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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical
Collection A Marine CH-55 navigates to Saigon by following
the Saigon River towards its source. Most deadly
obstacle to safe
flight was local weather which could not be controlled nor
predicted.]

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had caused a problem in creating a workable refueling schedule. The planners
determined that if in their calculations they limited changes in the ships'
location in the South China Sea, cycle rate variances would be eliminated,
and they could obtain a realistic estimate for turnaround time. To accomplish
this, the planners averaged the sum of the anticipated, modified locations
and arrived at a point of origin which when combined with the assumed use
of the farthest evacuation site (DAO Complex) produced a cycle rate of 90
minutes. With this factor in hand, the planners knew the fueling limits of
their helicopters and then devised a viable refueling plan. With this issue
resolved, the staff turned its attention to the next critical element, deck
availability. The potentially large number of evacuees dictated the use of
the largest helicopter in the Marine Corps inventory, the CH-53. By using
all the helicopter-capable ships in the task force, the planners could count
on 30 CH-53 landing spots. This became even more complicated when additional
options were added to the original plan, requiring in each change more security
forces or at least a new combination of forces.21


As a result of these changes, the increased number of security forces had to be distributed among the amphibious ships. Even though separated, they still would have to maintain as much tactical unit integrity as possible with the expectation that prior to L-Hour, extensive crossdecking and repositioning would reunite them. The amount of movement in the crossdecking phase would depend on the option selected. The option also would determine the number of helicopters needed. Additional Forces, Plans, and Liaison


In addition to the movement of HMH-463 from Hawaii on board the Hancock, CinCPac also tasked USSAG to provide transport helicopters, both HH-53s, the rescue version, and CH-53s. General Burns directed the 3d Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group to send to the Midway two HH-53s, call sign "Jolly," and also the 56th Special Operations Wing to provide eight CH-53s. Upon their arrival at Utapao, Air Force Colonel LoydJ. AndersJr., USSAG/Seventh Air Force's representative for the mission (executive agent), assumed responsibility for these aircraft. The following day, 20 April 1975, Colonel Anders sent the Air Force helicopters on to the Midway. Two of the CH-53s, call sign "Knife," aborted that morning and the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (40th ARRS), which had spares airborne (HH-53s), replaced them with two HH-53s, making the Midway complement six CH-53s and four HH-53s.22








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