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rincs might have had under the circumstances existing on the Greenville Victory^ the decision not to allow them to escort additional refugees appeared to have substantial merit. Without another opportunity to return to the consulate, the history of the Marine Security Guard Detachment, Da Nang officially ended at 0330, 28 March 1975. The evacuation of Da Nang ceased at 1930 on Easter Sunday. The National Military Command Center reported, "As of 3011302, Military Sealift Command has suspended evacuation operations because of unsafe conditions. SS Pioneer Contender and three tugs departed Da Nang at 501130Z." Actually the American Challengers'^, still picking up any refugees who could escape by small craft on the first of April. At this time the estimate of refugees evacuated from Da Nang by sea stood at approximately 70,000.24


While the last remnants of the Vietnamese Marine Corps' defenders of Da Nang attempted to escape by sea from the advancing North Vietnamese Army, the U.S. Marines being loaded in ARG Bravo shipping in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, still thought that Da Nang was their destination. As the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines embarked on the Dubuque, word of Da Nang's capture altered the battalion's orders and in effect changed its organization and mission. This occurred in a matter of six hours on Easter Sunday morning, 30 March, via messages from the JCS to Admiral Whit-mire and from him to III MAF and 33d MAU. The change placed Colonel Alexander in charge of a force whose duties would entail maintaining order and discipline on evacuation shipping. With the change in orders, the Marines who left Buckner Bay that Easter Sunday eventually received the official title of Amphibious Evacuation RVN Support Group as a result of the nature of their mission-to render assistance and support to the Republic of Vietnam in the rescue and relocation of its refugees. Bound for the coastal region between Qui Nhon and Nha Trang, the amphibious ready group arrived off the coast of Khanh Hoa Province on 2 April 1975, just in time to start rescuing the evacuees of Nha Trang and the thousands of refugees from Military Region 2.*25 Military Region 2: Nha Trong


Having forced the South Vietnamese to effect disastrous withdrawals from Pleiku and Kontum earlier in the month, the North Vietnamese Army remained relatively inactive until the end of March. All of that changed when the Communists focused their energies on Binh Dinh Province and its defenders, the ARVN 22d Division. The initial pressure on the 22d came from the highlands, but after Quang Ngai Province fell on 27 March, the Communist forces there turned their attention south to Binh Dinh and Qui Nhon. The resultant effect pitted the 22d Division against a force more than double its original size. At this point, amidst the confusion created by sappers attacking its rear area, the division chose to withdraw to Qui Nhon rather than stand and fight. By the end of March, the retreating 22d Division had but one goal, evacuation by sea.26


Nha Trang was in no better shape. An attempt to defend it ended when the 3d Airborne Brigade, in a blocking position astride Highway 21, was outflanked. The survivors withdrew to the city down Route 21. Nha Trang was by this time near self-induced chaos, and with the unannounced desertion of its defense by senior commanders who fled by helicopter, "everyone ran."27


As April began, with the exception of the two southeastern provinces of II Corps (Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan), the Communists were in control of all of Military Regions l and 2. Military efforts to anticipate events in MR 2 fell short as the NVA raced to the coast. An intelligence report on the 1st of April predicted the collapse of Nha Trang within the next two to seven days. That same day Admiral Gayler directed that a helicopter-capable ship move within one mile of Nha Trang for possible rescue operations. Neither message would have any value by the time it reached the addressee.28


The date of Gayler's message and the date of the intelligence report, l April 1975, was a day Nha Trang's Consul General Moncrieff Spear and the Marines guarding him would not soon forget. For that Tuesday morning, the sounds of NVA artillery awakened them. Although still many miles from Nha Trang, the Communists were informing the Americans that they would arrive in Nha Trang well before the intelligence experts' prediction of "two to seven days." Based on the sound of the concussions, it appeared that the forecast should have indicated hours instead of days. Staff Sergeant Roger F. Painter and his five Marines knew that the distant enemy fire meant the city would be under siege before day's end, and in all probability they would have to evacuate in the next day or two. After a phone conversation with the Embassy, Consul General Spear relayed to the Marines




*For more information on the Amphibious Evacuation RVN Support Group's operations, see Chapter 6.








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