The Fall of Saigon and Ambassador Graham Martin

Americans evacuating South Vietnam on April 29, 1975. Image from Hugh van Es/UPI.

On April 29, 1975, the last Americans, including Ambassador Graham Martin, were evacuated from Saigon just hours before the city fell to the communists. A few days earlier, President Gerald Ford declared that the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.”

Although military involvement in Vietnam had come to an end, the U.S. still had to evacuate all of the Americans who remained. It was the biggest helicopter rescue of its kind in history—an 18-hour operation that carried more than 1,000 Americans and well over 5,000 Vietnamese to safety.

Martin speaks to the press aboard the USS Blue Ridge shortly after evacuating Saigon. Image from Dirck Halstead/Getty Images.

Born in Mars Hill in 1912, Martin served as a U. S. Army Intelligence Officer during World War II. He began his diplomatic career in 1947 in Paris and served as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations and as the American Ambassador to Thailand and to Italy before he was appointed Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1973.

The helicopter that carried Martin to safety is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego. Martin died in 1990 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

An urgent telegram from Martin to the White House and a cable from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Martin, both concerning the evacuation, are available online from the National Archives.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Carnival Worker Preserved, Abandoned in Laurinburg

April-28

Concippio’s grave marker

On April 28, 1911, Forenzio Concippio, also known as Concetto Farmica, died in Laurinburg.

Concippio, a musician, was murdered by a fellow carnival worker after an argument when he was hit in the head with a tent stake. The carnival and the attack took place in McColl, just over the border in South Carolina, but the injured man was taken to the hospital in nearby Laurinburg.

Doctors operated on Concippio in attempt to save him, but he died about 12 hours later. The body was removed to McDougald Funeral Home in the small Scotland County town.

The story becomes somewhat murky after that. Some say that a decision was made not to try the case due to the expense and the fact that both men were foreigners. Others say that the assailant was actually acquitted.

Regardless, Concippio’s body was left at the funeral home where it had been embalmed.

A couple of weeks after his death, a man reputed to be his father came to the funeral home and paid an installment to have his son buried and promised to send the rest.

He was not heard from again, so Concippio’s body remained in the funeral home for 61 years until it was finally buried in 1972 in Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The First of the Roanoke Colonies

A map of the Roanoke region made by John White. Image from the British Museum.

A map of the Roanoke region made by John White. Image from the British Museum.

On April 27, 1584, Captains Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas sailed from the west coast of England in two ships “well furnished with men and victuals” to begin a four-month exploration of the New World.

The expedition was the first English exploration of Roanoke Island and was commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh. The report which Barlowe produced on the expedition was written for Raleigh’s benefit.

After sailing through the Caribbean via the Canary Islands, the group arrived in present-day North Carolina in July 1584. First landing somewhere between Ocracoke Island and the Oregon Inlet, the party made their way to Roanoke Island in smaller boats.

The expedition developed friendly relationships with Native Americans through trade, gift exchanges and a mutual hospitality. The goodwill fostered between the groups led the Algonquian Indians Manteo and Wanchese to return to England with the group when they departed toward the end of the year.

The wealth of information provided by Amadas and Barlowe and the fascination with Manteo and Wanchese in England helped encourage Raleigh in his plans to colonize North America.

Barlowe’s report of the expedition describes the region and people in vivid, admiring detail. John White, a member of the mission who would be the governor of the ill-fated “Lost Colony,” added pictures of the Native Americans as well. A phrase describing North Carolina’s soil captures the spirit of the document well:

the most plentifull, sweete, fruitfull and wholesome of all the worlde.

The text was ultimately published in The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt, who used Barlowe’s admiring words to help encourage colonization.

Visit: Roanoke Island Festival Park and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, both in Manteo, interpret this rich part of our state’s history.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Marines of Montford Point

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

On April 26, 1942, the United States Marine Corps opened Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, specifically for the training of African American recruits.

Before President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order that ended segregation in the armed forces, blacks who served did so in segregated units, like the one at Montford Point. In the era of strict segregation, interaction between white and black Marines during training was practically nonexistent.

The larger base, Camp Lejeune, had been established one year earlier as part of mobilization for World War II.  Shortly after that time, the Corps constructed barracks and support facilities including a chapel, mess hall, steam plant and recreational area on the 1,600-acre peninsula that became Montford Point.

More than 19,000 black Marines served in World War II, all in units trained at Montford Point. Among the units organized there were the 51st and 52nd Defense Battalions, which were dispatched to the Pacific but saw no combat action, and 11 ammunition and 51 depot companies that did see action.

The 51st Battalion Band, led by musician Bobby Troup, lent to the sense of esprit de corps.

The facility became obsolete after Navy Secretary Francis Matthews ordered the end of racial division in the Navy and Marines in June 1949.

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Meadowlark Lemon, Basketball’s Court Jester

Meadowlark Lemon delights entranced youngsters at Nickerson Recreation Center. in Los Angeles, circa 1972. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library.

Meadowlark Lemon delights entranced youngsters at Nickerson Recreation Center. in Los Angeles, circa 1972. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library.

On April 25, 1932, Meadow Lemon III was born in Lexington County, South Carolina. He moved to Wilmington at age 6.

A fan of basketball from an early age, Lemon used to tell the story that his first basketball ensemble was a hoop made from an onion sack and a coat hanger with a Carnation milk can as a ball. After seeing the famed Harlem Globetrotters in a movie theater newsreel, he ran home to tell his father that he planned to join the team. In 1954, he did just that.

Lemon changed his name to Meadowlark in the late 1950s, but he was also widely known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball.” Though a slick player with phenomenal ball-handling skills and a long-distance hook shot that rarely missed the hoop, it was his cheeky comedy on the court that propelled him into the spotlight.

The best-known Globetrotter, Lemon became a television star, portraying himself in television shows like Gilligan’s Island and in cartoons including Scooby Doo.

Lemon retired from the Globetrotters in 1979, became an ordained minister in 1986 and established Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in 1994.

Inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 200, Lemon died in 2015.

Visit: Meadowlark Lemon’s Globetrotters uniform is among the hundreds of sports-related artifacts on view at the N.C. Museum of History’s North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame exhibit.

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Wartime Need for Salt Inescapable

A sketch showing what a Revolutionary era salt works might have looked like. This one is from Massachusetts, circa 1776. Image from The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

On April 24, 1776, North Carolina’s Provincial Congress ordered that a salt works be established in the colony for use during the Revolutionary War.

Before the war, North Carolina and other southern colonies had relied largely on salt imported from Great Britain to preserve their meats, flavor their foods and feed their livestock. It was a vital commodity.

At the war’s outbreak in 1775, Great Britain severed all trade with the fledgling American government, causing fear of a salt shortage. To ensure availability, the Provincial Congress initially set price caps on salt, rationed the existing supply and offered bounties to encourage its manufacture.

Not until April 1776, when the colonial government authorized four men to spend up to 2,000 pounds of public funds to establish a salt works, did work begin.

Robert Williams and Richard Blackledge both began construction near Beaufort that spring. Williams’s operation at Gallant’s Point, which used solar evaporation, soon failed. But Blackledge’s plant on Core Creek succeeded, using a furnace to boil saltwater in iron pans until the water evaporated and only the salt remained.

Although Blackledge died in 1777, his salt works continued to operate throughout the Revolutionary War.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Winston-Salem’s Reynolds Building, 1929

The Reynolds Building stands out in downtown Winston-Salem, circa 1940. Image from Digital Forsyth.

The Reynolds Building stands out in downtown Winston-Salem, circa 1940. Image from Digital Forsyth.

On April 23, 1929, the newly-completed 22-story office building for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem was officially opened for business. The public enjoyed access to the retail and commercial shops on the lower levels off the elevator lobby, including a barber shop, restaurant, pharmacy, telegraph office and a railway ticket office.

When the skyscraper opened, the Reynolds Company occupied half of the building, and insurance firms, brokerage firms, attorneys, architects and developers leased the other half of the space.

Looking down at the Reynolds Building from the  Wachovia Building, circa 1960s. Image from Digital Forsyth.

Looking down at the Reynolds Building from the Wachovia Building, circa 1960s. Image from Digital Forsyth.

Reynolds president Bowman Gray, Sr., commissioned New York City architects R. H. Shreve and William F. Lamb to design the dramatic corporate headquarters in the popular Art Deco style. The $2 million limestone faced tower became the tallest building in the South, surpassing the 1923 Jefferson Standard Building in Greensboro.

Shreve and Lamb, with new partner Arthur Harmon, went on to design Manhattan’s Empire State Building, completed in 1931. The two buildings share a sleek, streamlined exterior with a distinctive stepped ziggurat roofline.

Historic rehabilitation of the building for apartments and a hotel is underway.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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