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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) A70W1. 1stLt Terry L. Tonkin, a forward
air controller with BIT 2/9, receives a Purple Heart medal
from MajGen Kenneth J. Houghton at Subic Bay. Lt Tonkin was
a passenger in Knife 3J, which was shot down approaching the
eastern landing zone on Koh Tang. Le Tonkin used a survival
radio to call in A-7s as he swam to sea, where he and 12 others
were picked up by the Wilson.]

Page 263(The Bitter End)



weapons or other equipment belonging to any of the three were on board."85 They
were not. Subsequent to this. Lieutenant Colonel Austin learned that the body
of Lance Corporal Ashion N. Looney, killed earlier in the day, had somehow also
been left behind on Koh Tang. To further add to the confusion over accountability,
the Coral Sea reported to Admiral Steele that the final helicopter, Knife 51,
had offloaded 25 Marines. The Air Force reported 29.86


The Marines missing from Stahl's company were never recovered nor was their
disappearance ever explained, other than noting the difficulty and confusion
of conducting joint-service, night-retrograde operations under fire. A few
of the factors that could have contributed to the machine gun team's disappearance
arc: enemy fire during the withdrawal; friendly ground fire during the reduction
of the perimeter; friendly fire from the helicopter's miniguns, the AC-130,
and the close air support aircraft; and battlefield disoricntarion. In all
probability, these Marines suffered death at the hands of the enemy.


The final time they were seen was just after the next-to-last reestablishment of the perimeter defense. A post-action investigation revealed, "That upon determining Hall, Hargrove, and Marshall were ineffective as a machine gun team, Sergeant Andersen ordered them to move back to a new position which was located to the left of the position occupied by Captain James H. Davis .... Sergeant Andersen was the last member of the Marine force to see Hall, Hargrove, and Marshall and that the time was about 2000."87 Throughout the retrograde action, extensive enemy fire, friendly ground fire and suppressive air fire were delivered. The Air Force pilots at Koh Tang during the final extraction observed that "From 1245Z-1300Z (1945-2000 local) random bursts of 50 Cal [were] fired in the direction of both aircraft. When Spectre 11 began suppressive fire to cover the ingress of the final helicopters the fire ceased."88


While BLT 2/9 attempted to determine if its Marines had been killed, and if not, their whereabouts, a message from the Wilson further confused the issue. Sent less than 24 hours after the operation ended, it said, "... possible PW camp on Koh Tang Island."89 The Marine Corps' investigation into the disappearance of these Marines concluded in its final opinion, "That Hall, Hargrove, and Marshall could have been fatally wounded subsequent to the last rime they were seen by Sergeant Andersen at about 2000 and the rime when the final helicopter lifted off, since there was firing by both enemy forces and the Marines awaiting extraction from Koh Tang."90


The casualties involved in recovering the Mayaguez crew totalled: 11 Marines
killed, 41 wounded, 3 missing (later declared dead); 2 Navy corpsmen killed
and 2 wounded; and 2 airmen killed and 6 wounded* This did not include the
18 passengers and five crew members of the CH-53 which crashed cnroutc to
Utapao on 13 May.91


The BLT 2/9 Marines still at Utapao, some returned casualties, and the rest of the men who had waited in vain for insertion, immediately flew back to Okinawa on a C-141. The reason for their sudden departure was a formal protest lodged by the Thai Government


*In documenting the losses for an Air War College Faculty Paper, Doctor James E. Winkatcs included the Nakhon Phanom helicopter crash: "U.S. forces sustained 18 killed in action, fifty wounded, and rwcnty-ihrcc other personnel killed in a related helicopter crash." Dr. James E. Winkatcs. "Hostage Rescue in a Hostile Environment:


Lessons Learned from Son Tay, Mayaguez, and Entebbe Missions," Air War College faculty Paper (Maxwell AfB, Alabama, 1978), p. 4.









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