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1: Department
of Defense Photo
(USMC) A558063
MajGen Michael
P. Ryan, Commanding
General, III
MAF, learned
in early April
1973 that senior
Pacific commanders
wished to use
Marines as part
of the evacuation
security force.
He ordered31s't
MAU to provide
a reinforced
rifle company
for Operation
Eagle Pull.]

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bodia a highly elusive and confusing proposition. It made all planning circumspect, complicated, and unusually dependent on variables beyond the control of USSAG and the American military. This translated into a realization that any planned military activity involving Southeast Asia might have to originate beyond the confines of the Indochina Peninsula and the next best option was the Gulf of Thailand. This, in turn, necessitated an increased and heavy dependence on Pacific naval forces for the possible implementation and execution of any such contingency plan. The Plan for Cambodia

On 13 April 1973, Admiral Noel A.M. Gayler, USN, Commander-in-Chief Pacific (CinCPac), tasked General Vogt with responsibility for both the planning and execution of any emergency evacuation of American citizens from Cambodia. The planned evacuation would be codenamed Operation Eagle Pull.7 The Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand (ComUSMACThai), was thereby relieved of this responsibility with the justification being that MACThai had already begun the process of dismantling its operational command post. One only had to look at events in Southeast Asia to know the more compelling and immediate reason was the imminent collapse of the Cambodian government.

CinCPac's message assigning General Vogt the evacuation responsibility reflected the sense of urgency prevailing in Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii over the developments in Cambodia. The message also specified that pending preparation and approval of USSAG's plan. Major General Andrew J. Evans, Jr., USAF, should be prepared to execute his (MACThai) command's plan.8 This was little more than a concept envisioning three options: (l) evacuation by commercial air; (2) evacuation by military fixed wing; or (3) evacuation using Thailand-based Air Force helicopters. If required, U.S. Air Force Security Police already in Thailand would defend the landing zones, and the U.S. Army's Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division would serve as a back-up. Pressured by the knowledge that battlefield events could precipitate an immediate evacuation of Cambodia, General Vogt's planners at USSAG Headquarters (Nakhon Phanom, Thailand) reacted almost immediately to the new assignment. Within two weeks, they released a message derailing their initial concept of operations, and not surprisingly it duplicated the MACThai plan.9 Noc satisfied with the initial concept and uncertain when they would have to activate it, USSAG strategists continued to develop, refine, and update the evacuation plan.10

Marines participated in the process from the outset. The message that directed USSAG to plan for an emergency evacuation from Cambodia also set forth a requirement for a reinforced company of Marines to be on call and available to USSAG for ground security purposes. In this role, they would supplant the Air Force units, designated as MACThai's landing zone security forces.11

From theory to realization, this change wound its way through the Pacific Fleet chain of command and arrived by message as an order to Major General Michael P. Ryan to provide a reinforced rifle company from his command, the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF). On 15 April 1973, he assigned this responsibility to the 31st MAU, which was ashore at Subic Bay. At that moment, the helicopter squadron assigned to Colonel Thomas J. Stevens (the MAU commander) and the ships designated to carry his MAU were already involved in minesweeping operations off

Page 42(The Bitter End)