The SS Mayaguez Incident of 1975 on VBC Happy Hour
The little-known SS Mayaguez Incident of 1975 was the last act of the Vietnam War. Coming two weeks after the Fall of Saigon, the armed conflict between the US military and Cambodian Khmer Rouge naval forces resulted in the last US casualties of the war.
The names of these 41 casualties appear at the very end of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC–“The Wall”–which lists KIA in chronological order, beginning in 1959.
On May 12, 1975, Cambodian gunboats belong to the Khmer Rouge, which had just seized power in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Phen, captured the Mayaguez, a US container ship, in disputed waters.
The captors took the ship and its 40-man crew to the Cambodian island of Koh Tang. In response, the President Gerald R. Ford administration ordered an all-out search and rescue operation.
P-3 Orions took off from the Philippines and Thailand to scour the region from the skies. The aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea headed toward Cambodia, along with destroyer escort USS Harold E. Holt and the guided missile destroyer USS Henry B. Wilson. And Marines from 1st Battalion 4th Marines at Subic Bay and the 9th Marine Regiment on Okinawa were put on alert and assembled for airlift.
Not he early morning of May 15, Marines from the Harold E. Holt scrambled aboard the Mayaguez, while another group of Marines assaulted Koh Tang on U.S. Air Force CH-53 and HH-53 helicopters. The fighting on Koh Tang was fierce, and several helicopters were shot down.
In a confusing turn of events, the 40 hostages appeared on a nearby fishing boat, abandoned by their captors. As the Henry B. Wilson picked them up, Marines scoured the Mayaguez for signs of life. No one was aboard. Meanwhile, on Koh Tang, the mission turned to extracting the Marines now in harm’s way. By nightfall on the 15th, all Marines were evacuated.
The human toll was high. Forty-one Americans, including 25 Air Force personnel, 2 Navy Corpsmen, and 14 Marines were dead. Eighteen of them would be killed on or near Koh Tang. Five of those remain unaccounted for, the missing of the Vietnam War.
Join us to talk about the Mayaguez Incident with those who lived it, led by Marine veteran Dan Hoffman, a member of what these combat veterans called the “Koh Tang Beach Club.” Sponsored by D&D Auto Salvage and Tobacco Free Adagio Health. Simulcast to Facebook and YouTube.