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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical Collection. Members of Company F. 2d Battalion,
9th Marines assemble into heliteams at the joint operations
airfield at Utapao, Thailand, on 14 May for insertion onto
Koh Tang. They �would have to wait 14 hours before the first
real assault wave took off in eight Air Force helicopters
bound for the small Cambodian island, 195 miles southeast
of Utapao.]

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noitered the area with patrol planes from Task Force 72. At the same time, the
Air Force launched its tactical aircraft. The fighter and attack planes had
orders to prevent, if possible without endangering the crew, the Cambodians
from moving the Mayaguez and/or its crew to the mainland, specifically, the
port of Kompong Som. Shortly thereafter, less than two hours after Colonel
Johnson's arrival, an Air Force F-4 pilot spotted a fishing vessel carrying
what appeared to be Caucasians. At approximately 0900 on 14 May, the pilot
attempted to stop the vessel as it sped toward the Cambodian coastline. He
fired shots over its bow, but avoided any close shots for fear of hitting
the passengers. His efforts met with no success as the boat ignored the warning
shots and continued on its course toward Kompong Som. During this unusual
and uncertain activity on the morning of 14 May, General Burns and his staff
continued their planning sessions in an attempt to arrive at the best course
of action to rescue the ship and its crew without any further loss of life.
They worked with current, but oftentimes incomplete information.21



Assault Preparations After Colonel Johnson and his command group arrived, the option to use Marines in the assault force to secure the island gained momentum. Obviously, once on Koh Tang, the Marines could provide ground security for the Air Force evacuation helicopters. Yet by (he time Lieutenant Colonel Austin and his staff landed at 0945, the final decision to use Marines still had not been made. As Austin's individual Marine elements continued to land. Colonel Johnson briefed the battalion commander on the tactical situation and then waited for further word. At 1300, one hour before Austin's final elements reached Utapao on board a C-141, General Burns' staff passed the word to Colonel Johnson that the mission would definitely include rescue of the ship's crew. Staff members provided little additional information and no details on the crew's exact location. Colonel Johnson assigned Lieutenant Colonel Austin and BLT 2/9 responsibility for seizing Koh Tang and recovering the Mayaguez's crew. The task was simple to assign, but with a dearth of intelligence, extremely difficult to execute. According









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