Page 050


[Image 1:
Department
of Defense
Photo (USMC) 051222434.
Col John F.
Roche III relieved
Col Douglas
T. Kane as
commanding
officer of
31st MAU on
13 July 1974.
Co/ Roche and
staff developed
helicopter
employment
and landing
tables (HEAIT)
for the MAU's
CH-53s.]

[Image
2: Department
of Defense
Photo (USMC)
IC31404.
Col Sydney
H. "Tom" Batchelder,
commanding
officer of
3d Service
Battalion,
3d Marine Division
relieved Col
Olmstead as
commander of
the Eagle Pull
landing force
during the
summer of 1914.
Col Batchelder
made several
liaison trips
to Nakhon Phanom
and Phnom Penh
in the remaining
months of the
year.]

Page 50(The Bitter End)



while steaming between Okinawa and Subic Bay, the USS Tripoli, the LPH assigned to Amphibious Ready Group Alpha (ARG Alpha), suffered a major engineering casualty and had to be towed to Subic. The effect of the loss was clear, but before a solution could be devised, USS Duluth, an LPD with the same group, developed its own engineering difficulties.32


Almost immediately, ARG Alpha formulated and obtained approval for a plan which would at least temporarily fix the problem. The USS Coral Sea (CVA 43), and subsequently the USS Hancock (CVA 19), were designated as standby LPHs. In addition, the USS Vancouver (\f D 2), an LPD with ARG Bravo, was assigned as standby for the Duluth. In the event of evacuation operations, the MAU elements normally on board Tripoliand Duluth would embark immediately in the Coral Seal Hancock and Vancouver, respectively. All of these planning changes were made in light of the then-prevailing requirement to remain no more than 96 hours steaming time from the waters off Kompong Som. The MAU/ARG had to be able to restructure itself to meet this requirement.33


After extensive work at the Ship Repair Facility (SRF) in Subic Bay, the Tripoli ame back on line on 28 September. The plans then remained unchanged until 26 January 1974, when the 31st MAU received orders to provide support for Option II of the evacuation plan, a military fixed-wing airlift of evacuees. The effort entailed landing a 90-man security force at Pochcntong Airfield to assist in the evacuation.


By the time these modifications took effect, the outlook for the Lon Noi Government had changed from outright pessimism to guarded optimism. The 1974 Khmer Communist dry season offensive was not as successful as had been expected. The Communists had pushed hard during January, but the government forces were holding their own. In February, there was a noticeable decline in the intensity of the Khmcr offensive. The feeling of optimism grew, and the new-found confidence was reflected in significantly relaxed evacuation response times. The clearest indication

 








Page 50(The Bitter End)