[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Capt Russell R. Thurman. USMC (Ret). Members of
Company G, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines return from Saigon to
USS Vancouver on 30 April. They had rein force d security
at the Embassy during Operation Frequent Wind.]
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BLT 1/9, joined them with his landing zone control team, bringing the total
Marine complement at the Embassy to 171.45
This team assisted in the landing and loading of the CH-46s, the first of which
touched down in the zone at about 1700. Additionally, CH-53s began landing
in the small and very confined Embassy parking lot. Late that afternoon. Ambassador
Martin had authorized the removal of a large tree which had been obstructing
helicopter access to that area of the compound.*
The landing situation at the Embassy gradually deteriorated as daylight receded.
The groups of Vietnamese in and around the Embassy grew in size and aggressiveness
as their chances for escape diminished. Restricted deck space to load passengers,
small landing zones, hostile fire, poor communications, and darkness did nothing
to make the Marines' job any easier.46
Exactly the opposite situation existed at Tan Son Nhut. With the evacuation at the DAO Compound proceeding swiftly and flawlessly, General Carcy decided at about 1730 to extract the 3d Platoon, Company C of BLT 1/9. Inserted on 25 April to assist the Marine Security Guard at the compound in maintaining security and control, the 3d Platoon, led by First Lieutenant Bruce P. Thompson-Bowers, had borne the brunt of the rocket and artillery fire directed at the compound on the evening of the 28th and the early morning of the 29th.47 Yet despite the intensity of the attack Lieutenant Thompson-Bowers' platoon had suffered no casualties.
Mindful of the inherent dangers and the political and military implications of augmenting the American security force with additional Marines, the MAB had sought higher approval. As a consequence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the Ambassador's expressed agreement, authorized the insertion of a platoon of
*Opinions vary on the conduct at the Embassy on 29 April concerning preparations of the landing zone. General Smith offered his thoughts: "I wonder if the Ambassador was the authority for cutting down the Baobab tree in the Embassy courtyard. I believe it was otherwise and the tree was cut down in the morning or early afternoon and not necessarily by Marines." Smith Comments. Admiral Stecle remembered it somewhat differently: "Ambassador Martin's unrealistic attitude towards the evacuation is exemplified in the delay in his personal authorization to cut down the tree in the Embassy compound (hat prevented helicopter access. Having failed to initiate the evacuation in a timely way so that the majority of evacuees could be taken from Tan Son Nhut Airfield as the plan envisioned, the Ambassador still was not taking (hose actions large and small necessary to facilitate matters. " The Seventh Fleet commander added that he "had been urgently recommending that the evacuation occur two days earlier than it did because of the approach of North Vietnamese forces, and on the 27th the forecast of bad weather which could obstruct or prevent flight operations." Stccle Comments.
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