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E Marines to the northern half of the zone while Captain Thomas A. Keene's Company F occupied the southern section. At the Annex, Captain William R. Melton moved his Company G Marines into the eastern section of a perimeter using a north-south axis. At the same time, Captain Steven R.. Bland's Company H assumed control of the western sector.35
As the number of refugees decreased, so did the size of the zone. Despite continuous adjustments in the perimeter resulting from the reconsolidations, BLT 2/4 attempted to incorporate the existing defensive features of the compound, including the bunkers and barbed wire entanglements.36
Originally, General Carey had intended to deploy a command group and a company from BLT 1/9 to the Air America Compound as additional landing zone security. However, after assessing the relative security of the two areas in the DAO Compound and consulting with Colonel Gray on the apparent success of the South Vietnamese defensive stand at Tan Son Nhut Airport, he decided to cancel the BIT 1/9 security mission. To insure effective command and control, General Carey remained in the compound.37
The evacuation of the DAO Compound continued like clockwork. When a helicopter arrived, the guides moved the evacuees from the staging areas directly to the ramps. Bending down as they approached the swirling rotor blades, the refugees then climbed on board the waiting CH-53 as the guides returned to the assembly area.
Aircraft loads varied in size depending upon the type of helicopter used. Besides those flown by the Marine Corps, the Air Force (USAF had eight CH-53Cs and two HH-53s deployed on the Midway) supplied 10 from its nearby bases in Thailand. Each model's load capacity (a factor of its internal configuration), adjusted for fuel, determined the number of evacuees that a particular helicopter could carry on that sortie. The landing zone marshals had to keep these factors uppermost in their minds as they prepared each load. Once a decision as to the number of passengers had been made, the marshals would then communicate that information to the guides. When loads exceeded the planned limit of 50, signals between guides and marshals became especially critical. Complicating everyone's ability to communicate was the helicopters' deafening rotor blade noise and their electronic interference with hand-held radios. This interference severely limited the marshals' ability to relay such important information as the size of the evacuee population. This particular data provided the landing zone controllers and the guides a general idea of how many more flights would be required to move the remaining evacuees. To be certain that the correct numbers reached the intended party, the marshals and the landing zone controllers used a colored signal paddle system to communicate. In addition, the controllers (Alamo controllers handled landing zones 36, 37, 38, and 39 while the Annex controller covered LZs 34 and 35) advised the marshals of the number of inbound helicopters and their estimated time of arrival. They also used this link to pass information about troop movements including the status of the Sparrow Hawk teams as well as the progress of the evacuation. The news of more flights headed toward the compound, when relayed to the refugees, significantly lowered their anxiety levels. Oftentimes, these people thought they had already witnessed the departure of the last helicopter. The calming effect this reassuring news had on the refugees definitely aided the Marines in maintaining order and control in the staging area.
Unfortunately, coordination and control of the overall embarkation operation suffered from more serious communication problems. Direct communications with Admiral Whitmire and 9th MAB Rear were sporadic, at best, requiring a continuous relay by the ABCCC (airborne C-130 equipped with several types of radios). Added to the already heavy traffic, these relays served to create confusion on the radios. One of the first instances of using the ABCCC to pass information from the DAO Compound (9th MAB) to 9th MAB Rear occurred when the ABCCC (Cricket) radioed that General Carey had reported at 1350 that he was ashore and in radio contact with his prospective operational commander, General Burns* About an hour before, the Annex and Alamo landing zone controllers had used the ABCCC to communicate their status, the weather, enemy activity, and landing zone conditions. Later in the operation, the controllers would have to repeat this unusual procedure in order to ensure that important data reached the commanders. The ABCCC eventually relayed to the task
*General Louis H. Wilson, Jr,, FMFPac commander during Operation Frequent Wind,
later remembered his concerns over the command relationship in USSAG's theater
of operations. According 10 General Wilson, "There was no clear passage of
command ashore, rherefore the naval chain of command continued to act as [hough
they were still in operational control. General Carey failed to officially
repon ashore or 'chop' to General Bums and a Marine has the responsibility
once he has established his command post ashore [o make a hard copy, reporting
for operational control to his new commander." Wilson Comments.
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