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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) 7711275. Vietnamese barges and sampans
approach SS Sergeant Andrew Miller off Vung Tau. Marines from
AESF Detachment Sierra, right foreground, guard the boarding
platform.]

Page 217(The Bitter End)



taking back load after load, we never really knew what we had left to do."2'


This meant that not only would 9th MAB helicopter pilots not know how many people
still awaited rescue, but also neither would the receiving ships and their
Marine security guards. With 257 Marines spread among eight MSC ships and
the Barbour County, the AESF believed it was as ready as it could be, but
never did it suspect the arrival of 30,000 refugees in 30 hours (the majority
would arrive by sea). Certainly, no one, save possibly the Ambassador, expected
more than 100 from the Embassy. U.S. Army Major General John R. D. Cleland's
post-action investigation of Frequent Wind stated: "The evacuation at the
U.S. Embassy was not a coordinated action. This resulted from the confusion
as to the total number of evacuees to be transported which was never made
clear, and the lack of the necessary command and control to properly accomplish
evacuation requirements. The GSF had only scheduled a single helicopter lift
from the Embassy, hence no plan existed for the large volume of evacuees assembled
there. Inasmuch as the Embassy plan was for a minimum evacuation from that
location, the execution of the unplanned lift became essentially a "seat
of the pants' operation."22


As a result of this "seat of the pants" operation, Lieutenant Rogish and every available CH-46 pilot continued making trips to the Embassy rooftop, while the AESF Marines screened and loaded the seemingly unlimited supply of refugees. As soon as they arrived on the MSC ships, the Marines processed the South Vietnamese and placed them in predesignated areas. In the case of the Pioneer Commander, India Detachment loaded 4,020 evacuees in little over 12 hours.23


The problems the Pioneer Commander and its Marines overcame during this phase of Frequent Wind typify the MSC and AESF's efforts. Captain Cyril V. Moyher, the detachment's commander, assisted by his NCO-in-charge, Gunnery Sergeant Robert Wicker, oversaw this difficult evolution. Captain Moyher related how it began: "At 1330 on 29 April 1975, the code word 'Deckhouse' was received over the MSC Broadcast Net. Deckhouse was the code word for us to depart our waiting position and head for the refugee pickup point off the coast of Vietnam."2'1 Shortly after this, the ship attached a causeway to its side and at about 1815 the evacuees started arriving in Mike boats. Despite the presence of numerous small fishing craft which appeared soon after the first Mike boat, the orderly processing of refugees from the Navy ships con-









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