While I have no personal connection to Lt.Col. Jim Kean, his passing is just another one of those living bits of history that has now passed us by.
I did not know Lt.Col. Kean, nor do I know anyone who did. That does not matter. He was a soldier, a Marine, and had to command one of the worst possible missions a soldier may be called upon to do. He was one of the last men out of the US Embassy in Saigon (yes it’s Saigon, not that silly affectation that was put on it after 1975).
The story of those last days is well known, either by having lived through it, or from immediate family, or even just from the History Channel. It was chaotic. It was embarassing. It had moments of great humanity, and some of the lowest facets of human nature. Yet from all accounts, Colonel Kean maintained his composure, and kept the evacuation going, despite some over whelming conditions.
The costs of that evacuation could have been much worse than what actually transpired. Not only in terms of US casualties (4 Marines KIA), but in terms of civilian deaths from those swarming the ad-hoc helipad on the Embassy roof. Yes, there were plenty of civilian deaths that day. Most of them trampled to death in the rush to try and get to the Huey’s and Sikorsky’s running from the Embassy to a US Navy Task Force off the coast.
Through all of that, Jim Kean did not only his duty, his job, but maintained a level of control, that is surprising in such a situation. It may be a low point in US history, a shameful exodus after abandoning an ally, but what Jim Kean did that day, and during that whole operation, should be properly commended.
Rest in peace.
A site dedicated to, and maintained by, the members of the Embassy, Consulate, and Personal Security Detachments in RVN in 1975. For more information, some truly interesting stories and such not only about the Fall of Saigon itself, but of those who participated in the evacuation, go there and spend some time reading through it all. It will be worth your time.