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[Image
1: Photo courtesy
of Capt Russell
R. Thurman,
USMC (Ret).
Members of
the press evacuate
Saigon on Marine
CH-53s via
the DAO compound.
Many refused
to board the
DAO buses at
the way stations
and had to
be reminded
that Ambassador
Martin had
given the order
for all Americans
to leave South
Vietnam.]

Page 179(The Bitter End)


later. Colonel Eugene R. "Pat" Howard, Jr., the officer General Smith had chosen to oversee all evacuation matters for the DAO, entered the building referred to as "the bunker" and confirmed their predictions. He said that he had just talked with the Defense Attache and received instructions to begin preparations to execute the surface evacuation of Saigon. Colonel Howard, Major Jaime Sabater, Jr., Captain George Perry, and Captain Anthony A. Wood reviewed their earlier activities, and noted that convoy buses had been prestagcd throughout metropolitan Saigon at buildings designated as pick-up points, American civilians, fully trained to drive those buses, were standing by in town at the way stations, and the drivers of the fake national police cars along with their guides awaited only the word to depart.


Within two hours. Captain Wood, his driver-a Marine lance corporal, and his radio operator-a Marine sergeant, were "riding the trails" of Saigon, checking on Santa Fe, Oregon, Texas, and the rest of the routes. His presence as a coordinator in downtown Saigon facilitated communications and placed a member of the DAO staff at the scene of the action. The PRC-25 radios, used by the evacuees waiting on the rooftops for the arrival of the Air America helicopters, came in loud and clear as long as no large building blocked their line-of-sight transmission. As a result. Captain Wood depended on the Motorolas to monitor the


progress of the convoys because they were the only radios which consistently worked in the built-up areas of the city. Captain Wood's presence in downtown Saigon on 29 April helped to enhance the effectiveness of the bluff, but more importantly, it permitted him to iroubleshoot problems as they arose. This part of the plan worked so well that the DAO successfully cycled the convoys through Saigon - not the hoped for one time, but three times. As the "Wagonmaster" rode the streets of Saigon, monitoring the radio and checking on the progress of each trail, he encountered several incidents necessitating quick action. The first problem requiring attention occurred on the Santa Fe trail when a few members of the press refused to board the bus and Captain Wood had to remind them that the Ambassador had ordered all Americans to leave Saigon. After resolving this problem, the convoy's bus driver subsequently made a wrong turn and became lost in the crowded streets of downtown Saigon. Although unfamiliar with that part of the city. Captain Wood eventually got the convoy on the right road to Tan Son Nhut. The second happened on the Oregon trail when Captain Wood received a request to pick up the Ambassador's dog. The final and most difficult problem arose when the South Vietnamese guarding the main gate at Tan Son Nhut refused to








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