[Image 1: Marine
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North Vietnam. Despite this shortfall in air assets, the MAU was prepared to conduct a company-size evacuation operation using Air Force helicopters.12
Additionally, General Ryan ordered the contingency battalion of the 3d Marine Division to serve as a backup force. Shortly thereafter, on 20 April 1973, the MAU was relieved of its evacuation responsibilities in favor of the air contingency battalion landing team (ACBLT), which then became the primary source for the special ground security mission in Cambodia.13
General Vogt assigned responsiblity for Eagle Pull planning to the Surface Operations and Plans Division within USSAG, which then designated Major Horace W. Baker the principal action officer. The senior Marine officers at USSAG, having recognized the necessity for rapid reaction to evacuation requirements, advocated the use of deployed Marine forces. As a result of their influence, the role of Marine forces changed from alternate to primary.14
With the developing sophistication of the plan came the realization that external and peripheral political, diplomatic, and humanitarian factors could not be ignored. Certainly they would complicate execution of the plan, but inattention to these matters would guarantee failure and portend fatal consequences. Wisely, Major Baker and the Surface Operations and Plans Division incorporated these factors into USSAG's planning.15
General Vogt's initial concept, like General Evans', entailed three options. Two involved evacuation from Phnom Penh's Pochcnrong Airfield by fixed-wing aircraft, while the third envisioned the use of helicopters from the same site. The first choice called for the evacuation of all designated persons from Phnom Penh by commercial planes, with the Ambassador controlling the operation. The second involved fixed-wing military aircraft transporting evacuees from Pochen-tong, with ComUSSAG in control.16
General Vogt correctly and prudently assumed that the U.S. colors at the Embassy would not be struck until the eleventh hour of the Khmer Republic had passed. Similarly, he presumed that the airfield at Pochentong (14 kilometers west of the city) would not be usable by then. Anticipating loss of the airfield at a critical hour, USSAG then concentrated on the third option, exclusive use of helicopters.17
In studying the details for a helicopter evacuation, two questions loomed larger than the rest. What was the total number of evacuees and where would they be located? This information represented the most critical factor and the one upon which all other decisions hinged. It not only would determine the number of helicopters required, but also the number of landing zones and their location. Additionally, it would dictate the size of the force required to protect those zones.
The time and distance factors related to this operation mandated use of the minimum essential number of security troops. This number would be predicated on helicopter availability rather than tac-
Massed colors of the regiments and separate battalions of the 3dMarine Division lead o f f a combat review at Camp Hansen, Okinawa. These are some of the troops USSAG planners decided to use as ground security forces if they had sufficient warning time.
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