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tion into his planning, General Carey visited South Vietnam. The major purpose of his trip on 13 April was reconnaissance. In the helicopter, he took with him the 35d MAU commander. Colonel Alfred M. Gray. During his stay, he talked with the Defense Attache, General Smith, and the CinCPac Saigon representative, Rear Admiral Hugh G. Benton, USN. General Carey also visited the Embassy and was given a very short but formal audience with Ambassador Martin. The Ambassador tactfully avoided any detailed discussion of the impending evacuation, merely explaining that all operations would be conducted from the DAO where General Smith would coordinate and that Martin's plan called for him to leave the Embassy with a small group of Marines at a time to be determined by him. Years later, General Carey recalled that meeting with Ambassador Martin: "During our discussion he instructed me to coordinate through my appropriate military channels for detailed evacuation information. The visit was cold, non-productive and appeared to be an irritant to the ambassador."7


General Carey's other stops on 13 April included the DAO/Air America Compound, Tan Son Nhut Airfield, the Newport Pier, and various LZ's throughout Saigon. While enroute to and from Saigon, he recon-noltered the Vung Tau Peninsula. Although relatively short, this trip provided the MAB commander a first-hand view of the Saigon situation and valuable information for future decision-making.8


The Restructured 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade


General Carey's trip to Saigon and the 9th MAB's liaison efforts coincided with the slowing of the North Vietnamese Army's advance toward Saigon. As General Van Tien Dung, the Chief of Staff of the North Vietnamese Army later noted, the army's campaign headquarters became concerned that the offensive might bog down and miss its opportunity to capture Saigon before the end of April:


We worried in particular about the 10th Division, which Stili was in ihe Cam Ranh area and still faced enemy troops along their route into Eastern Nam Bo. With the long difficult road they had co travel, we did not know if [hey would be able to get down within the appointed time period.9


By 15 April, with the North Vietnamese offensive Stalled and the 18th ARVN Division successfully defending Xuan Loc and Highway 1's eastern entrance to Saigon, the tactical situation in South Vietnam stabili2cd, giving the impression that the new defensive perimeter had successfully checked the enemy's advance. In truth, the Communists had outrun their supply lines, but the United States did not know that. As a result. Task Force 76 requested and received permission to return to Subic Bay for much-needed repairs. The evacuation of refugees by Navy vessels had been suspended and activity on Military Sealift Command shipping was at a lull. Moving away from the South Vietnamese coast at this rime was a calculated, but necessary risk. With the brigade returning to Subic Bay, General Hoffman decided to reorganize the 9th MAB.10


On 17 April, General Hoffman directed that the 9th MAB combine its ground units into a regimental landing team and its squadrons into a provisional air group. To this organization would be added a brigade logistic support group (BLSG). That evening, shortly after arriving in Subic, the task force received news that the NVA had renewed its offensive. Orders to get underway accompanied that update. On 18 April, the III MAF commander flew down to Subic to see his restructured brigade leave for South Vietnam. Colonel Wylte W. Taylor, the commanding officer of the 9th Marines, accompanied him on the trip. General Hoffman had assigned him to the brigade as its deputy commander. Colonel Taylor was to head the advance command element of the 9th MAB, scheduled to fly to Saigon to be the on-the-sccne "eyes and ears" of the brigade."


General Carey believed such an arrangement was essential for coordination and mission success. He also decided that the brigade would be better served if they had a representative in Nakhon Phanom on General Burns' staff* He chose his plans officer, Major Richard K. Young, to fill the role of liaison between USSAG and 9th MAB. On 18 April as the aircraft carrying General Hoffman, Colonel Taylor, and the advance command element from Okinawa taxied up to the Cubi Point passenger terminal, another aircraft 1,200 miles to the west landed at Nakhon Phanom. Stepping onto the tarmac, one of its passengers, Major "Keith" Irbung began a two-week stay at USSAG Headquarters during which he continuously passed information to General Carey via the DAO Compound and the Blue Ridged


*Due to difficulty in pronouncing its name correctly, most visitors to Nakhon Phanom called it NKP, the letters emitted in Morse code by the airfield's main navigational aid, its TACAN- Each TA-CAN had its own set of identifying letters which distinguished it from all others in the region and when collocated with an airfield described that airport as well.








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