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of the four amphibious ships and serve under the operational control of the ship's commanding officer. Its mission would be to provide internal security for the ship and to assist in evacuee processing and administration. Initial Operations in Vietnamese Waters
On 2 April 1975, the Frederick and the Durham joined the Blue Ridge and the Dubuque off the coast of Nha Trang. That same day, the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized the embarkation of Marine security forces on board Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships for purposes of security and assistance in refugee processing.*8
At the time of issuance of the authority to embark Marines on MSC ships, the Navy/Marine Corps force was preparing to use Colonel Alexander's Marines on Navy ships in the recovery and evacuation of refugees fleeing South Vietnam's coastal dries. Soon they would have to shift gears to respond to the newest directive, but for the immediate future, the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines prepared themselves for evacuation duty on the amphibious ready group's ships.**
Labeled as Security Forces "Alpha" through "Delta," which matched their Marine Corps' designations, the rifle companies were distributed as follows;
Security Force 'A" (Captain Harry Jensen, Jr.), Durham Security Force "B" (Captain Robert T. Hickinbotham), Frederick Security Force "C" (Captain Maurice O. V. Green). Dubuque Security Force "D" (Captain Walter J. Wood). Blue Ridge
The Marine companies were reinforced by special evacuation teams including detachments ofMP's, engineers, counterintelligence personnel, and interrogator-translators. Each attachment had a specific mission: the military policemen provided expertise in crowd control, searching procedures, and the movement of refugees once on board ship; the engineers aided in demolitions location and destruction; the counterintelligence personnel provided expertise on how to counter any sabotage and single out individuals suspected of being terrorists; and the Vietnamese interrogator-translator enabled communication with the refugees and, if necessary or desired, interviews.***
Once on board their assigned ships, the company commanders met with their respective ship's captains and formulated a plan for the embarkation, searching, and moving of refugees, and for the overall security of the ship. Each plan had unique characteristics, specifically tailored to fit the peculiarities of the ship. The threat of sabotage was very real and therefore these plans were in detail - specifying restricted areas on the ship, refugee billeting areas, screen and search areas, and movement routes. These detailed plans encompassed all of the varied methods of embarking evacuees.
Marines and sailors hastily trained to prepare for the anticipated mass of humanity. Crowd control, evacuation procedures, and a Vietnamese orientation course occupied the Marines' time on board ship. Counterintelligence personnel briefed Marines in the problems of identifying and neutralizing saboteurs. The interrogator-translator team gave a quick Vietnamese language orientation course. Key Navy and Marine Corps officers and senior enlisted men made walkthroughs of the evacuation chain. The versatile printing section on board the Blue Ridge reproduced thousands of signs in Vietnamese composed by the 17th
"Admiral Steele recalled that this decision was not reached without considerable effort after most in authority, other than those in the Western Pacific, had overlooked the disorder embarking evacuees could wreak on an unguarded MSC ship: "I immediately objected to the continued operarional control by the MSC command of these ships in a combat zone and strongly recommended that Marines be embarked. It was not until after horror stories began ro come from the civilian masters about what was happening on these ships, and many urgent recommendations on the part of Seventh Fleet and CinCPacFlt, plus actual seizure of a ship by onboard evacuees, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff finally responded," Steele Comments,
**Major Carl A. Shaver, the operations officer for BIT 1/4, remembered in detail the events of 2 April 1975 when. while underway, Lieutenant Colonel Hester and he hosted an operational meeting of the battalion staff members embarked on the Dubuque. His recollections reveal the embarked Marines' perspective on the ongoing events: "It was the general consensus of everyone present that the refugee evacuation assignment was only an intermediary mission. Obviously with all the men, money, and materials that had been poured into the war effort, it was inconceivable thai the U.S-would stand idly by and allow the South Vietnamese government to lose significant amounts of real estate. Additionally, with the daily buildup of shipping and Marine combat capabilities in the area it was reasonable to assume thar any immediately available Marine units could become involved in an offensive effort. Finally after approximately two hours it was time to terminate the meeting and allow various attendees to board Mike boats for transport to the ships to which they had been assigned. I closed the meeting by reminding everyone of the requirement to be innovative and creative, in executing a refugee evacuation mission of such large magnitude and one with no realistic existing precedent." Shaver Comments.
***Major James E , Livingston, operations officer for the Amphibious Evacuation RVN Support Group, recently recalled: "The engineers during the RVN Evacuation Force operations were uri-lized to conduct metal screening of Vietnamese for weapons and explosives. They utilized these (crude but effective) detectors very effectively in support of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines detachments charged with ship security." Livingston Comments.
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