Page 119

Page 119 (The Bitter End)

unit integrity with available deck space, the spread load of BLT 2/4, and the helicopter flow schedule, a compromise would have to be made. Whereas two rifle companies would satisfy the troop strength, it would be necessary because of the need for additional machine guns and mortars to commit elements of three companies. With this factor in mind, Lieutenant Colonel George P. Slade, BLT 2/4 commander, designated as the landing force elements: Company F commanded by Captain Thomas A. Keenc and Company H commanded by Captain Steven R. Bland, both located on board the Okinawa, and Company G, commanded by Captain William R. Melton, positioned on board the Vancouver (LPD 2).

In view of the limited time available to integrate HMH-463 into the planned helicopter flow, 9th MAB Commander General Carey made the decision to use the existing helicopter employment schedule* This meant that HMH-462 would insert the landing force and extract the evacuees, and HMH-463, following in trail, would extract the landing force after all of the refugees had been rescued. The planned elapsed time from beginning until the extraction of the last landing force element would be two and one-half hours.41 The Execution of Eagle Pull

Shortly after 0600 on 12 April 1975, 12 CH-53s from HMH-462 launched from the deck of the Okinawa and ascended to their orbit stations above the task group. At 10-minute intervals, the helicopters returned to the deck of the Okinawa for loading. Elements of Companies F and H, and the command group embarked from the Okinawa while elements of Company G boarded their helicopters on the Vancouver. During the loading of 360 Marines and corpsmen, each helicopter topped off its fuel tanks and then waited for its turn to launch. The HMH-462 birds Strictly adhered to the sequence set forth in the flow schedule. Once airborne, they formed up in divisons of three looking to those on deck like a swarm of bees ready to enter the beehive. They continued to orbit the ship awaiting their turn to depart for Phnom Penh. After the initial division left on its 130-mile journey to the

"*Colonel Rochc stated, "Although General Carcy may haw made the decision noted here concerning the integration of HMH-463 into the helicopter employment schedule, that decision was not communicated to me. In the event, that was a decision which l made unilateral])' on the recommendation of my staff and the respective helicopter squadron commanders." Rochc Comments.

Page 119 (The Bitter End)