[Image 1: Marine
Curtis G. Lawson,
as a colonel,
became the 5d
air officer in
duty of this
billet was to
serve as air
for the Eagle
Page 59(The Bitter End)
In response to increased pressure from Khmcr forces around the city of Phnom
Penh, General Timothy F. O'Keefe (ComUSSAG) requested that Colonel Olm-stcad
and his command element deploy to Nakhon Phanom. Evacuation appeared imminent.
The III MAF commander. Major General Herman Poggcmey-cr,Jr., who replaced
General Ryan on 31 December 1973, in his semi-annual history reported, "Colonel Olmstead, the designated GSF Commander, deployed to Southeast Asia with the Regimental ALO and two radio operators on 23 January 1974 in an increased readiness posture. The group returned to Camp Schwab on 16 February 1974."8
Colonel Olmstead's notification of his impending departure came during a 9th Marines mess night when Major General Fred E. Haynes, Jr., 3d Marine Division commander, pulled him aside and said, "The bell has rung and you have been called down there." The next morning Colonel Olmstead and his party left Kadena on a T-39 aircraft for Nakhon Phanom via Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines. Even though the deployment turned out to be a false alarm the Marines used the opportunity to visit Phnom Penh. On this visit, they spent three days in the Cambodian capital, visiting LZs, checking movement routes, and photographing anything deemed important to the operation. When Colonel Olmstead and Major Angle returned to Utapao, the GSF commander met with and debriefed Colonel Twomey, the MAU commander, who had flown from the command ship to Thailand to learn first hand about the latest developments in Cambodia. Before departing Utapao, Colonel Olmstead made two more visits to Phnom Penh and on the last trip as on the first one his air liaison officer, Major Angle, accompanied him. They rechecked the security of the landing zones and took additional photographs. By this time, Colonel Olmstead and Major Angle noticed a decrease in the military activity in and around the Cambodian capital and correctly surmised that the government forces had regained the initiative. After the initial attacks which the government forces parried, the Khmcr Rouge offensive stalled. Little over a month after the command element's return to Okinawa, the 1974 dry season ended and so did the immediate urgency surrounding Operation Eagle Pull. With the coming of summer and the usual heavy turnover of senior commanders in III MAF, Colonel Sydney H. "Tom" Batchelder, Jr., relieved Colonel Olmstead as GSF commander in May 1974. He also assumed command of the 3d Service Battalion on 28 May 1974.9
Batchelder selected as his air officer Lieutenant Colonel GlcnnJ. Shaver, Jr., the division air officer and a former commanding officer of a CH-53 squadron. Colonel Batchelder and his command element repeated the same round of liaison visits to Nakhon Phanom and Phnom Penh during the late summer and fall of 1974. In November of 1974, Lieutenant Colonel Curris G. Lawson replaced Lieutenant Colonel Shaver as the air officer.
During an earlier tour. Lieutenant Colonel Lawson, an A-6 pilot, had been shot down over North Vietnam and subsequently rescued by a "Jolly Green Giant" of the 37th Acrospacc Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) flying from Da Nang.10 Coincidcn-tally, one of the 37th ARRS' detachments, redesignated the 40th ARRS in March 1968, had since moved to Nakhon Phanom, the home of USSAG* Another recent arrival at Nakhon Phanom was USSAG's new commander, Lieutenant General JohnJ. Burns, USAF. On l September 1974, the same day he pinned on
*0n 16 January 1967, Detachment 2, 37th ARRS was organized and assigned (o Udorn, Thailand, to rescue downed pilots in Laos and North Vietnam. In March 1968 the Air Force redesignated it the 40th ARRS and on 21 July 1971 moved the squadron to Nakhon Phanom.
Page 59(The Bitter End)