Page 060

[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Col
Peter F. Anelc.
USMC (Ret).]

Page 60(The Bitter End)





his third star. General Burns replaced General O'Kccfe. Besides Burns' distinguished combat record as a veteran of 340 air missions in three wars, he also had participated in a major Cold War battle. During the 1958 confrontation with China over Formosa and the ensuing crisis, he and his entire squadron deployed to Okinawa to await further orders and combat if required. Those orders never came but those that did arrive in 1974 sent a well prepared and experienced General Burns into a similar crisis environment.11


In early December Lieutenant Colonel Lawson visited Nakhon Phanom in order to obtain a briefing from General Burns' staff on the state of the pending crisis in Cambodia. Conducting this visit shortly after joining the division, Lawson gained valuable insight into the command structure and USSAG's plan for the evacuation mission. By mid-December 1974, the new, fully briefed, Marine Corps Eagle Pull command clement needed only two more things: the order to go and the 31st MAU. The 31st MAU


Before the 31st MAU finally received the order to "go," it spent 25 months in training and waiting. Battalions joined the MAU and in many cases rejoined it before the call to evacuate finally came. Although only one battalion actually received the order to execute, all contributed. Those two years of waiting encompassed endless days of repetition, but also many hours of anticipation, concern, and preparation. It was during those hours that the Marines of the 31st MAU wrote all but the final chapter of the history of Operation Eagle Pull beginning in the spring of 1973.


During the period 17 April 1973 to 20 July 1973, the 31st MAU maintained Lieutenant Colonel Floyd A. Karker.Jr.'s BLT 1/4 on standby as a backup force for Eagle Pull. Even though the original requirement stated the need for only one company as an additional security force, all of Lieutenant Colonel Karker's companies were assigned a landing zone in Phnom Penh.12 The MAU was ashore at the base camp at Subic Bay. The amphibious ships that normally carried it and its assigned helicopter squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur B. Colbert's HMM-165, were involved in Operation Endsweep, a mine clearing mission being carried out in North Vietnamese waters as per the Paris Accords.


On 21 July 1973, with its ships and helicopter squadron inbound to Subic, the MAU was alerted for possible commitment to Operation Eagle Pull. Purely a precautionary measure, the alert's purpose was to ensure that General Vogt (ComUSSAG) had enough helicopters available. Five days later, General Ryan on orders from CinCPac directed Major General Frank C. Lang, the Commanding General, 1st MAW, to "flight


The soccer field at the university in Phnom Penh was one of the original primary landing zones. CH-53 pilots of31st MAU, /known as the "Eagle Pull Mix," expected to use this LZ,, Embassy LZ, or Colosseum LZ during late 1973 or early 1974, but Phnom Penh held.

 









Page 60(The Bitter End)