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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical
Collection This
is one of the
briefing maps
used for Operation
Frequent Wind. Along these routes were stationed
two airborne
CH-46s, each
with a 10-man, quick-reaction force on board designated
a "Sparrow Hawk" team.]

Page 188(The Bitter End)





"Blue Chip") controlled all aircraft "feet dry," over land. The on-scene, local control rested with the airborne mission commander (AMC). For the first six hours of the operation. Colonel John J. Roosma,Jr., USAF, served as the AMC. Located in an airborne C-130 designated the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC), he answered to the radio call sign of "Cricket."28


The commanding officer of ProvMAG 39, Colonel McLenon, exercised control of his Marine aircraft through the Tactical Air Coordination Center (TACC) on board the Blue Ridge. The Helicopter Direction Center, on board the Okinawa, maintained aircraft spacing and routing. It also passed directions to aircraft outbound from Saigon, informing them which deck space was available for unloading and refueling and relaying any other pertinent landing data. In addition, Admiral Whitmire designated the Okinawa as the primary control for over-water helo operations, with Hancock as backup should the Okinawa suffer damage or equipment failure.29


The primary difference between TACC and HDC was that TACC controlled the tactical disposition of the helicopters and HDC controlled the helicopters as long as they were in the Navy's airspace. These areas of responsibility often overlapped and at times even merged. Under the conditions existing on the morning of 29 April 1975, the difference in control responsibilities of TACC and HDC at best seemed blurred, at worst redundant.


To address flight safety, the 9th MAB staff prescribed altitudes, routes, and checkpoints for the operation. To avert mid-air collisions, the planners chose altitudes which would not only provide separation of traffic but also a capability to see and avoid the enemy's SAM and SA-7 missile threat (6,500 feet for flights inbound to Saigon and 5,500 feet for those outbound from Saigon to the Navy ships). In addition, these altitudes were high enough to avoid small arms and artillery fire. To further reduce the missile threat, HMH-462 painted its helicopters with infrared paint. HMH-463 had already painted its helicopters, but HMH-462 did not have an opportunity to modify its CH-53s until after the evacuation of Phnom Penh (reports had indicated an absence of SAMs in Cambodia). Despite all the concern over these obvious threats, the weather still remained the gravest danger.



At the beginning of the operation, pilots in the first wave reported the weather
as 2,000 feet scattered, 20,000 feet overcast with 15 miles visibility, except
in haze over Saigon, where visibility decreased to one mile. This meant that
scattered clouds existed below their flight path while a solid layer of clouds
more than two miles above their heads obscured the
sun. Additionally, the curtain of haze, suspended over Saigon, so altered
the diminished daylight that line of sight visibility was only a mile. The
weather conditions would deteriorate as the operation continued. Captain EdwardJ. "Jim" Ritchie, flying a MAG-36 CH-46 from the Hancock, recalled his first sortie into Saigon at approximately 1830: "The sky was completely overcast, meeting the ground in the distance with the lights of the city and the burning buildings reflecting off it, giving one the sensation that you were sec-ing a strange movie about the Apocalypse."30


Although all these factors, including the enemy's proximity to Saigon, had to be considered, General Carey never hesitated in making his decision to insert a battalion of Marines into the DAO Compound. Despite the unknown variables of size of crowds, numbers of refugees, degree of crowd control, and South Vietnamese military reaction. General Carey believed this was the appropriate show of force. With the size of the security contingent decided and his preparations complete, General Carey boarded a UH-1E








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