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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo
(USMC) A 150964.
An AH-lJ Cobra
lands on board the
Okinawa. Cobras
from HMA-369
were operationally
assigned to HMH-462
after USS Midway
embarked them
on 3 April while enroute to Subic
Bay in the Philippines.]

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The major ones were interrelated and dealt with the potential evacuation missions in Cambodia and South Vietnam. The knowledge that these evacuations might occur simultaneously was futher complicated by the lack of reliable information on the number of refugees requiring transportation. How to evacuate the South Vietnamese refugees whose estimated numbers varied significantly from day to day monopolized the discussions at MAF headquarters during the first pan of April. A daily evaluation of the war in South Vietnam offered little hope for a cancellation of the requirement to support this contingency. In fact, the early April reports of military setbacks in South Vietnam led III MAF to activate three MAUs, and for a few days, even two MABs. Both alarming and disconcerting was the news from South Vietnam on 3 April that the Vietnamese Armed Forces had abandoned the cities of Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, and Dalat, giving the NVA control of most of MR 2.31

Indeed, 3 April produced a number of historically important events. On that
Thursday, Brigadier General Harold L. Coffman, the commanding general of the
newly created llth MAB, departed for Nakhon Pha-nom, Thailand; Admiral Steele,
the Seventh Fleet commander, released a message detailing his plan for the
evacuation of South Vietnam's Military Regions 3 and 4; MABLEx 2-75, originally
a MAF exercise scheduled for 21 April to 3 May, was officially cancelled;
and Midway, ordered on short notice to the South China Sea via Okinawa, embarked
MAG-36's HML367(-)(Rcin) and 11 UH-lEs, HMA-369(-)(Rein) and 4 AH-lJs, and
14 CH-46Ds belonging to HMM-164 and H&MS-36. Admiral Gayler's intelligence report for that day stated, "The situation continues to deteriorate rapidly. The Communists are expected to take the remainder of MR 2 before the end of the week. Their final attack toward the capital could occur in as few as seven days. Forces arc in position with three more divisions enroute from North Vietnam."32

Combat was light for the first few days of April as Communist divisions consolidated their victories and began preparations for the push to Saigon. Those divisions from MR l and MR 2 moved south while those in MR 4 moved north and east. They would join forces in MR 3 since recently captured equipment and a newly built road network facilitated rapid movement. Additionally, the North Vietnamese redeployed their antiaircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles, especially the portable SA-7 Grail, to the area. The CinCPac's report of 2 April confirmed this: "Bien Hoa lies within a confirmed SA-7 operating area and will probably be the first base at which the enemy will deny air operations."33

The next day Admiral Steele also addressed the enemy's presence in Saigon when he issued Operational Plan 1-75. Sent to all subordinate units, the 3 April message stated: "Bien Hoa is already within range of 130mm artillery as well as 122mm rockets .... The airfield also lies within a confirmed SA-7 operating area. Tan Son Nhut... is only 8km south of a known SA-7 operating area, and is adjacent to targets of known high interest to the enemy. An extensive SA-7 operating area parallels the Saigon River corridor running between Saigon and Vung Tau."34

It appeared that the immediate capture of Saigon through the use of armor and infantry supported by extensive antiaircraft cover could occur momentarily. The NVA'S final offensive was close at hand. An intelligence report issued at the same time as Admiral Steele's message revealed similar findings. It summarized: "A GVN enclave around Saigon could encom-

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