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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical
Collection. This
map of Saigon
was used by 9th
MAB to depict
potential evacuation
sites. Note distance
from the Embassy
to the DAO compound
which had to
be traversed
by vehicles or
CIA helicopters.
Capt Wood and
the SPG were
responsible for
planning that

Page 158(The Bitter End)

been unable to make it to the DAO. Failing pickup by this means, these evacuees
would make their way to the rooftops of the way stations (specifically chosen
because they could be defended), and gain access cither by stairs or via ladders
built and installed by volunteers* Once on the roof. Air America helicopters
would extract and deposit these evacuees at the compound. The planners assumed
that the ground transportation portion of this plan would only work for one
or two cycles before the deception was discovered and then they would have
to depend exclusively on the Air America helicopters to rescue any stragglers.
Captain Wood recently stated: "The surface evacuation plan for Saigon was based on planning and bluff, mostly bluff."36

One of the reasons the bluff worked was because of the contributions of 40 or so American civilians, men and women whose average age was 48 with the oldest 62. They volunteered their services to the SPG and ably assisted in the surface evacuation phase. An individual who played a key role in this operation was William D. "Bill" Austin, area auditor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This very senior American official not only volunteered to drive a bus through the dangerous Saigon streets, but willingly agreed to help Captain Wood prepare the other drivers. These men and women trained at night under cover of DAO buildings designated by the SPG for the secret evacuation preparations. Each night one or two volunteers would get to sit in the seat, start the black and white civilian bus, and move it back and forth in place. In addition, other volunteers quietly bulletproofed and equipped the buses for evacuation by placing wire meshing in the windows, flak jackets along the sides below the window line, and PRC-25 radios on board. The plan called for these same buses to be staged throughout the city at designated way stations and billet pick-up points prior to the actual surface movement. Lastly, the guides, who would sit

�Capiain Wood designated 12 locations as primary sites and 18 as secondary pickup points.

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