of Defense Photo (USMC) A801627. Marine LCpl M. R. Bishop
of the AESF operates a water point for refugees on board the
SS American Racer enroute to Guam. This ship and the SS Trans-Colorado
departed Subic Bay for the island of Guam on 5 May with more
than 10,000 refugees between them.]
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quickly became tedious and eventually dangerous, occasionally leading to physical
In one instance. Captain Richard L. "Rick" Reuter, the Echo Detachment commander, barely averted a disastrous and catastrophic panic on board the Sergeant Kimbro when some Vietnamese physically resisted sanitization. Captain Reuter responded to this crisis by calling in a reaction force from the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines. The mere presence of these additional Marines, who had arrived by helicopter from the nearby task force, calmed the people enough to enable Re-uier's men to reestablish control. In the case of many refugees, the overwhelming fear of being left behind to the mercy of the Commmunist invaders was intensified by the absence of food or water. Many of the refugees had seen neither of these necessities for more than four days.
Yet by 2300, l May, every evacuee, save a few hundred, had access to at least water, and by mid-morning, 2 May, almost every evacuee had received some form of sustenance. By late morning that Friday (2 May), every MSC ship had reached capacity except the Sergeant Kimbro which continued to load refugees until the afternoon of the next day. By nightfall on 2 May, MSC ships had embarked nearly 40,000 refugees while a newly arrived Navy ship, the Barbour County, with a recently assigned detachment of Marines led by First Lieutenant David A. Kratchovil, had loaded an additional 958 evacuees. With all but a few of the AESF Marine detachments on MSC ships and the loading of Vietnamese refugees virtually complete, CinCPac transferred control of the AESF from General Carcy to Rear Admiral Whitmire and his task force on 3 May. The admiral's mission would be to ensure the refugees' safe arrival in Guam.28
That night, as the Pioneer Commander and the American Challenger set course for Guam, the Pioneer Contender, which they had left behind, pulled alongside the pier at Grande Island and began unloading a third of its passengers. The transfer of these 2,000 Vietnamese coincided with the transfer of command of the AESF to Admiral Whitmire, and began its final phase of the evacuation. Six hours later, the Pioneer Contender and its AESF Detachment Victor departed for Guam, fully resupplied and carrying the remaining 4,000 refugees. Less than 36 hours later, on 5 May, the Transcolorado with Hotel Detachment embarked and the American Racer with Mike Detachment on board left the Philippines for Apra Harbor. Nearly exceeding capacity, the two ships counted more than 10,000 refugees. The Greenville Victory, Sergeant Andrew Miller, and Green Forest, because of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, had to unload their passegers at Subic, as did the Green Port.
A Tango detachment squad leader, then-Sergeant J. C. Owens, recalled the unhealthy state of affairs on the Green Forest in 1975, "The most ridiculous and unsanitary condition was created when they hung the portable toilets over the ship's railing and the Vietnamese after using them threw the toilet paper through the holes. Before you knew it there was used toilet paper streaming from every pan of the ship not to mention those pieces of paper that landed on our sleeping bags, laying on the ship's after deck. A more unhealthy situation could not have existed." These unsatisfactory living conditions caused the medical authorities to declare these four ships unfit for habitation until thoroughly cleaned. Once sanitary conditions were restored then and only then could refugees reboard these MSC ships (Greenville Victory, Sergeant Andrew Miller, Green Forest, and Green Port)29
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