Page 195


[Image 1: Marine Corps Historical Collection.This is an aerial
view of the American Embassy in Saigon. The Embassy was never
considered a primary helicopter evacuation site because it had
a rooftop zone which could handle nothing bigger than a CH-46.
]

Page 195(The Bitter End)




that an hour's heavy rain did not diminish them, kept the controllers alert
and aware of the ever-present danger of the advancing NVA. At 2205, one minute
shy of seven hours after the first extraction helicopter had arrived, the
controllers received word that their mission was complete* At that point,
they vacated the rooftop and proceeded to the DAO theater for extraction.
Control of the remaining operation at the compound shifted to BLT 2/4.41


All during this operation and for the duration of Frequent Wind, BLT 3/9 stood ready to back up BLT 2/4, serving as the MAB and RLT 4 battalion in reserve. On board the USS Denver (LPD 9), Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Loche and his battalion were prepared for any contingency, even an amphibious landing on Vung Tau Peninsula. In addition to planning for an amphibious assault on the beaches of Vung Tau, BLT 5/9 also provided two platoons for Sparrow Hawk missions. Although not used or inserted ashore in South Vietnam, BLT 3/9's presence as a ready reserve provided General Carey and his staff with the all important reassurance that they had a guaranteed source of reinforcements.42


Another group of Marines who contributed, but did not see direct action were the EA-6 pilots of Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron One (VMCJ-1). To provide electronic countermeasure capabilities, the commanding officer. Lieutenant Colonel William A. "Art" Bloomer, temporarily assigned two aircraft and three crews from the Midway to the Coral Sea for Operation Frequent Wind. Lieutenant Colonel Bloomer stated: "I sent three pilots, two ECM operators, and 14 support personnel to Coral Sea. From the time the operation commenced on 29 April at about 1500 hours until 0600 on the morning of 30 April this small group of Marines kept jamming radar signals identified with the Firecan radar that controlled the 37mm air defense weapons of the NVA. Major Marty Brush [Major Martin C. Brush] led this small contingent to the Coral Sea . . . [and] . . . their round-the-clock effort flying from an unfamiliar carrier deck." Their support typified the unsung contributions of the thousands of American military men who together made the evacuation of the DAO Compound and the American Embassy possible.43 The Embassy


Soon after BLT 2/4 arrived at the DAO Compound, the American Embassy notified General Carey that over 2,000 people needed to be evacuated from the Embassy. This came as a complete surprise since no one had planned for a major evacuation from this location. With a landing zone that could only accommodate one CH-53 and a rooftop that would hold only one CH-46 on its landing pad. General Carey ordered an immediate adjustment in the helicopters' assigned priorities. Cricket, the ABCCC, immediately started directing helicopter traffic to either the compound or the Embassy, depending on the helicopter's size and the space available at the Embassy Many of the Han-cock's 46s started launching approximately one hour before sunset to remove the ever growing crowd of Vietnamese refugees. This was to be the most demanding and time-consuming part of the entire operation.44


To provide additional security and assistance to the Marines already guarding the Embassy, General Carey removed three platoons (130 men) of BLT 2/4 from the DAO Compound and inserted them into the Embassy Compound between 1900 and 2100. These Marines assisted the Embassy guards in controlling the multiplying Vietnamese crowd. First Lieutenant John J. Maninoli, Jr., a forward air controller (FAC) from

 

*General Smith, the Defense Attache, remembered: "I departed with my staff
shortly after 2000 hours. I recall thai there were no evacuees subsequent
to then." Smith Comments. At the other end of his trip on Air Force helicopters,
General Smith was welcomed on board the Midu'Jy by Lieutenant Colonel William
A. "An" Bloomer, commanding officer of VMCJ-1. Lieutenant Colonel Bloomer
related: "The Defense Attache in Saigon. Major General Homer D. Smith, Jr.
USA. and his last remaining staff officers, including Lieutenant Colonels
Anthony Lukcman and William McKinsiry. were evacuated by Air Force helicopters
to Midway where myself and the Marines of VMCJ-1 made them feel at home with
the few remaining amenities." Bloomer Comments.









Page 195(The Bitter End)