[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo
CH-53s in LZ
lot. The 9th
and 4,475 Vietnamese
the last shortly
Page 197(The Bitter End)
Marines. Its safe evacuation on the evening of 29 April successfully concluded
the effort to bolster DAO security.48
Shortly thereafter. General Carey directed that the remaining elements guarding the Annex be withdrawn (at 1930) to the Alamo where the last of the evacuees would await their flight. Once completed, the new defensive perimeter encompassed LZ 36 and the Alamo. Less than an hour later, the Marines at the DAO loaded their last group of evacuees, bringing the total evacuated to 395 Americans and 4,475 Vietnamese and third-country nationals.49 Lieutenant Colonel Jim Bolton said it went so smoothly that his only concern was not enemy fire, but running into another helicopter.* He said, "I told all of my pilots to turn on their lights to help avoid a mid-air collision."50
At 2250, with the evacuation of the landing control teams from the Annex and Alamo completed, General Carey ordered the withdrawal of the ground security forces from the DAO Compound. Just after midnight (0030) on 30 April, thermite grenades, having been previously placed in selected buildings, ignited as two CH-53s left the DAO parking lot. These helicopters carried the last elements of BLT 2/4, including Captain McManus and Master Sergeant East, the EOD Marines.** Between the time of their departure and the Marines' arrival on Okinawa (at 0046), enemy fire directed at the DAO buildings more than doubled. The evacuation of personnel from the compound had lasted nine hours and involved over 50 Marine Corps and Air Force helicopters.51
Prior to leaving the DAO, General Carey talked on the phone with Ambassador Martin and learned that, for unknown reasons, the flow of helicopter traffic had ebbed. The general attempted, through various channels, to ascertain the reason for what amounted to only a trickle of helicopters arriving at the Embassy. Before relinquishing command of the compound forces to Colonel Gray, General Carey determined that if the flow of helicopters was reestablished, the evacuation could be completed in a relatively short time. To insure security at the Embassy until the conclusion of the evacuation. General Carey decided to use platoons from BLT 1/9 as ground security forces in reserve. At times, they were even sent aloft as hcliteams with orders to reinforce the ground security force at the Embassy, but each time, at the last possible moment, they received word to return to the ship. (The last such incident occurred at 0530 on the 30th.)52
*Major Guilmanin, the Air Force HH-53 pilot on Midway, recalled: "I saw numerous '55s' running blacked-out and in order to be seen, I had my wingman. Captain Vernon Sheffield (the only other HH-53 helicopter commander involved in Frequent Wind), turn on. as I had. his top anti-collision lights while leaving the lower lights off so as to avoid an SA-7 lock-on." Guilmanin Comments.
**These Marines along with Major Sabatcr and Captain Petty spent many of their last hours in the DAO compound burning some of the 13 million dollars that had arrived earlier that month. Colonel Taylor said, "The EOD duo with the Advance Command Element also destroyed three barrels of money at (he DAO Compound." Taylor Comments. Captain Wood recalled: "When l returned from Saigon with the last convoy around 1800, Major Sabatcr and Captain Pctry were burning money as fast as they could shovel it onto the fire." Wood Comments.
Page 197(The Bitter End)