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[Image 1: Department of Defense
Photo (USN) K107687. Company
D and elements of Headquarters and Service Company march down the pier at
White Beach, Okinawa,
on 25 March 1975, to embark in USS Blue Ridge (LOC 19). These Marines, as
members of the Amphibious Evacuation RVN Support Group, spent the next IS
days at sea recovering refugees evacuating northern South Vietnam.]

Page 86(The Bitter End)

On 27 March, General Hoffman, who at the end of 1974 replaced Major General Herman Poggemeyer, Jr., as III MAF commander, activated the 33d Marine Amphibious Unit and assigned Lieutenant Colonel Hester's 1st Battalion, 4th Marines as its ground combat element. The MAU, led initially by the commanding officer of the 4th Marines, Colonel Alfred M. Gray, received the mission of supporting the evacuation of American citizens and other designated evacuees from Da Nang. The MAU headquarters and Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines went on board the amphibious command ship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), while it was moored at White Beach, Okinawa. As soon as the command group was embarked, Rear Admiral Donald E. Whitmirc's (Commander Task Force 76) flagship departed for South Vietnam. The remainder of the battalion awaited the arrival of the amphibious transport dock ship, Dubuque, which along with the other two ships in ARG Bravo had been directed to assist in evacuation operations. Durham and Frederick^ still in Subic Bay, were ordered to proceed directly to South Vietnamese coastal waters.3

The following day. Lieutenant Colonel James P. Kiz-er's Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) was attached to the MAU as its aviation component. The assignment of this squadron posed the MAU an additional problem. The squadron's helicopters were distributed throughout WestPac; most were located at Futema, but some were operating out of Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines. Additionally, the task force did not contain a ship specially configured for an aviation unit. As a result, HMM-165 was initially split into four separate detachments and divided among the available ships: the largest group of helicopters, seven CH-46s, was placed on board the Dubuque, a smaller detachment (two UH-lEs) went on board the Blue Ridge, and single helicopter (CH-46) detachments joined both the Durham and the Frederick.

Upon initial receipt of the warning order. Lieutenant Colonel Hester perceived his mission as the establishment and protection of evacuation sites in the Da Nang area. A mission of this magnitude would involve the majority of units in a task-organized battalion landing team. However, on 30 March, Easter Sunday 1975, as the remaining elements of BLT 1/4 boarded the Dubuque, events in South Vietnam significantly changed the complexion of the operation.

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