[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Capt Russell R. Thurman, USMC (Ret). Last members
of the ground security force arrive on board the Okinawa after
midnight on 30 April. BIT 2/4 Marines provided perimeter security
at the DAO until the bitter end.]
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son said, "I learned from the Seventh Fleet commander
that the Marines had flown their maximum number of hours and therefore he was
stopping flight operations." Upon receiving this word which essentially meant that the Marines in Saigon would not be recovered, at least until first light. General Wilson took immediate action. He informed Admirals Gayler and Wcisner that he would prefer charges against any officer who ordered his Marine pilots to stop flying so long as there were Marines still on the ground in Saigon. General Wilson recalled, "If General Carey was damn angry, I was out of my mind. I told Admiral Gayler and Admiral Weisner on the phone, that there was no such thing as Marines not evacuating Marines. We do not understand that."56
The Air Force, also over their crew day (i.e. having flown in excess of the 12 hours allowed in one day), did not resume the airlift. Their eight CH-53s and two HH-53s shut down after the final sortie from the DAO Compound and did not launch again. The resumption of flight operations caught many of the Marine CH-53 pilots by surprise. As Lieutenant Colonel Bolton said, "I was on my way to my quarters when I received word to standby for the possible launch of my squadron's aircraft."57
By 0215, one CH-46 and one CH-53 were landing at the Embassy every 10 minutes. The Embassy at this point indicated that 19 more lifts would complete the evacuation.* As this number approached, General Carey notified Captain Gerald L. "Gerry" Berry, a HMM-165 pilot, that his CH-46 would extract Ambassador Martin. His instructions included the order to remain atop the Embassy building as long as necessary to load him. At 0458 on 30 April 1975 Captain Berry, in "Lady Ace 09," departed the Embassy helipad,
*Admiral Siccle offered his recollections of the nearly endless supply of evacuees
at the Embassy: "One thing not generally known is that Ambassador Martin was
attempting to get large numbers of Vietnamese evacuated from the Embassy.
It appeared to be a bottomless pit, and as our men and machines began to tire
I began prcssuring the Embassy to get all Americans and the Ambassador out.
I did not want him captured. The number three man in the Embassy arrived on
board the Blue Ridge and reported the Ambassador to be ill and exhausted.
Through loyalty to our Vietnamese colleagues, he was going to keep that evacuation
going indefinitely, and in my opinion, force it to keep going by not coming
out himself." Steele Comments.
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