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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical
Collection. Col
Alfred M. Gray,
pictured as Commandant
of the Marine
Corps, commanded
33/MAU in early
April. When the
9th MAB was restructured
on 18 April,
he assumed command
of Regimental
Landing Team

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in more detail the helicopter alternative. Through its "feet wet" chain of command, the 9th MAB received additional instructions from the Navy. These directives for the most part were complementary to USSAG's;

however, they did contain additional taskings. The brigade headquarters became in effect a conduit for melding the various plans of the dual chain of command. The 9th MAB staff, in particular the G-3 section, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. White, was required to examine every minute aspect of the operation, ensuring that the parallel planning cogs did in fact mesh. Where they did not, the brigade assisted in rectifying the differences.5

Many of the conflicts arose from the changing assumptions caused by the highly volatile situation in South Vietnam. With the North Vietnamese controlling the action and dictating the tactics, little could really be done in selecting a single best course of action. As a consequence it was necessary for the brigade to develop detailed plans for each course of action, making no assumptions which would place the lives of the evacuees in jeopardy. Thus, USSAG and the 9th MAB had to develop a definitive and comprehensive plan covering a wide range of alternatives which minimized the risk for confusion or conflicts for the participants.

This spectrum of alternatives ranged from the insertion of a handful of small security teams onto rooftop landing zones in Saigon to an amphibious landing on the Vung Tau Peninsula. The latter option required the landing force to secure a major marshalling/evacuation area. Plans for these potential missions had to take into account the requirement to provide landing forces for security of the landing zones. Finally, the idea of providing helicopters for all of these options in addition to the Marines serving as security for the Military Sealift Command ships meant that by committing the 9th MAB to this operation, III MAF would have limited numbers available for any additional commitments.

After its arrival off Vung Tau on 10 April, one of the 9th MAB's first orders of business was to make contact with officials in the U.S. Embassy and the DAO in Saigon. At the same time. III MAF sent a liaison team to Saigon via Nakhon Phanom (USSAG Headquarters) to gather planning information. The next day this team briefed the MAB staff on the situation in Saigon. Before the MAF team left the ship on 10 April to return to Nakhon Phanom, General Carcy asked them to inquire as to the possibility of the 9th MAB staff visiting Saigon and conducting a personal reconnaissance of potential evacuation sites. Upon gaining approval of this mission, the 9th MAB sent a delegation of air and ground officers to Saigon on 12 April.6

Having spent the entire day in Saigon, the delegation returned to the Blue Ridge
and reported to General Carey that the primary evacuation sites most likely
would be either the DAO/Air America Compound, the Newport Pier, or Vung Tau
Peninsula. The officers brought back schematics and photographs of these facilities.
Further the group related the concerns that Ambassador Martin had manifested
during their visit to the Embassy. In no uncertain terms, he had conveyed
to the Marines that he would not tolerate any outward sign of intent to depart
the country because he felt it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The
Ambassador believed an overt vote of no confidence could even speed the inexorable
movement toward collapse. Hence, all planning and related evacuation activities
would have to be conducted discreetly, while for the purpose of appearance,
business would continue as usual, or seem to, for U.S. officials in South

In order to gain a better personal understanding of the situation and visually integrate this new informa-

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