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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo
(USMQA150966.
VNAF C-1^0 burns
from hit by NVA
rocket on 29
April. The assault
forced Ambassador
Martin to halt,
then cancel,
fixed-wing evacuation
and take Frequent
Wind Option IV.]


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Before dawn on the next day, at 0358, the Communists launched another rocket attack. They directed this one at Tan Son Nhut, sending a reminder to General Minh that they had no intentions of negotiating a settlement. The deadly rocket barrage marked the beginning of the final offensive. Two of the first rockets slammed into a checkpoint just outside the DAO's main gate, killing instantly the two Marines manning it. Corporal Charles McMahon.Jr., ofWoburn, Massachusetts, and Lance Corporal Darwin D. Judge of Marshalltown, Iowa, became the first two casualties of Operation Frequent Wind and the last two Marines to die on the ground in South Vietnam. At the airfield itself, confusion reigned as three Air Force C-130s. part of the just resumed fixed-wing evacuation, attempted to depart Tan Son Nhut and escape the enemy fire. General Smith temporarily halted the evacuation and called the Ambassador.18


Shortly after the attack, many South Vietnamese pilots, following orders from their superiors, departed Tan Son Nhut for safe haven in Thailand. Leaving the airfield in haste, a number of them jettisoned bombs and external fuel tanks on the runway. With the airfield littered with debris and abandoned equipment and aircraft threatened by roving bands of ARVN soldiers. General Smith encouraged Ambassador Martin to cancel the fixed-wing evacuation scheduled for that day. The Ambassador then made a personal visit to General Smith's headquarters to assess the damage. General Smith recently recalled that meeting: "Ambassador Martin actually came out to my headquarters and received a briefing from the USAF officers who had come over from the airfield. It was after this briefing that he decided to fall off his position to continue the fixed-wing evacuation and so he informed the Secretary of State from my headquarters immediately thereafter. This set in motion officially the rotary-wing evacuation."19


After his meeting with General Smith, Ambassador Martin returned to the Embassy and made his decision. When the Ambassador picked up the secure phone in his office and called Secretary of State Kis-singcr, he officially relinquished control of the evacuation of South Vietnam. In less than 20 minues, it became a military operation. At 1051 29 April 1975, USSAG passed the word to execute Frequent Wind's Option IV.20


Sun Tzu, the great Chinese warrior and philosopher, had preached to his military disciples: "The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities when there

 








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