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began its mission by entering a hostile environment with no prior intelligence or reconnaissance, always facing thousands of armed and starving people. Immediately after boarding, the Marines had to secure the ship's vital areas, establish law and order, and then and only then, could they begin the humanitarian work. While the Pioneer Contender was an extreme case, all the MSC ships with refugees on board were in distress. Each security force entered its respective ship prepared for combat with the armed refugees already on board. The expected deadly confrontation between the Marines and the evacuees never materialized, but the ever-present threat constantly demanded the security force's attention. In order to preserve human life and avoid major casualties, a delicate balance had to be established quickly through a prompt and solid show offeree, tempered by good judgement and restraint. The first few hours on board each ship were the most critical and, as a consequence, the platoon commanders relied heavily on the expertise of the interrogator-translators. These highly trained Marines were responsible for communicating to the refugees the Marines' purpose. Having accomplished this, the interpreters then identified refugee leaders who could provide information on the internal situation, status of food, medical attention required, and potential troublemakers. Armed with this knowledge, the Marines then could respond more effectively to the evacuees.


The chaotic state of affairs in which the Marines of the Amphibious Evacuation RVN Support Group often found themselves was best reflected in Captain Bushcy's diary entry of early April: "The scene here is tragic. There arc thousands of people fleeing before the North Vietnamese. Many are being picked up by boat but as they are being evacuated, they have no

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