[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of Capt
Russell R. Thurman, USMC (Ret). Capt William R. Melton, commander
of Company G, BLT 214, briefs his men.
Cannes participated in both Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind.]
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mander in BLT 2/4, said, "An unsubstantiated rumor circulating among the ship's company and the Marines on the Okinawa was that the message somehow had gotten lost in the Blue Ridge's message center."13
The delay in passing the message coincided with the MAB's decision to break for lunch, and as a consequence, the pilots were in the ship's mess when the execute message arrived. Captain Kurt A. Schrader, a helicopter commander in HMH-462, related, "We had just stood down when the ship's captain came over the 1MC (public address system) and announced that the mission was a go but the message directing it had been lost by the Blue Ridge's communications center."14 The sudden shift in direction initially caught everyone off guard, but within minutes the Marines and sailors had resumed their combat ready, pre-launch status. Since General Carey had not received the order to begin the operation until 1215, the landing of the first helicopter in the zone could not be expected until 1615 (based on the times contained in the operational order). All concerned deemed this expected time of arrival (ETA) unacceptable. As a consequence, the Seventh Fleet and the 9th MAB expedited their preparations, attempting to compress the four-hour package into less than three hours. Achieving this objective would nearly double the number of daylight hours available to the pilots.15
Regimental Landing Team 4 (RLT 4), commanded by Colonel Gray, wasted no time in readying itself for an immediate departure. Only days earlier. Colonel Gray had received orders to prepare to provide a security force in support of the C-141/C-130 airlift. Word to transfer that security force never came, only causing the Marines' anticipation to intensify. The signal to mount out meant anticipation would be supplanted by action.
Aware of the situation at the compound and familiar with the time-sensitive scheme of maneuver, General Carey began crossdecking operations the instant he received the execute order.16 Each pilot rcchecked his helicopter flow schedule, made last-minute, minor, but necessary changes, and transmitted them to the Helicopter Direction Center (HDC) on the Okinawa. Complicating all of this activity was a sky filled with South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, looking for a place to land and disgorge their panic-stricken passengers.'7
Following receipt of detailed information from the HDC on the Okinawa, Admiral Whitmire announced that L-Hour had changed again and would now be 1500. Despite this modification, due in large part to the continuing confusion over USSAG's understanding of L-Hour, Operation Frequent Wind was finally in morion.18
At this time, the brigade began the most critical aspect ofprc-L-Hour operations: positioning the landing force. Gunnery Sergeant Russell R. Thurman, the 31st MAU public affairs specialist, recalled, "The most incredible thing that morning was the number of ships. Every direction that you looked all you could see were ships and more ships."19
The helicopter schedule took into consideration the number of ships and the distribution of helicopters. It called for the loaded and fueled helicopters to reposition themselves on the USS Okinawa, Hancock, Du-buque, Denver, Duluth, Mobile, Peoria, and Vancouver. This would be accomplished 30 minutes prior to the scheduled landing time in the zone. Essentially, it represented the same type of evolution employed at Phnom Penh, by the same squadrons:
Lieutenant Colonel James L. Bolton's HMH-462 and Lieutenant Colonel Herbert M. Fix's HMH-463. Not by coincidence, they also carried the same Marines, BLT 2/4.20
To make the flight schedule work, the Marines had to redistribute vast amounts of men and equipment in order to achieve some semblance of pre-mission integrity. They had either, to launch fully loaded helicopters simultaneously from various ships for an overhead rendezvous and an integrated flight to Sai-
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