Page 215


[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) A801617 South Vietnamese pilot and
his family walk with Marine across the USS Hancock 's flight
deck. Entire families escaped by air and many flew to Thailand.]

[Image 2: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) 711643. This picture of a Vietnamese
pilot ditching his helicopter is testimony to the desperation
that prevailed. As a result of the unexpected arrival of dozens
of South Vietnamese helicopters on 29 April, many of the helicopter-capable
ships had decks covered with aircraft.]

Page 215(The Bitter End)




these sections lashed to the belly of the ship next to the accommodation ladder,
the Mike boats then would have a relatively safe place to dock and unload.
This distribution of refugees to their temporary sea quarters ensured a minimum
amount of passenger traffic on the decks of the helicopter platforms and achieved
its primary goal of getting the Vietnamese to the available food, water, and
medical supplies. This evolution was so important that a special situation
report announced its start. Special Frequent Wind Execution Situation Report
018 issued at 1700 on 29 April stated, "Transfer of evacuees from USN to MSC shipping has commenced and proceeding smoothly."'9
Vice Admiral Steele, on board the Oklahoma City (CLG 5), having received this
message from the Blue Ridge (Rear Admiral Whkmire's command ship), knew that
things were proceeding as planned. To the casual observer, this did not seem
to be the case because as far as the naked eye could see there was nothing
but boats coming from the coastline, headed directly for the fleet. Each of
these small Vietnamese vessels carried more passengers than it could safely
hold and this represented only the first wave of those fleeing their homeland.

 

 









Page 215(The Bitter End)