Graham Martin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Graham Martin
President Ford meets with Kissinger, Weyand, and Martin - NARA - 186794.jpg
United States Ambassador to South Vietnam
In office
September 6, 1973 (1973-21-06) – May 4, 1975 (1975-29-04)
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Ellsworth Bunker
Succeeded by Post dissolved
United States Ambassador to Italy
In office
June 10, 1969 (1969-30-10) – October 2, 1973 (1973-10-02)
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Gardner Ackley
Succeeded by John A. Volpe
United States Ambassador to Thailand
In office
September 10, 1963 (1963-09-10) – September 9, 1967 (1967-09-09)
President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Preceded by Kenneth Todd Young
Succeeded by Leonard S. Unger
United States Ambassador to the United Nations International Organizations in Geneva
In office
June 9, 1960 (1960-18-09) – March 4, 1962 (1962-15-04)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Henry Serrano Villard
Succeeded by Roger Tubby
Personal details
Born Graham Anderson Martin
(1912-09-22)September 22, 1912
Mars Hill, North Carolina
Died March 13, 1990(1990-03-13) (aged 77)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Spouse(s) Dorothy Martin (nee Wallace)
Children Janet Martin Tantensapya, Nancy Lane, Michael Martin
Alma mater Wake Forest College
Committees National Recovery Administration
Awards Distinguished Honor Award
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Air Force United States Army Air Forces
Years of service 1930's-1946
Unit Military Intelligence Corps (United States Army)
Battles/wars World War II

Graham Anderson Martin (September 22, 1912 – March 13, 1990) succeeded Ellsworth Bunker as United States Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1973. He would be the last person to hold that position. Martin previously served as ambassador to Thailand and as U.S. representative to SEATO.

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 was aboard the USS Missouri for the Japanese Surrender in 1945[1]

Diplomatic career[edit]

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.[2]

Ambassador to Thailand[edit]

Martin was appointed on 10 September 1963 and left this post on 9 September 1967.[2]

While serving as ambassador to Thailand, Martin came to the attention of Richard Nixon during a state banquet for the Thai King. Nixon was with Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. When the King toasted President Johnson, Humphrey tried to return the toast with a toast to the King. However, in an effort to grandstand, Martin interceded and gave the toast himself, erroneously explaining later to both Humphrey and Nixon that as the Ambassador, he was the President's personal representative, and thus, outranked the Vice President.[3] 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".

Ambassador to Italy[edit]

Martin was appointed on 30 October 1969 and left this post on 10 February 1973.[2]

Ambassador to South Vietnam[edit]

Martin was appointed as Ambassador to South Vietnam on 21 June 1973.[2] (In 1965 his foster son died in combat in Vietnam.[4])

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 Viet Nam (ARVN) would hold Saigon and the Mekong Delta area after observing ARVN's tenacious 12 days of fighting in the Battle of Xuyen Loc under the command of General Le Minh Dao. His delays in initiating an evacuation cost thousands of lives as the options of travel out of the country dwindled down to the final option - Marine helicopters to Navy ships.

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." (ibid)

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 didn't know it, the helicopter’s crew had orders to arrest him and bring him on board by force if he'd 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.[4]


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


  • 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.
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