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blew off the aircraft, severing the flight control cables to the tail section. The crippled "Galaxy" crashed while attempting an emergency landing on Tan Son Nhut's runway 25L. USSAG reported to the JCS the pilot's valiant attempt to control the aircraft using only power and ailerons: "At approximately 2,000 feet, pilot saw that rate of descent was too fast and that with a frozen slab he could not reduce it. He applied full power but descent was not halted before impact with the ground. Few, if any, survived on lower deck while most on upper deck survived." This disaster, which counted only 176 survivors out of 314 passengers and only one from the original 37 escort volunteers, ended Operation Baby Lift and seriously affected the morale of the SPG and the remaining DAO staff.31


Within days of this accident, which occurred on 4 April, small groups of curious onlookers began to gather outside the large American installation, approaching in size the Pentagon itself, and known as "Pentagon East." The SPG recognized this activity as the first signs of a city starting to question its chances for survival and exploring the alternatives. In the next two weeks, these symptoms of decay accelerated to action as mothers starred tossing their babies over the fence to other South Vietnamese standing in the processing lines, and the DAO began what Captain Wood called "The mobile catch-a-baby drill."32


Many of the Vietnamese in the processing line at the DAO Annex were wives of Americans who worked in South Vietnam or had remained behind after their husbands' military tours of duty ended. Most of these women had never been officially registered, and now in a panicked state, they anxiously attempted to clear bureaucratic hurdles overnight. Captain Wood years later noted that by this time, the compound had started to look nasty because "We just did not have enough people to tend to the abandoned children, process the thousands of evacuees, maintain security, and carry out the daily functions which included keeping the facility clean. The bowling alley had been converted into a nursery and many C-141 flights carried pallets ofEn-famil and tons of diapers."33


In the midst of this growing unrest outside the gate, General Baughn decided the time had come to reinforce the DAO's security force and sent a message to that effect, requesting additional security guards. Upon seeing this official declaration of evacuation and security needs, the Ambassador directed the deputy defense attache to leave the country. As a result, future decisions concerning preparations of the DAO Compound for evacuation and security were kept secret from everyone save General Smith and his immediate evacuation planners. Captain Wood remembered the consequences: "From that moment forward everything to do with the evacuation went secret ('black') and the SPG went into deep cover-"34


The SPG's efforts soon took form as they used agency reports, taxi records, and some organizational assistance to collect data on the numbers and whereabouts of "third country nationals" in South Vietnam. Using these numbers, the group placed dots on a map of Saigon and then on top of those numbers superimposed private club membership records to arrive at a reasonably accurate picture of the locations from which these individuals would need to be evacuated. Applying that information along with the scant records of Americans still living in Saigon, Captain Wood was able to design both pickup points and surface evacuation routes to get these people to the "Alamo." He named these eight routes after pioneer trails in the American West. Names like Colorado, Oregon, Chisolm, Santa Fe, and Texas became part of the surface evacuation vocabulary. Captain Wood's choice of nomenclature for the surface routes prompted his fellow officers to dub him the "Wagonmaster," and for the duration of the operation that was his call sign35


To determine if evacuation routes, checkpoints, and plans met their needs, the planners required reliable data on the status of the evacuation population. Acquisition and update of this information posed a serious problem for the SPG because its normal sources were rapidly disappearing as agencies reduced their operations and limited services. Understaffed, with their infrastructure melting away, most organizations provided little or no help to the SPG in its effort to maintain an accurate picture of Saigon's American and other foreign nationals population. Recognizing these problems and using flight records of daily departures, the SPG determined the probable numbers needing surface evacuation would not exceed 5,000 and planned their logistics support with that goal in mind.


From this point, everything rested solely on support, both from American volunteers in Saigon and the supply system. The plan called for the use of DAO buses and 40 American Ibrds (former DAO vehicles) painted and equipped with blue police lights (flown in from California) to replicate perfectly the cars of Saigon's security police force. The black and white DAO buses escorted by the fake police cars would move through Saigon over the designated western-named trails and pick up all foreign nationals, Americans, and specified South Vietnamese who in the final hours had








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