[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo
enforce a sanitization
check for weapons
refugees on board
the Green Port.]
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As a result of this incredibly large armada of small craft, the efficient movement of refugees between ships became even more critical and meant the difference between control and chaos and even life and death. Indications of the onset of confusion were everywhere, but no where more so than in the skies overhead. On the Dubuque alone, five Vietnamese helicopters had made unauthorized landings.
To prevent the Vietnamese pilots' flagrant disregard of basic flight safety from endangering his ship and its crew and thereby impeding the evacuation process, Navy Captain Roy W. McLain, Jr., the Dubuque's captain, established fire-fighting teams augmented by Marines from the AESF's detachments Quebec, Romeo, and Uniform. This mini-crash crew stood by ready to assist should one of these many, wildly gyrating helicopters crash on the Dubuque. The important contributions of these AESF Marines would be matched by their peers in detachments who now found themselves fully committed to assisting and controlling the arriving refugees. Evacuation and Passage: Frequent Wind and the AESF's Final Chapter
For First Lieutenant Joseph J. Rogish, Operation Frequent Wind began 29 April with a wake-up call and ended approximately 24 hours later with a night helicopter landing on the Hancock. After four frustrating days of arising at 0130 and waiting hours to learn of another postponement, the word to begin Operation Frequent Wind came as a most rewarding and welcome surprise. Yet even this event occurred in a convoluted manner, with first a cancellation then an immediate recall.
The unusual events surrounding this operation actually began two weeks earlier when Lieutenant Rog-ish's ship, the Hancock, left the formation as the task force prepared to depart Vietnamese coastal waters. The Hancock, with a different destination, quickly put many miles between it and the Subic-bound task force. The next day, the Hancock and its complement were enjoying a port call in Singapore* Then just as quickly as liberty had begun, it was over. Admiral Stecle had ordered the ship and its pilots back to the South China Sea.
As Rogish said, "this did not make sense because just a few short days ago they had sent us to Singapore, telling us they would not need us because the South Vietnam government looked like it would be able to hold on."20
Back on station in the South China Sea, the Hancock received word on 29 April
that the extraction force should be over the zone at 1200 local (time of receipt
approximately 1130). Six hours later, Lieutenant Rogish received his next
shock. Suddenly, without warning, the flight section in which he was flying
was diverted to the American Embassy instead of the briefed pick-up point,
the Defense Attache Office Compound. The next surprise followed immediately
upon its heels. As the four "Lady Ace" CH-46s cleared the area, they radioed
the Embassy that they had just departed with 100 evacuees on board. The staff "rogered" the
Lady Ace call and replied that they still had 200 refugees awaiting extraction.
Having listened to virtually the same transmission on their inbound leg, the
HMM-165 pilots experienced first shock then anger. Lieutenant Rogish said, "We
knew right then that in effect what they were doing was lying about the number
of people they had to go which left us in the dark during most of the operation
as to what we really had to move. Consequently, despite pilots
*During the time the Hancock was in Singapore, the Vice President of the United Slates was attending Chiang-Kai Shck's funeral in Taipei, 15-17 April. The rbrd administration took this opportunity (o schedule a secret meeting between Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and the leader of the Vietnamese Senate, "Iran Van Lan. No available records reveal whether the meeting was actually held or its contents.
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