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[Image 1: Department of Defense
Photo (USN) K107611. In
the background is the USNS Greenville Victory which was hijacked for a change
of course to the mainland
by disgruntled refugees who were actually deserters from MR I. In the foreground
is an LCM-8from USS Durham used to ferry evacuees between MSC ships.]

[Image 2: Marine Corps Historical
Collection. A Marine from 1st Battalion, 4th Marines on board the SS Pioneer
Contender comforts
a Vietnamese
The ship made two visits to Da Nang Harbor to pick up refugees between 29
and }l March 1975, and after the second visit it sailed to Phu Quoc Island.]

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master. Lieutenant Lee surveyed the situation and in a classic understatement, reported to the task force commander, "7,000 on board, everything under control." There were in fact almost 16,000 on board and insufficient food and water to sustain them. Many of the refugees were armed and the threat of a hijacking very real. The day before, under similar circumstances, armed refugees, most of them former military men, seized control of the USNS Greenville Victory and ordered its captain under penalty of death to alter its course and take them to the mainland. After steering a direct course for Vung Tau, the mutiny ended when the hostile passengers disembarked allowing the hostage captain to regain control of his ship. The Greenville Victory's hijacking reminded everyone of the dangers inherent in transporting refugees and what fate could befall a complacent commander.12

The Pioneer Contender's journey had begun nearly a week earlier when it picked up its first refugees in the Da Nang area. On 29 March, it sailed from that port but continued to pluck people from the sea as it made its way south along the coast. Its destination, Phu Quoc (a small island off the west coast of South Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand), had been chosen by the Saigon government as the best location to receive and house evacuees from Military Regions l and 2.

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