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[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Capt
James D. Trcgurtha,
USN (Ret). USS
Duluth (LPD 6)
of Amphibious
Squadron 5 sits
off the coast of South Vietnam after its recent arrival from
San Diego. The
ship was quickly
deployed to assist
in the operations
carried out in
the South China Sea
during the last two
weeks of April

Page 137(The Bitter End)

of duties occupied a two- to three-week period which in turn provided enough
ships to conduct a major landing exercise, sometimes involving as many as
four battalions. The spring of 1975 happened to be one of those overlap periods.
Consequently, in order to provide the Seventh Fleet and III MAF with the means
to conduct MABLEx 2-75, CinCPac approved a rotation schedule which doubled
the number of amphibious ships in the Western Pacific.37

The Marine units that in 1975 planned to join forces to perform the exercise as the 9th MAB were, in late March, still dispersed throughout the Western Pacific. Shortly, events in Southeast Asia would force an early rendezvous. The fighting edge of this Navy-Marine Corps team, the 31st MAU, was already embarked in Amphibious Ready Group Alpha ships, on station in the Gulf of Thailand. The 31st MAU consisted of Battalion Landing Team 2/4 (BLT 2/4), Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462), and Logistic Support Unit 2/4 (LSU 2/4). The MAU had been floating and waiting for nearly two months, expecting on any day to receive orders to evacuate Phnom Penh, the besieged capital of Cambodia.

Other units which eventually would become part of the 9th MAB kept pace by continuing to follow their monthly training schedules. The unit assigned as the landing force for ARG Bravo shipping, BLT 3/9, even deployed to mainland Japan 10 complete its planned readiness requirements. BLT 3/9 and its logistic support unit, LSU 3/9, went ashore at Camp Fuji, Japan, to conduct routine, infantry training. Two of the four remaining infantry battalions on Okinawa-1st Battalion, 9th Marines and 1st Battalion, 4th Marines-served as the primary and backup air contingency battalions. Supporting them and conducting training of their own on Okinawa were Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) and Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 (HML-367). At the same time, 3,000 miles to the east at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe, Hawaii, another helicopter squadron, Ma-


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