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[Image 1: Photo courtesy of Maj Charles D. Melson. This is
the best reconnaissance
picture of Koh
Tong the commander of the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines could obtain.
At right is the
wing of the U-21
from which a glimpse
of the island was capture d as LtCol Randall W. Austin and his
staff rode at 6,000-feet
altitude.]

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During the overflight ofKoh Tang, Lieutenant Colonel Austin saw open areas on opposite sides of the northern end of the island that could be used as landing zones. Here where the island significantly narrowed, the two potential sites, consisting of relatively flat terrain cut from the jungle, offered access by air and possible access by sea. Due to the island's extensive foliage, Lieutenant Colonel Austin had no other choice. He had to land his assault forces here, even though he knew almost nothing about the enemy.24


Meanwhile at Utapao, Colonel Johnson was experiencing similar frustrations in his attempts to gather intelligence. Much to his dismay, he was spending most of his time driving to USSAG/Seventh Air Force's forward headquarters on the other side of the base to cither answer secure voice phone calls or questions from General Burn's staff. Neither the calls nor the questions contributed anything to his planning and intelligence-gathering efforts. Unfortunately, these interruptions continued into the early evening, long after Lieutenant Colonel Austin returned from his reconnaissance flight at 1500. Only the final planning conference at 1900 seemed to halt the interruptions, but nothing reduced the frustration caused by the physical separation of General Burns' staffs headquarters and Colonel Johnson's command post.25


Colonel Johnson, Colonel Andcrs, Lieutenant Colonel Austin, and Major Porter attended the 1900 planning session with General Burns' staff. At this meeting, they discussed and decided upon a final course of action. The plan entailed the use of eight helicopters inserting approximately 180 BLT 2/9 Marines onto Koh Tang's eastern and western zones with the first helicopter landing at 0542 on 15 May. Simultaneously, 57 Marines of Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and 11 volunteers (The Air Force amended the original composition of six sailors and six Military Sealift Command [MSC] personnel to two corpsmen, two Air Force explosive ordnance demolition specialists, one Army intelligence officer, and six MSC seamen) would board three helicopters and fly to the Holt. Company D's orders reflected the most recent change to the original plan for boarding the Mayaguez. Having learned that the destroyer escort Holt would arrive in the area in time. General Burns decided that the helicopters would not insert the Marines onto the container ship, but instead deliver them to the Holt which then would be used as a platform from which to board the Mayaguez. At a midnight meeting which Major Porter attended, General Burns' Utapao staff made some last-minute adjustments to the Holt rescue plan and then declared it complete.

 

 









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