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[Image 1: Photo
courtesy
of Col Anthony
A. Wood, USMC. Capt
Anthony A.
Wood, seen here as a lieutenant
colonel, helped
devise the
evacuation routes used to move third-country nationals
from
downtown Saigon
to the DAO.
Since he named
the routes
after western trails, fellow officers dubbed him the 'Wagonmaster.']

Page 178(The Evacuation )


size=5>CHAPTER 11

size=5>The Evacuation

9th MAB-The

DAO Compound-The Embassy

On Monday morning, 28 April, Major

James E. Livingston, RLT 4 operations officer, and Major Morris W. 'Moose'

Lutes, ProvMAG-39 executive officer, climbed on board an Air America helicopter

bound for the DAO Compound. One of the numerous daily shuttles flown by Air

America to enable the 9th MAB to conduct evacuation preparations at the DAO

without exceeding the Paris Accords' limit of a maximum of 50 military personnel

in South Vietnam, this flight carried Livingston and Lutes into Tan Son Nhut for

a liaison visit with the DAO evacuation planners. Their mission that day

included a review of the evacuation plan and a reconnaissance of the DAO, Air

America Compound, the Embassy, and the Newport Pier area. Earlier in the week

Lieutenant Colonel William E. McKinstry, the officcr-in-charge of the Evacuation

Control Center (located in his office in the DAO building), had accompanied

Colonel Alfred M. Gray, Jr., the regimental commander, on a similar

reconnaissance.'

Ambassador Graham A. Martin had

instructed Major General Homer D. Smith, Jr., USA, that he did not want to

exceed the '50' limit and as a consequence he expected every visitor to return

to the task force no later than midnight each day. This restriction placed a

tremendous burden on the Air America pilots who were tasked with providing

transportation in the unfamiliar circumstances of night shipboard operations.

Despite their lack of experience and expertise in landing on a ship at night,

these pilots displayed remarkable skill and courage in safely delivering their

passengers. Due to the high demand for outbound seats, on occasion visitors

would be bumped from a flight and forced to remain overnight. On the evening of

28 April, a Vietnamese general and an Army colonel acquired the scats that

Majors Livingston and Lutes planned to use to return to the Blue Ridge, forcing

them to remain in the DAO Compound overnight. That evening, the NVA subjected

Tan Son Nhut and the adjoining 'Pentagon East' to a rocket attack, launching a

series of events which ended with the decision the next morning to execute

Operation Frequent Wind. Major Livingston, still in the compound as a result of

his involuntary stay, talked by radio with his commander, Colonel Gray, and

provided him a firsthand account of the situation in the DAO. He also made

recommendations as to the size of the force necessary to secure the landing

zones for the impending operation.2

Very early the next morning,

approximately 0500 29 April, in a room behind an unmarked door, three officers

met and discussed the preceding night's events. Having just returned from their

individual trailers where they had stolen a couple of hours of sleep, these

members of the Special Planning Group (SPG) concluded that today would be 'the

day.' A few minutes

 





Page 178(The Evacuation )