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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical
Collection. M.aj
George L. Gates,
pictured here as a brigadier general, assumed
the duties of
Eagle Pull planner
in the III MAF
G-3 section during
the summer of1974.

Page 55(The Fleet Marines Are Readied )

size=5>CHAPTER 4

size=5>The Fleet Marines Are Readied

In the six major planning conferences

held in the 15 months between the cessation of combat air support in Southeast

Asia and December 1974, III MAF liaison officers and USSAG Eagle Pull action

officers developed and refined a highly sophisticated plan to evacuate Americans

from Cambodia. After each conference, the Marine attendees would return to III

MAF Headquarters at Camp Counney on Okinawa and proceed to revise as necessary

their plans and orders for Operation Eagle Pull. These revisions focused on the

heliborne option, known as Option III of the basic evacuation plan. This option

required several landing sites because of the anticipated number of refugees,

whose estimated numbers varied from day to day. Since the Marine Corps possessed

most of the heavy helicopters in Southeast Asia, III MAF was naturally sensitive

to any talks involving their use.

As these discussions at Nakhon Phanom

progressed, agreement centered on the employment of sea-borne helicopters over

fixed-wing aircraft or land-based helicopters, thereby allotting the Marine

Corps a proportionally larger role in Operation Eagle Pull. In his capacity as

liaison officer to the joint planning headquarters in Nakhon Phanom, Major

George L. Cates, III MAF's Eagle Pull planner, had to make sure that plans for

the MAF's tasking matched its capabilities. By intensifying its readiness

training. III MAF took a giant step toward increasing its capabilities. In light

of these changes, the 4th and 9th Marines began holding evacuation training

classes, making evacuation preparation the order of the day in III MAF. The Air

Contingency BLTs

In the first evacuation contingency

plan of early 1973, the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii was

assigned as the primary security force. Shortly after the decision, CinCPac

planners realized that an interim, alternate force might be necessary if an

evacuation of Cambodia were ordered without warning. To fulfill this

requirement, CinCPac tasked III MAF to provide one company of Marines on a

full-time standby basis. The evacuation security force contingency would rotate

from company to company within III MAF, but if employed, the rifle company would

fall under the operational control of Commander, USSAG from its arrival at the

designated assembly point until the conclusion of the operation.'

On 15 April 1973, Major General Michael

P. Ryan, III MAF commander, ordered the 31st MAU to provide the reinforced rifle

company from its ground combat element, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. A standing

III MAF operation order directed the 31st MAU to develop and maintain the

capability of conducting company-size evacuation operations. Ill MAF provided

the 31st MAU with very specific guidance as to the organization of the

reinforced rifle company. It directed that besides a headquarters detachment,

the command clement would include medical and communication elements, a

flamethrower section, a 81mm mortar section, and a 106mm recoilless rifle

section. The rifle company would also be supported by a sizeable logistics

support element. The complexity of the


Page 55(The Fleet Marines Are Readied )