[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USN) 2777 Camp Asan awaits the arrival of
its first refugees under Operation New Life. South Vietnamese
and evacuee s o f other nationalities started arriving in
Guam at 1820 on 24 April.]
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concern was meeting the incoming buses and obtaining a valid manifest. With this in hand, they then could assign billeting, plan meals, and organize linen/ bedding issue. The task of refurbishing the old hospital annex in less than 24 hours presented a nearly impossible undertaking. Formidable as the job appeared, no other choices existed and the Marines and Seabees on Guam turned all their attention to meeting this deadline. When the first busloads of refugees arrived the next day, the Navy-Marine Corps team had four of the 15 barracks ready. The new occupants also found blankets, sleeping gear, and food awaiting them.
The initial buses took their passengers to Building 502 for processing and orientation. Next, the Marines showed the refugees their new living spaces with its dimensions and assignment based on the size of the family. From here, the new occupants moved to blanket issue after which the Marine hosts gave them the choice of either going to bed or to the messhall. At Building 548, hot rice and tea awaited their arrival. This process would be repeated thousands of times before Operation New Life ended and Camp Asan closed its doors. By the following day, 25 April, Camp Asan had a population of 5,000 people. On that Friday, the first departing group left Camp Asan for Andersen Air Force Base, and a flight from Guam to the United States. After that, a continuous flow of arrivals and departures became the routine.36
Colonel McCain later related that by the time the first refugees arrived at 1800 on 24 April, he had established a complete camp organization to provide full support including administration, billeting, baggage handling, messing, medical, transportation, clothing, and location of relatives. By 1130 on 26 April, the organization administratively processed 6,420 arrivals, adding them to the camp rolls. This effort involved not only the Marines on Guam but also their families as well. Marine wives assisted with the initial reception and processing of evacuees, including the collection and distribution of clothing and baby supplies.37
The first evacuees came to Guam via Air Force C-l4ls and C-130s. Landing at Andersen Air Force base, they soon found themselves at an increasingly more crowded Camp Asan. Despite the fact thai each aircraft could only transport a hundred or so Vietnamese per sonic. Camp Asan quickly reached its capacity. Within less than 48 hours of the first arrival, Colonel McCain requested a 48-hour moratorium in order to give his Marines a chance to stabilize the situation in the camp and continue to upgrade the facilities. During the moratorium, only 17 new refugees entered the camp and more importantly at this juncture, Admiral Gayler decided to increase the number of camps and make Colonel McCain the overall commander of Naval Refugee Camps, Guam.
In his initial message establishing a refugee support
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