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1: Department
of Defense
Photo (USMC)
A150967 While
USSAG Headquarters
tried to clarify
L-Hours, reconnaissance
aircraft spotted
a North Vietnamese
Army convoy,
lower left,
entering Saigon
on the afternoon
of 29 April.
The next day.
President Duong
Van "Big " Minh
ordered his
soldiers to
lay down their

Page 182(The Bitter End)

the one-hour alert posture. The alert signified that the forces had one hour to get into position before the Start of the operation. Weeks earlier the brigade's air planners had computed 30 minutes as the flight time from the average ship's location to the farthest landing zone, the Defense Attache Office Compound, adjacent to Tan Son Nhut Airfield. Combining the 90 minutes needed for crossdecking operations with the 30 minutes of flight time automatically added two hours to the hour of standby time. Thus a one-hour response time meant that from the moment the order to begin was received until the first helicopter landed in Saigon three hours would elapse. This parameter had to be further modified by the Air Force's restrictions. USSAG/Seventh Air Force's operational order required that a fixed-wing aircraft be on station before any evacuation helicopter entered the city. For its support aircraft to achieve control of the target area and bring to bear maximum firepower, the Air Force required three hours preparation time to launch, refuel enroute, and arrive on station, which for a one-hour alert status translated into four hours, the amount of time between the word to begin and the earliest moment a Marine helicopter could land in the zone.

At the same time the 9th MAB was preparing for the helicopter evacuation which they had been expecting for the past three days, the Evacuation Control Center was preparing for a final and massive fixed-wing evacuation schedule. At 2000 on 28 April, it announced that the evacuation would resume at 2330. The plan, unrealistic in its expectations, called for 50 to 60 sorties to lift over 10,000 people. Shortly after midnight, the scheduled start time was slipped to 0330. Between 0300 and 0330 the first of the C-130s landed. Despite planning to carry refugees, each of these three aircraft, for some unexplained reason, carried a BUJ-82 weapon*

For obvious reasons, each bomb had to be carefully unloaded. Nearly one-half hour passed before the South Vietnamese completed the task. Minutes later the North Vietnamese Army delivered an unfriendly welcome to Option II of the evacuation plan (military fixed-wing airlift). Besides altering the alert posture of the 9th MAB, the ensuing artillery and rocket attack on the Tan Son Nhut Airfield, which began just before 0400, destroyed one C-130 and forced the other two to leave empty Before their hasty departure, they picked up the crew of the destroyed Her-

*BLU-82 is a 11,000-pound bomb known "affectionately" as the "Daisy Cutter" because i( is used to destroy vegetation in jungle areas selected for use as helicopter landing zones. BUJ is the U.S. Air Force acronym for Bomb Live Unit. During the NVA Spring Offensive (he VNAF had used BLU-82s as a poor man's substitute for the B-52, employing C-130s as the delivery platform. At the end of the battle for Xuan Loc, the VNAF dropped one of them on the 341s f NVA Division's headquarters.

Page 182(The Bitter End)