[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of BGen James A. Herbert, USA (Ret). Repatriates,
protesting the delay in their return to Vietnam, burned this
barracks at Camp Asan. Most of the repatriates were peaceful
and only sought reunion with the families they had left behind.]
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violence in order to accomplish this goal."46 Captain Shores explained
to Quay that he did not have the authority to repatriate them and, while
he did have the responsibility of making their stay comfortable, his first
priority was the safety and welfare of his Marines. He asked Quay not to
interpret compassion as a sign of weakness and reminded him that the first
person to break the rules would be sent to the isolated and more primitive
Orote Point where tighter security restrictions could be imposed. Thanks
in large part to the establishment of these ground rules. Camp So-cio did
not have one dangerous incident. The only overt activity took place on 30
July 1975, when eight repatriates shaved their heads in protest. They objected
to Captain Tarn's confinement at Orote Point for his part in the burning
of a Camp Asan barracks.*47
Eventually, by the end of August, all of the Socio occupants had been moved to Camp Asan. The marginal sewage pumps at Socio inspired that decision when they malfunctioned two times in three days, Spilling more than 8,000 gallons of raw sewage. These new occupants of Asan, 240 Vietnamese, still adamantly wanted to return to Vietnam despite a meeting with Brigadier General Herbert, who explained in detail the ramifications and dangers of repatriation.** Still, they insisted on returning to their homeland. Consequently, on 15 October, they and the other repatriates of Camp Asan boarded a Vietnamese vessel, the Thuong Tin I. At 1230 the next day the ship with its 1,546 repatriates departed for Vietnam.*** Two weeks later. Camp Asan closed. With its closure, Operation New Life ended, having lasted nearly four months longer than its original forecast of 90 days.48
The repatriates by far had represented the gravest challenge to the overall refugee operation. Their contentious behavior and threatening demands prompted command changes at other satellite camps in addition to Socio's. On 5 July because of repatriate problems, Colonel McCain assigned First Lieutenant Roger D. Gabclman as the commander of Camp J&G. He would remain there until two days after the transfer of that camp's repatriates to Camp Asan on 20 August. First Lieutenant Keith L. Johnson received word the day Gabelman transferred his camp occupants that effective 22 August he would become the commander of Tokyu Hotel. Although Tokyu Hotel did not house any repatriates, it had its own problems. It contained hundreds of third-country nationals who awaited an immigration judge's ruling on whether they qualified for American citizenship and benefits. On 10 September, he decided that they did not and ordered them deponed. He ruled that the special law passed by Congress allowing the entry of Vietnamese refugees into the U.S. did not apply to them. Within two weeks of the order, all of the third-country nationals were
*General Herbert recently described that incident: "There were some 'hot heads' among the group of repatriates. They burned down a barracks and the group was told by me thai we really did not care how many buildings were torched because the entire group would remain at Camp Asan until repatriation, with or without the comfort of a roof over their heads. There was no more violence." Herbert Comments.
**General Herbert mentioned his attempts to change the repatriates' decision: "As the Senior Civil Coordinator, I had numerous sessions with the repatriate leadership and explained the probable actions to be taken by the Hanoi folks if they returned. They were for the large pan committed to their family members remaining in Vietnam, regardless of the warnings." Herbert Comments.
***The Senior Civil Coordinator explained his participation in this undertaking: "We developed the plan to fix up the Thuong Tin l ship. convert (he freighter to passenger use, and send the repatriates back. I obtained authority to seize the Thuong Tin l and ComNavMar was instructed by CNO via CinCPacFlt to repair it as necessary and fit it out to carry (he repatriates. This job was done rapidly and well, at a cost of $800,000, as I recall. On 16 October, with outstanding support from Rear Admiral Kent Carroll and the combined efforts of the Naval Ship Repair Facility, Marine Barracks Guam, Naval Logistics Center, and the IATF team, the Thuong Tin l set sail with 1,546 repatriates on board from Agana for Saigon." He added that he still had the text of a lawsuit in which he was sued for t3.000.000 for his pan in the seizure of the ship. Herbert Comments.
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