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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) 7718475. Amphibious andMSC ships deploy
off Vung Tau awaiting the order to begin frequent Wind. At
the last minute, confusion occurred over the definition of
L-Hour and as a consequence the ships did not receive the
order to "execute" until 1215, 29 April 1975.]

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gon, or to launch them unloaded to hold at an air orbit point until they could
be loaded. Once loaded, they would return to the formation and wait for the
flight to depart. If prior to this, fuel consumption became a consideration,
then that helicopter would hold on deck, and just before scheduled departure,
it would load troops/equipment on that ship or the one designated. If neither
of these alternatives offered the proper conditions, then the Marines were
prepared to spot the helicopters on board a carrier or an assault ship and
use it as a platform from which to embark and launch the first wave.21

In anticipation of this, BLT 2/4 had distributed its infantry, reconnaissance, and engineering units among the Okinawa, Vancouver, and the Peoria. They totalled 23 CH-53 loads.22 The Okinawa housed more than half of them (twelve), while the Vancouver carried six and the Peoria five. None of the ships possessed enough space to load all of the heliteams at the same time. As a result, each helicopter picked up its passengers two hours before L-Hour and then moved as directed by HDC to deck space designated for refueling and launch. By doing this, the Marines assured themselves sufficient time to make L-Hour. In order to accomplish the complicated crossdecking maneuver with the limited space available, they had to use all of the task force's ships.23

Twelve CH-53s from HMH-462 comprised the first wave. Loaded with the BLT 2/4 command groups "A" and "B," and Company F and reinforced Company H, they departed the launch area 30 minutes prior to L-Hour in order to arrive in the DAO Compound at L-Hour, 1500. This wave actually landed at 1506.24 The second wave of CH-53s consisted of 12 helicopters from HMH-463. They departed 15 minutes after the first wave and landed in the DAO Compound at 1515.

While the second wave waited for the order to begin crossdecking operations, the first wave completed its preparations by loading 10 heliteams from its ship, the Okinawa, and two from the Peoria. After the first wave completed its launch, the second wave picked up six heliteams from the Vancouver, three from Peoria, and two from Okinawa. HMH-463 accomplished this complex maneuver as planned, through redistribution of its assets. The squadron's crossdecking of two empty CH-53s provided a vivid illustration of the coordination required in launching a force of this size on time. Empty, they flew together to the Peoria. One loaded troops and moved to the Mobile while the other took on troops, refueled, and remained on the Peoria. The two then launched together for Saigon, making up a third wave.*25

Unintentionally complicating this evolution were

*The 10 USAF helicopters from Midway joined this wave to bring the total for all three waves in the first cycle to 36 CH/HH-53s.

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