the entire 2,700 man (South Vietnamese SIGINT) organization intact as well as their equipment."

Martin was evacuated by helicopter from the US Embassy, Saigon on the morning of 30 April 1975 as Communist forces overran the city. Though he did not know it, the helicopter’s crew had orders to arrest him and bring him on board by force if he had refused to go. The helicopter used was a USMC CH-46 Sea Knight call sign Lady Ace 09 of HMM-165 serial number 154803. Ambassador Martin's wife, Dorothy, had already been evacuated by previous flights, and left behind her personal suitcase so a South Vietnamese woman might be able to squeeze on board with her.


Martin died in March 1990 and is buried in Section 3 at Arlington National Cemetery.[5]


While Martin was serving as Ambassador to Thailand, his adopted nephew, Marine 1st Lt Glenn Dill Mann, was killed near Chu Lai, South Vietnam, in November 1965, while attacking enemy positions at Thach Tru with his UH-1 helicopter gunship. 1st Lt Mann is buried in Section 3 at Arlington National Cemetery.[6]


The helicopter that evacuated the ambassador out of Saigon, on the same day the Vietnam War ended, is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego, California.


  1. ^ Janet Martin Tantemsapya (Board of Directors, Creative Migration)
  2. ^ "North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources". The Fall of Saigon and Ambassador Graham Martin. North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Graham Anderson Martin - People - Department History - Office of the Historian". US Department of State. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Diplomatic List: Order of Precedence and Date of Presentation of Credentials". Office of the Chief of Protocol, U.S. Department of State.
  5. ^ Alfonso A. Narvaez (1990-03-15). "Graham Martin, 77,Dies: Envoy at Saigon's Fall". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Glenn Dill Mann


  • Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, ed. Spencer Tucker, s.v. Graham A. Martin.
  • Aid, Matthew M. The Secret Sentry, ISBN 978-1-59691-515-2, Bloomsbury Press, 2009; pages 125-7.
  • Snepp, Frank. Decent Interval: An Insider's Account of Saigon's Indecent End Told by the CIA's Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam, (ISBN 0-7006-1213-0), Simon & Schuster, 1981.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Kenneth Todd Young
United States Ambassador to Thailand
Succeeded by
Leonard S. Unger
Preceded by
Gardner Ackley
U.S. Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
John A. Volpe
Preceded by
Ellsworth Bunker
U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam
Succeeded by