Graham Martin


Born in Mars Hill, North Carolina, on September 12, 1912, Graham Martin graduated from Wake Forest University in 1932 and joined the National Recovery Administration in 1933 as an aide to W. Averell Harriman. After working in assorted New Deal agencies during the 1930s and serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Martin went to the State Department in 1947 as a foreign service officer. He was assigned to Paris for eight years, worked as a special assistant to Douglas Dillon, under secretary of state, between 1957 and 1959, and became ambassador to Thailand in 1963. He was successful there in building a solid military relationship between the United States and the Thais, and in 1969 Martin became ambassador to Italy. An affirmed anti-Communist, Martin was named to replace Ellsworth Bunker as ambassador to Vietnam in 1973.

Martin's stay in Vietnam was a catastrophe. He carried a formidable emotional burden as ambassador because his wife's son had been killed in the war, and Martin was much too brusque for Nguyen Van Thieu, who needed continuous reassuring and praise. Martin also disregarded the problem of official corruption in the South Vietnamese government, which bled local villages and generated more support for the Vietcong. Lastly, Martin tended to embellish the strength of the American position in South Vietnam. Right up to the end, Martin believed that the South Vietnamese government in general and the city of Saigon in particular could survive the North Vietnamese and Vietcong attack in the spring of 1975. Holding on to the embassy flag, Martin and his wife climbed to the roof of the embassy on April 29, 1975, and fled the country. Before his retirement from the State Department, Martin served as a special assistant to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and an ambassador-at-large for the Pacific.


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