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[Image 1: Marine Corps Historical
Collection LtCol John I. Hopkins, pictured here as a major general, was in
Phnom Penh
from late January to April. He was a member of the Military Equipment Delivery
Team Cambodia responsible for supporting and supplying the Cambodian government
and its army.]

Page 107(The Bitter End)





Colonel Batchelder's command group departed Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, at 0520 on 7 February on board a Navy T-39 aircraft, arriving at Nakhon Phanom at 1235 the same day. In addition to Colonel Batchclder and Lieutenant Colonel Lawson, the party included Major George L. Cates, III MAF liaison officer, and First Lieutenant James L. O'Ncill, landing zone control team officer. The group brought with it PRC-75 and -77 radios and one piece of special equipment, a glide angle indicator light (GAIL). The GAIL was designed to enable helicopter pilots to land under conditions of reduced visiblity by adjusting their rate of descent and approach angle to a glide path indicated by the lights. The remainder of the command element, six Marine communicators carrying additional communications equipment, arrived at Nakhon Phanom on board a Marine KC-130 the next day. Shortly after arrival, an Air Force medic augmented the command element to provide a degree of medical assistance and expertise.18


While Batchelder's command clement continued its preparations, the ARG, less the Peona, began maneuvers off the coast of South Vietnam. On 20 February, the 31st MAU, with participating elements of BLT 2/4 and HMH-462, conducted HeliLEx 1-75. Designed to test HMH-462's ability to execute a helicopter employment and landing table (HEALT) specifically developed by Colonel Roche and his staff, this exercise produced excellent results and provided valuable experience. Based upon HMH-462's performance and its successful execution of the HEALT, the 31st MAU adopted the same helicopter employment and landing table for use in Operation Eagle Pull.19


Thinking that the Cambodian Government would at least weather the immediate crisis, the mining of the river. Admiral Stecle relaxed the response time. On 22 February, he directed the Eagle Pull forces to assume a 96-hour posture. This permitted the amphibious ready group to return to Subic for minor repairs and replenishment and meet its LST, the Peona.


The respite, however, was shortlived. In less than a week, as the fortunes of the Khmer Republic went from bad to worse, the response time was dramatically reduced. Effective 28 February, Amphibious Ready Group Alpha assumed a readiness posture of 24 hours which required a significant modification to its operating area, basically restricting it to the Gulf of Thailand. (These modified locations of the operating area acquired-the acronym MODLOC.) For the ensuing 43 days, the Marines of the 31st MAU and the sailors of ARG Alpha became intimately familiar with the term "MODLOC liberty" while the USSAG staff in Nakhon Phanom, when not preparing for the evacuation, pulled liberty in the "ville." Admiral Stcele recalled his concerns with "MODLOC liberty": "It was a continuing worry to me that we had a MAU/ARG going in circles awaiting the execution of Eagle Pull. The amphibious ships were not designed to have so many active young men embarked for such a long time. The Marines needed exercise ashore whether that meant a liberty port or a training exercise. I kept pressing these considerations on all concerned."20



Although permitted liberty, the Marines in Nakhon Phanom found little time for recreation. They faced the demanding and time-consuming task of refining, in concert with their Air Force counterparts, the operational plans for both a helicopter and a fixed-wing evacuation of Phnom Penh. Although excellent in concept and thorough in preparation, the original plan lacked the details to make it completely current. During the draft stages as many as 18 separate courses of action were outlined for helicopter lifts alone. When








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