Page 264

Page 264(The Bitter End)

about the military methods the U.S. used in retaking the Mayaguez. Thailand
refused to allow any further use of its bases for this purpose. Prime Minister
Khukrit informed the American Charge D'Affaires, ". . . should the U.S. resort to military retaliation in regard to this matter . . . , the Thai government wants it to be a matter between America and Cambodia only. The That government does not want to be involved in ir in any way whatsoever. And it does not and will not give permission for the United States to use any base in Thailand."92
Due to the delay in receiving the formal protest, its timing did not interfere
with the assault on Koh Tang. As a result of the Thai demands, the BLT 2/9
Marines at Utapao arrived on Okinawa well before the rest of their combat-tested

Meanwhile, the Marines who had participated in the Mayaguez operation went to Subic on Navy ships where the Marines of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines disembarked and rejoined their unit. From there, the Marines of BLT 2/9 returned [o Okinawa by way of Kadena Airbase and an Air Force C-141. Once at Camp Schwab, the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines resumed its interrupted training which ironically included a rest to see if it was ready for combat! General Hoffman deactivated Task Group 79-9 the day the battalion headquarters returned, 21 May 1975.93

In terms of the Navy's participation. Vice Admiral Steele said, "The May 1975 rescue of the container ship Mayaguez and the crew assisted by the USS Harold E. Holt (DE-1074) and the USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG-7) shows the readiness and flexibility of the ships."94 Certainly, readiness and flexibility was also reflected in the Marine Corps' contribution to this operation. Immediately upon conclusion of the operation, General George S. Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued the following statement:

"The success of the unique operation to recover the SS Mayaguez and her crew by the combined efforts of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps represents an outstanding display of the versatility, dedication, and professional competence of all the participants."95

Despite these plaudits, the Mayaguez operation, from inception to completion,
from planning to execution, contained flaws and failings. Planning, command
and control, communications, and adherence to doctrine all suffered in some
respect. The short-fuse nature of the contingency held the planners hostage
to the clock. From the outset, planners never had adequate time to develop
fully a conceptual plan, a problem which was then compounded by a lack of
reliable intelligence. At this juncture, senior officers created command relationships
among Services that placed an excessive reliance on long distance communications.
Thus the entire operation became highly vulnerable to equipment failures and
miscommuni-cation. Admiral Steele offered his opinion of the rescue operation.
He argued, "I insist that the short-fused nature of the contingency did not
hold the planners hostage for time. I believe that our political leadership,
starring with President Ford and Secretary [of State] Henry Kissinger, demanded
from the military a speed of performance that it could not provide, and forces
were commkced piecemeal and pell mell, from different services with differenr
doctrines, and [who are] unused to working with each other. There were too
many cooks by far in this broth. Had the Seventh Fleet and its Marines been
instructed to recover the Mayaguez and her crew, as simple as that, there
probably would have been no loss of life, and the Mayaguez and her crew would
have been recovered successfully, one or two days later."96

After the initial landings met with unexpected resistance and the inserted forces were unable to move, potential problems became real problems. Soon, they multiplied as three Services spontaneously attempted to apply dissimilar solutions to problems which required uniform and coordinated ones. Urcy Patrick, an analyst for the Center for Naval Analyses, remarked on the lack of coordinated effort: "Of the 8 helicopters damaged or lost in the first wave, 6 were damaged or lost before there was any air or naval gunfire support."97 Despite this, the Air Force still sent helicopters into the zone without sufficient covering fire and the Navy failed to provide gunfire support until 1600, nearly 10 hours after the first Marine landed on Koh Tang. One of the worst examples offaulure to communicate and coordinate was the indiscriminate delivery of ordnance without the ground force commander's consent or knowledge. The arrival of an unrequested and unwanted 15,000-pound bomb on the afternoon of 15 May highllghed the depth to which command responsibility had sunk. The battalion's after action report under the sub-title "Problem Areas and Lessons Learned" almost understated the seriousness of the event: "Not all ordnance delivery was cleared with the CO BLT 2/9. The most glaring example was the use of a 15,000-pound bomb dropped in mid-afternoon with absolutely no prior notice to or clearance from 2/9."98

Eventually, all three Services combined to effect a

Page 264(The Bitter End)