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served to confirm the admiral's worst fears: "We were certain that in spite of the Ambassador's assurances that he had adequate plans, the in-country plans were totally inadequate. We had a major job ahead of us." In preparing for this eventuality. Admiral Stcele made a personal trip in the fall of 1974 to meet with the new defense attache. Major General Homer D. Smith, Jr., USA, and the Ambassador, Although he received from General Smith what he described as "fine help which later proved crucial," his meeting with the Ambassador proved far less conclusive as he parted with Martin's final words ringing in his ears, "Do not worry, Admiral, I will initiate the evacuation in good time. I understand the necessity for doing so."41


With his mission completed. Colonel Johnson returned to Okinawa. With him he carried a "bootleg copy" of the consul-general's evacuation plan. This document proved to be of some help, but it had minimal impact on the formulation of detailed III MAF plans.43 Ill MAF would have to wait to see what the Commander, Seventh Fleet had decided, which in all probability would be reflected in his as-yct unpublished South Vietnam evacuation plan. Admiral Steele, in turn, was waiting for the publication of a plan by either Pacific Fleet, commanded by Admiral Maurice F. Weisner, or USSAG. The command relationships for this eventuality were not clear. Admiral Stcele believed that for an evacuation operation, the Seventh Fleet should remain under his, and not General O'Keefe's operational control, but Admiral Gayler, CinCPac, decided that Commander, USSAG should control the evacuation and that the Seventh Fleet would provide support* With this decision in hand, General O'Keefe, General Vogt's relief as USSAG commander, published his evacuation plan in October 1974, codenamed Talon Vise. The Seventh Fleet's plan for evacuation of Military Region l was then issued and codenamed Gallant Journey, subsequently retitled Fortress Journey. Admiral Steele immediately requested the designation of an amphibious objective area (AOA).42


The next important step in this planning evolution was the clarification of command relationships. While this complex and sensitive process was occurring, the IIIl MAF planners, using a draft copy of the USSAG plan also acquired by Colonel Johnson, began preparing for III MAF involvement. They designated Lieutenant Colonel James L. Cunningham, III MAF plans officer, coordinator of evacuation operations. His staff developed a concept plan and quickly disseminated a draft copy to the subordinate MAF commands.44


With Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Alpha, the 4th Marines, and elements of MAG-36 already committed to Eagle Pull, any amphibious forces needed for this operation would have to come from ARG Bravo. The ARG's landing force at this time consisted of a battalion landing team from the 9th Marines, BLT 2/9, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gene A. Dee-gan. Due to be relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Royce Lynn Bond's BLT 1/9, BLT 2/9 would relinquish its responsibilities in the ARG on 6 October 1974.45


In anticipation of the commitment of ARG Bravo and its landing force. III MAF planners went to Camp Schwab to brief Lieutenant Colonel Bond and his staff on the situation in Military Region l of South Vietnam. Based on the information gathered by Colonel Johnson plus intelligence gathered from local sources, the briefing provided both timely and accurate insight to a battalion commander deploying in less than a week.46


From this and the available draft documentation, Lieutenant Colonel Bond and his S-3, Major Ronald J. Gruenberg, were able to outline a plan for the possible evacuation of Americans from South Vietnam. In this manner, the BLT readied itself for the order to evacuate, should it come. Higher headquarters needed only to designate time and place.47


The essential points of this plan called for the major evacuation to be centered in the Da Nang area, and to be either a pier-side or an across-the- beach evacuation. The battalion would provide the ground security force and planned to use it to establish blocking positions inland, as well as provide security for the evacuation sites.48


Shortly after the Camp Schwab conference, the Seventh Fleet sent out a planning evacuation format to standardize procedures. It duplicated the III MAF and Task Force 76 plans, thereby eliminating the need for additional preparation, but also pointing up the likelihood that this concept of operations, developed by the Marines in the fall and winter of 1974-75, would serve as the standard for all subsequent efforts. The initiative III MAF planners had demonstrated in fill-




*Admiral Steele recounted his consternation over this arrangement: "I still do not understand Admiral Gayler's decision to place Commander USSAG in control of the evacuation. Only a tiny fraction of USSAG's assets could be used while the operation would have to be run almost totally by the Navy and Marine Corps. However, once this decision was made by CinCPac, we did our best to support it." Siecle Comments









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