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[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Capt
Anthony A. Wood, USMC (Ret). The Defense Attache Office, Saigon,
on 30 April 1973. shows the effects
of 9th MAB's
thermite charges. Thanks to the efforts of Capt McManus and
MSgt East, the one-time U.S. headquarters, made
of concrete and
rein forced steel, has literally melted and shrunk.]

Page 172(The Bitter End)

liaison officer. Major David E. Cox, conducted a readiness briefing for the commanding general of the 9th MAB, his principal staff, the RLT 4 staff, and the staff of ProvMAG-39. Included in the meeting on board the Blue Ridge was a 35mm slide presentation of the DAO landing zones, obstacles to flight, aerial checkpoints, and the ingress/egress route from the task force to Saigon. At the conclusion of the session, General Carey gave Major Cox a copy of the plan for the employment of the landing force at the DAO/Air America complex. Major Cox then departed for Saigon where he conveyed those intentions to the Defense Attache, General Smith. During his meeting with the Defense Attache, Major Cox highlighted General Carey's plans for helicopter operations, landing zone organization, and evacuee processing.26

On that same day, the landing zones were declared ready for use. Each zone bore distinctive markings colored with luminescent paint and known as CH-53 "footprints." Taken from the CH-53 NATOPS Flight Manual, they were placed to provide maximum rotor tip clearance. In cases where the zone could not be painted, iron rods were installed. Sometime just prior to L-hour, members of the Advance Command Element would attach standard Marine Corps marking panels to the rods. Communications remained the only unfinished major area as Lieutenant Colonel Ver-don continued his preparations. During this period, he also provided technical assistance and support to the Special Planning Group, responsible for controlling the surface evacuation of Saigon.27

In all respects. Colonel Taylor's team of experts supported by their counterparts on the 9th MAB and RLT 4 staffs greatly aided and enhanced the Special Planning Group in its last-minute preparations. Their presence eased some of the strain of an undermanned DAO staff attempting to conduct a massive fixed-wing evacuation while its own numbers decreased daily. When Ambassador Martin made that unavoidable phone call on the morning of 29 April, the DAO Compound stood ready to begin the helicopter evacuation of Saigon. Only one task remained.24

Before the Americans departed South Vietnam, all sensitive equipment and gear had to be demolished to preclude its capture by the North Vietnamese. Captain McManus and Master Sergeant East already had been assigned that mission: destruction of designated controlled areas within the DAO compound. As the two men set their explosives on the evening of 29 April, they undertook a historic task, elimination of

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