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[Image 1: Marine Corps Historical
Collection. The desolation of Phu Quoc island is reflected in this scene
of the site
selected to deposit thousands of MR l refugees. The island was known for
its production of nuc mam sauce.]

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pany D led by Second Lieutenant Charles K. "Kenneth" Curcio was placed on board the SS Transcolorado (MSC ship) which was already loaded with approximately 8,000 refugees. Following embarkation of the Marines, the ship weighed anchor for Phu Quoc. Just before it got underway, the Durham, which had continued to pick up refugees as the amphibious force sailed southward along the coast, transferred its 3,500 people to the Transcolorado. This was only one of the many unstable, transient conditions.16

Almost overnight, control of the original task organization became decentralized. The success of the operation now depended upon the young platoon commanders' leadership skills and their Marines' expertise and judgement in the controlled application of force in crisis situations. Exercising restraint under some very adverse conditions, the Marine security forces achieved their goal despite the fact that they were on board ships scattered over a 500-mile area, from Phan Rang to Phu Quoc Island.

The organization of this task group, TG 79.9, was predicated on flexibility. In the space of 10 days, the task group's squadron, HMM-165, conducted numerous crossdecking troop lifts, provided airborne reconnaissance of the Vietnamese coast, and resupplied refugees with food and medicine. HMM-165 also performed "separate missions," including locating a C-5A flight recorder belonging to a U.S. Air Force transport which had crashed on takeofffrom Saigon on 4 April while carrying hundreds of Vietnamese orphans and their American escorts.17 A post-evacuation Air Force summary reported, "Early on the morning of 5 April, a crew member on the Durham heard the "Mayday" signal .... Directed to the vicinity of the signal, a Marine helicopter from the Blue Ridge spotted the recorder floating in the water and notified the Reasoner which had a swimmer on board."'8

Also during this period, the helicopter squadron's staff began to draft detailed timetables to use in the event of the evacuation of Saigon. The maintenance problems inherent in a squadron consisting of four separate detachments conducting around-the-clock operations did not prevent Lieutenant Colonel Kizer's HMM-165 from maintaining a 100-percent availability rate throughout the dangerous and demanding ten-day period. Yet despite having every helicopter available, the task group soon discovered that its resources were stretched to the limit and it could not handle the seemingly endless supply of refugees.19

Its ability to evacuate the fleeing South Vietnamese was further confounded by the threat posed by the

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