Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge

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Portrait of a young white man wearing a military uniform and peaked cap
Charles McMahon
Portrait of a young white man wearing a military uniform and peaked cap, with an American flag in the background
Darwin L. Judge

Charles McMahon (May 10, 1953 – April 29, 1975)[1] and Darwin Lee Judge (February 16, 1956 – April 29, 1975)[2] were the last two United States servicemen killed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The two men, both U.S. Marines, were killed in a rocket attack one day before the Fall of Saigon.

Charles McMahon, 11 days short of his 22nd birthday, was a corporal from Woburn, Massachusetts. Darwin Judge was a 19-year-old lance corporal and Eagle Scout from Marshalltown, Iowa.

Deaths[edit]

McMahon and Judge were members of the Marine Security Guard (MSG) Battalion at the US Embassy, Saigon and were providing security for the DAO Compound, adjacent to Tân Sơn Nhứt Airport, Saigon. McMahon had arrived in Saigon on 18 April, while Judge had arrived in early March.[3] Both died in a North Vietnamese rocket attack on Tân Sơn Nhứt on the morning of April 29, 1975.[4]

In accordance with procedures for deceased Americans in Vietnam, their bodies were transferred to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, nearby Tan Son Nhut. In telephone calls to the hospital on the afternoon of April 29, the few remaining staff advised that the bodies had been evacuated; in fact the bodies were left behind.[5] Operation Frequent Wind, the American evacuation of Saigon was completed the following day, April 30, 1975. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, through diplomatic channels, secured the return of the bodies the following year.[6]

Judge was given Marine burial honors 25 years later; retired USMC Lieutenant Colonel Jim Kean, the commanding officer of the Marines during the Fall of Saigon, presented a flag to Judge's parents. The Fall of Saigon Marines Association, a California non-profit, public benefit corporation, was formed to honor the last two Marines to be killed in action in Vietnam. The association sponsors two $500 scholarships for Eagle Scouts attending Marshalltown High School in Marshalltown, Iowa (as a memorial to Eagle Scout Judge).[7]

First and last American casualties in Vietnam[edit]

The first U.S. casualty in Vietnam was Flying Tiger John T. Donovan who was killed on May 12, 1942, but American involvement in Vietnam was not considered official at that time and as such his name does not appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.[8]

For over 40 years the first person who died in Vietnam was in controversy. Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr.'s death in June 1956 was deemed to have taken place before the start of the Vietnam War. However, the family of Fitzgibbon had long lobbied to have the start date changed and their cause was taken up by U.S. Representative Ed Markey of Malden (D - 7th District).[9] After a high level review by the DoD and through the efforts of Fitzgibbon's family, the start date of the Vietnam war was changed to November 1, 1955.[10] The November 1955 date was chosen as the new start date because that was when the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Vietnam was separated out from MAAG, Indochina in a reorganization into the different countries that the deployments were stationed.[11] With this new date Fitzgibbon became the first person to die in the Vietnam War, Fitzgibbon's name was added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1999.[12] The former first two official casualties were U.S. Army Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Charles Ovnand who were killed on July 18, 1959.

While McMahon and Judge were the last American ground casualties in Vietnam, they are not the last casualties of the Vietnam War (a term which also covers the U.S. involvement in Cambodia and Laos) recorded on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; those names belong to the 18 Americans killed in the Mayaguez Incident.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "CPL Charles McMahon". The Virtual Wall. 
  2. ^ "CPL Darwin L Judge". The Virtual Wall. 
  3. ^ Drury, Bob (2011). Last Men Out. Free Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-1-4391-6101-2. 
  4. ^ "The Long Last Day". CBS News. April 26, 2000. 
  5. ^ Major James H, Kean SSN/0802 USMC, After Action Report 17 April ~ 7 May 1975 p. 5 & 8
  6. ^ Dunham, George R (1990). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End, 1973-1975 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-16-026455-9. 
  7. ^ "Vietnam hero finally honored". 
  8. ^ "First veteran classified as killed in country". 
  9. ^ Al Turco (June 2, 1999). "Fitzgibbon's name is on the Wall". Stoneham Independent. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Name of Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon to be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial". Department of Defense (DoD). November 6, 1998. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  11. ^ Lawrence, A. T. (2009). Crucible Vietnam: Memoir of an Infantry Lieutenant. McFarland. p. 20. ISBN 0-7864-4517-3. 
  12. ^ Al Turco (June 2, 1999). "Fitzgibbon's name is on the Wall". Stoneham Independent. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 

External links[edit]