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[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Col
Peter F. Angle,
USMC (Ret).]

Page 63(The Bitter End)

This area of Pochentong airfield would have to be secured if CinCPac decided to use the airfield as an evacuation site. The idea, later scrapped, was the most complicated of the many evacuation options considered from July of 1973 until April of 1974.

no longer be required.21 For those who had envisioned reaping the benefits, extended liberty in exotic ports, the change in assignment arrived too late. It happened on 9 January 1974, after the amphibious ready group, by then enroute to Subic, had left its Taiwanese pons-of-call. On that second Wednesday of the new year, CinCPac ordered ARG Alpha/31st MAU to assume a 96-hour (four-day) response time for the Eagle Pull contingency.

Eight days later, increased enemy activity in Cambodia required 31st MAU/ARG Alpha to assume a 72-hour Eagle Pull response posture. On 20 January, Pacific command headquarters ordered 31st MAU/ARG Alpha to the Gulf of Thailand. By that evening, all units were underway, arriving in the Gulf on 23 January 1974. Although the crisis in Phnom Penh stabilized the next day, resulting in a relaxation of the response time for other Eagle Pull units, the MAU and ARG remained on station in the Gulf of Thailand, awaiting reassessment of the situation and further word.

On the 26th, III MAF tasked 31st MAU to prepare to provide support for the fixed-wing military airlift, Option II of the Eagle Pull contingency plan. To fulfill the requirements of this task, the MAU would have to land a 90-man ground security force at Pochentong Airfield (on the outskirts of Phnom Penh). The plan called for this force to secure the airfield and assist in the evacuation of civilian personnel. On 30 January, Colonel Twomcy and Colonel Olmsicad met at Uta-pao and discussed the military situation in Cambodia and the new manpower demands. The very next day, on l February, the 31st MAU/ARG Alpha incorporated into its flight training schedule rehearsal of the helicopter option (III) of the Eagle Pull evacuation plan.22

During the course of this training evolution, Admiral Gayler, CinCPac, ordered the task force on 2 February to assume a five-hour response posture for possible Eagle Pull activity. This change in orders came as a result of the enemy's newly gained advantage, which allowed them to attack and fire upon Phnom Penh. In order to neutralize this capability, Eagle Pull planners decided that the operation might have to be conducted after sunset. As a consequence, the 31st MAU intensified night helicopter operations during the 3 to 8 February period. In the midst of this training, on 5 February, the commander of the Seventh Fleet, Admiral Steele, recommended to CinCPac that because of the problems normally encountered in night-time evacuation operations. Eagle Pull be executed only during daylight hours. CinCPac concurred.

With a decrease in the enemy threat. Admiral Gayl-cr, on 9 February, directed the 31st MAU/ARG Alpha to relax its response time to 72 hours, and sail to Su-

Page 63(The Bitter End)