Page 202



[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Capt
Russell R. Thurman,
USMC (Ret). Five
of the last 11
Marines to leave
South Vietnam
arrive on board
the USS Okinawa
prior to 0830
on 30 April.
Seen exiting
the helicopter
are Sgt Terry
Bennington followed
by Cpl Stephen
Q. Bauer.]

[Image
2: Photo courtesy
of Capt
Russell R. Thurman,
USMC (Ret). Sgt
Philip A. Babel
exiting the helicopter.]

[Image 3: Photo
courtesy of Capt
Russell R. Thurman,
USMC (Ret). SSgt
Michael K. Sullivan
and Sgt Steven
T. Schuller exiting
the helicopter.]

Page 202(The Bitter End)


ing instantly to any airborne emergency and thus extended its options.66


Despite these losses, Operation Frequent Wind accomplished its purpose, the safe evacuation of American, Vietnamese, and third-country citizens from South Vietnam. It stands as the largest helicopter evacuation in history*. For the Marine Corps it meant 1,054 flight hours and 682 sorties, 34 of which belonged to Captain Gerry Berry. He logged the most hours, 18.3, in a 20 hour period, which reflected the operation's intensity and complexity. For its effort, HMH-463 received the Marine Corps Aviation Association's (MCAA) General Keith B. McCutcheon Award as the 1975 Helicopter Squadron of the Year. In addition, the MCAA chose Lieutenant Colonel James L. Bolton (HMH-462's commanding officer) as the 1975 Aviator of the Year and recipient of the Alfred A. Cunningham Award. Captain John B. Heffernan, one of Bolton's pilots, recently recalled his thoughts at the conclusion of the operation: "I will never forget one minute of this incredible flying experience. I was lucky to be here." Surely, the 1,373 Americans and 5,595 non-American evacuees agreed that they too were lucky to be there, on American ships.67




*Major General Norman W. Gourlcy. commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft
Wing, later recounted his assessment of the operation. "I spent 36 years in
the Marine Corps; fought WW II in Corsairs: the Korean War a5 a night fighter
pilot flying F-7Fs and F-3Ds; and the Vietnam War flying F-4 Phantoms, l have
seen and heard of combat air operations which required all the talent, guts.
and nerve available. Never in the annals of flying, and l am including all
U.S. combat air operations of any war, have a group of pilots performed so
magnificently as the helicopter pilots who extracted those folks out of Saigon
in laic April, 1975. The term 'distinguished flying' fits each and even one.
These young helicopter tigers did it all-long hours in the cockpit, night
operations, terrible visibility and weather, being shot at-the bottom line
being 'mission completed.' they did their job. It is indeed unfortunate that
more recognition was not forthcoming to this group of Marine aviators." Gourlcy
Comments. Colonel Edward Pclosky, USA. a member of the DAO Staff evacuated
to the Vancouver, offered his appraisal of the operation: "My hat is off to
those individual planners and participants who got us out of Saigon. It was
a deliberate exercise pulled off with precision, confidence, and the great
skill of the aviators-a textbook version." Pelosky Comments.









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