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[Image 1: Department
of Defense Photo (USMC) 711631. USS Harold E. Holt maneuvers
alongside SS Mayaguez to permit a boarding party from Company
D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines to seize the container ship.
The Company D commander, Capt Walter J. Wood, and a squad
leader, Cpl C. R. Coker, found themselves alone on the Mayaguez
as backwash from the Holt pushed the two ships apart.]

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met with Captain Petersen and the Executive Officer." In their discussion, they determined that the deck above Holt's main deck would match with the Mayaguez s main deck. Yet as the destroyer escort drew closer to the container ship, Captain Wood could see that both of the main decks were on the same level and so he quickly moved his boarding party down to the Holt's main deck. Just as they arrived there, the Holt slid alongside the container ship and the Company D commander told Corporal C. R. Coker, the leader of the squad designated to seize the bridge, to jump, and Captain Wood followed in trail. As they boarded, the squad leader took off for the bridge while Captain Wood proceeded aft to secure the squad's rear. As he turned around to determine the squad's progress, he beheld a most unusual sight, an empty ship save for one Marine corporal. Captain Wood remembered that eery occasion: "As I proceeded aft, I turned to my rear to view the progress of Cokcr's squad and the remainder of the boarding party who were supposed to secure the lines between Holt and Mayaguez. But much to my surprise I discovered that Coker and I were the only Marines on board the Mayaguez"32

Apparently the backwash created by the Holt coming alongside the Mayaguez had pushed the two ships apart just as the two Marines landed on the deck of the captive ship. Almost immediately sailors on the Holt threw lines to them and after considerable effort the two men lashed the ships together and the remaining members of the boarding party joined them. Company D in the ancient naval tradition, had boarded a vessel "known" to be held by armed defenders. The captain and the corporal had been on board for five minutes; the squad leader's watch read 0725 and not a shot had been fired.33

Once on board, using only hand signals (their gas masks precluded verbal communication), the Company D Marines moved deliberately but quickly to preassigned areas of the ship.* Securing the engine room before the Cambodians could disable the ship headed their list of priorities. This important task fell to Sergeant William J. Owens' squad which had to make its way through darkened passageways and lad-derwells just to get to the gas-filled engine room. What

*Capiain Wood recently explained how his Marines modified this procedure to
accommodate the circumstances: "The boarding party was not limited to hand
signals. When the line was thrown from Holt to Mayaguez and Coker and I were
fumbling with it. using methods every Marine is taught during NBC training.
I could communicate and ask for instructions from Holt's ship personnel as
to how and where to secure the line. l simply lifted up my mask, shouted the
question, replaced my, cleared it and breathed normally For the first
one to two hours above deck. this became standard practice on board the Mayaguez." Wood

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