Once I was drinking in a bar with this guy who said he was in Saigon as it succumbed to the NVA in 1975. The U.S. and what remained of the ARVN forces was holding open a perimeter around the U.S. embassy, and this guy’s job (as a lowly captain) was to hold the perimiter for a long as possible while helicopters evacuated as many people as possible.
He said he had a few platoon-sized units (I think they were both Marine embassy guards and some Army troops). The NVA and VC were advancing all around him. (I think that the corridor to the airport had already been pinched by this time, but I’m not certain.)
Just as things were looking like the entire perimeter was going to collapse under the pressure, up marched about forty guys in kilts. The guy I talked to said he assumed that they were Black Watch Scotsmen from the British Embassy, but in all the confusion, he never found out who they were. Their commander put himself at the disposal of the Americans.
I’ll try to quote exactly what this fellow told me. He supposedly told this U.K. guy, “look, I can’t tell you what to do, and I can’t get you out of here, either, but if you really want to help you can try to hold the end of that block up there.” Then he said he recommended that they try to get the hell out of there instead.
He said this young guy looked at him and said, “have you ever heard of the thin red line?” And he and his troops advanced up the street, straight into the advancing Vietnamese.
This guy I was talking to said they advanced far up the street, and he could hear them fighting for a long time. Nobody came back when it came time to pull out, and though he said he had tried, he never discovered who they were.
I was able to help the guy out some by telling him about the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who had earned the nickname, “The Thin Red Line” at the battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. My later research showed that they still existed as a company-sized unit in the 1970s, but I could not place them in Saigon.
The phrase “thin red line” appears to have originated from a battle between about a thousand British troops against something like 40,000 Indian troops in a battle in the 1700s (which the British won). Unfortunately, the name escapes me.
Anyway, this incident seems to have happened sometime after April 25, 1975, when the British Ambassador split town, and probably more likely on April 29 or April 30. I’d sure like to know what happened to those guys. So would my drinking buddy, if I can ever find him again after all these years. Not only does it appear that they fought to the last man, but they were swallowed up by history itself.