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[Image 1: Marine
Corps Historical
Collection. A
9th MAB "intel" picture numbers
LZs 34 and 35
in the Annex
and 36 - 38 in
the Alamo. Alamo
LZ 39 is outside
the photo, top left; Air America terminal LZ 40 was not

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the MAG-36 medium and light helicopters, now members of ProvMAG-39 and in position
on the decks of the other ships in the task force. These helicopters, CH-46s,
UH-lEs, and AH-lJs (Cobras) were an integral pan of the pre-L-Hour preparations
and could not be pushed aside or relocated to other deck space. They had to
fit into the flow pattern because each one had a support or rescue role in
the overall operation. Their missions included everything from sea and air
rescue to carrying 15-man, quick-reaction "Sparrow Hawk" teams of Marines
from Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines.26

The 9th MAB planned to use two Sparrow Hawk teams, with each one on board a CH-46. These two CH-46s would then orbit along the evacuation route, positioned to assist any helicopter in distress. In the event that the NVA shot down a helicopter or a mechanical malfunction forced one to make an emergency landing in enemy-held territory, a Sparrow Hawk team stood ready to land and provide security. Its defensive perimeter would then enable a sea and air rescue (SAR) helicopter to pick up the crew. Besides this support, two CH-46s would provide medical evacuation capabilities while the Cobras would fly cover for the transport helicopters and, if possible, for anyone else who requested it. In addition, the Cobras could serve as Tactical Air Coordinators (Airborne) or Forward Air Controllers (Airborne). Another critical means of support would be provided by the UH-lEs, a command and control platform for General Carey, Colonel Gray, and Colonel Frank G. McLenon, the ProvMAG-59 commander. Thus, crossdecking for the initial transport waves would have to integrate the medium and light helicopters into the overall flow pattern, adding one more factor to the already complicated process.27

With all these helicopters in a relatively small airspace, control and safety became paramount considerations. The demanding and important task of safely controlling the skies over South Vietnam had to be shared by two Services, the Navy and the Air Force. Admiral Whitmire retained responsibility for air control over the water, or "feet wet," while General Burns as USSAG/Seventh Air Force commander (call sign


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