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Graham A. Martin, the last U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, has died of complications from emphysema after being ill for two years. He was 78.

Martin, a native of North Carolina who had lived in Winston-Salem since 1976, died Tuesday at Forsyth Memorial Hospital.In April 1975, Martin, as the ambassador to South Vietnam, coordinated the helicopter airlift from the embassy compound in Saigon that ferried the remaining Americans and 140,000 Vietnamese to the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea while the city fell to the invading North Vietnamese.

While the airlift generated some controversy, President Ford cabled Martin to commend him for his ``courage and steadiness.'

In a 1985 interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, Martin said: ``In doing it my way, we got out every American who wanted to come out alive. That's the key point in the end. We didn't send in the troops. I was right in my judgment.'

Before taking the post in Saigon, Martin was ambassador to Thailand and Italy.

He was a 1932 graduate of Wake Forest University, then worked as a free-lance journalist in Washington before starting a career as a public servant.

He worked for the National Recovery Administration under Avereill Harriman, was a colonel in the Army during World War II and joined the foreign service in 1947.

After serving in the diplomatic corps in Paris, Washington, Geneva and Bangkok, he was assigned as ambassador to Thailand by President Kennedy in 1963. President Nixon assigned him to Italy in 1969, and he was assigned to South Vietnam in 1973.

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