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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) 1165064. Grande Island sits just west
of Cubi Point and was identified as an ideal location for
a refugee camp. The island was the first way station for Vietnamese
seeking a new life.]

[Image 2: Marine Corps Historical Collection. South Vietnamese
Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky strolls the deck of the USS Midway.
He flew his personal helicopter to the ship shortly after noon
on 29 April.]

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gees from Clark Air Base. He stipulated, "No more third country evacuees permitted to stage through U.S. bases in the Philippines until backlog cleared. Backlog of evacuees at Clark must be removed immediately."6


Fortunately, this diplomatic impasse occurred prior to 29 April and before Operation Frequent Wind and the mass exodus from South Vietnam. By that dace, Air Force transport aircraft had moved the entire backlog from Clark to Guam where Marines from Marine Barracks, Guam (manning the Operation New Life receiving centers), welcomed them. Removal of the backlog addressed only the immediate problem and not the one troubling Ambassador Borg: how to minimize the stay of evacuees on Philippines soil so as not to exceed the 72-hour restriction. Since the majority of the next wave of refugees would arrive by ship, Borg decided to shift his focus from Clark to Subic Bay.


The ships carrying the evacuees to Guam would have to dock in Subic Bay for replenishment, and therefore it seemed logical to relocate the refugee center there. Ambassador Borg believed that this action would also reduce the delay involved in processing the evacuees. Considering the constraints set forth by the Philippines Government with regard to security and length of stay, the site for the center had to be near the water, highly secure, and limited in access. Nothing fit that description better than land surrounded by water, an island in Subic Bay. Two miles off the approach end of Runway 7 at Naval Air Station Cubi Point sits Grande Island. Normally used for recreational activities, it suddenly became the refugee housing and processing center. Temporary and functional by design, this initial check-in point would serve as a way station enrouie to Guam, but first it had to be constructed, then stocked with stores and manned by personnel, and finally secured by forces. Starting from ground zero, all of this had to be accomplished

 

 









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