Apr 29

Operation Frequent Wind: April 29-30, 1975

Thursday, April 29, 2010 5:01 AM

For 125,000 Vietnamese-Americans and their descendants, April 30, 1975 marks the day their lives changed forever. On that date, Saigon fell to the forces of North Vietnam and thousands of “at risk” Vietnamese joined the dwindling number of Americans still left in Vietnam to be evacuated by Operation Frequent Wind a massive assembly of aircraft and ships that became the largest helicopter evacuation in history.

With the fall of Saigon imminent, the United States Navy formed Task Force 76 off the coast of South Vietnam in anticipation of removing those “at risk” Vietnamese who had ardently supported our efforts to stop the Communist takeover of South Vietnam. 

Task Force 76

Task Force 76 USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) (command ship)

Task Group 76.4 (Movement Transport Group Alpha)

Task Group 76.5 (Movement Transport Group Bravo)

Task Group 76.9 (Movement Transport Group Charlie)

The task force was joined by:

each carrying Marine, and Air Force (8 21st Special Operations Squadron CH-53s and 2 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron HH-53s[28]) helicopters.

Seventh Fleet flagship USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5).

Amphibious ships:

and eight destroyer types for naval gunfire, escort, and area defense, including:

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and USS Coral Sea (CV-43) carrier attack groups of Task Force 77 in the South China Sea provided air cover while Task Force 73 ensured logistic support.

At noon, April 30, 1975 the familiar wop-wop of single rotors announced the arrival of VNAF Huey helicopters that began circling the USS Blue Ridge as they waited to off-load their passengers, then quickly lift off to ditch in the sea along side the ship.

Vietnamese pilot jumping

Over the next 24 hours, scores of helicopters would appear like bees returning to the hive, to land on the LPD’s and the carriers, Midway and Hancock, disgorging hundreds of stunned men, women and children clutching what few possessions they could carry in their arms. As each group was rushed below to the hanger deck, their ride was jettisoned to make way for another crowded bird.

In one feat of ingenuity, the pilot of a small observation plane buzzed the deck of the Midway and dropped a note asking them to move the helicopters so he could land. The note was signed, “Please rescue me. Major Buang, wife and 5 child. The Midway’s Captain immediately ordered the deck cleared and the Major came in for a perfect three point landing.

Welcoming committee for Major Buang and family

The evacuation continued all through the day and into the next. Thousand of refugees crammed on vessels of every description fled to the ships waiting offshore. Finally, on May 2, the ships of TF 76 sailed for Guam and the Philippines carrying 6000 souls along with another 44,000 on Military Sealift Command vessels; their cargo would turn out to be a pretty remarkable group of new citizens. The first stop for many became Camp Pendleton in Southern California where the Marine Corps provided refuge and a helping hand to over 50,000 Vietnamese as they transitioned to life in the United States. This month, the base opened an exhibit to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Operation New Arrivals.

Refugee tent city, Camp Pendleton, 1975

Like all military operations, Operation Frequent Wind and Operation New Arrivals were debriefed, reviewed and studied to determine their success or failure. The true measure of the success of the two operations, began to show in the next generation of those whom the Navy and Marines helped the spring and summer of 1975. Those 125,000 were followed by tens of thousands more, until today, Vietnamese-Americans number over 1.6 million. As noted by the Manhattan Institute in 2008, the Vietnamese community has one of the highest rates of civic assimilation of any immigrant group in the United States. Signs of this civic mindedness is apparent in the military where Vietnamese-born United States Naval officer Cmdr H.B. Le commanding the USS Lassen DDG 82, recently returned to make a port call in Vietnam, after an absence of 35 years. And in the Army, Col Viet Luong, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division is preparing to lead the brigade to Afghanistan this spring. Both of these men were small children among that first wave of citizens rescued by Task Force 76.

Cmdr H.B. Le

As a veteran of that much maligned war. I look back at what the Navy and Marine Corp did that spring of 1975 and find a sense of redemption for all who served; that out of the chaos of seeing South Vietnam fall, we have gained thousands of new citizens who have strengthened the fabric of this nation.

 
 
 
  • Theodore J. Schmitz III, HMC,USN, Ret

    I was there on the USS Midway. It is great to see how some of the “kids” that were rescued have turned out to be great citizens.

    No mention was made about the US Marines that also were evacuated fro the Embasy. We oused them in one of the hanger bays on Midway. Midway Magic lives on.

  • http://hgworld.blogspot.com historyguy99

    Thanks for the comments Theodore!

    You might be interested to know that there is a big reunion of the Crew and the people they rescued today. Even Maj. Buang and family will be there.

    http://www.ocregister.com/news/midway-246484-friday-museum.html

  • Louis Hoang

    We were rescued and transported to Guam on a ship I believe its name was USS Santa Maria. However, I don’t find it on the list of ships in this task force 76. Is there another list or I’m mistaken?

  • Johnnie D. Johnson

    I was onboard the U.S.S. Coral Sea during that time frame working out of the OA Div office(weather). Whenever I see the photo of the Huey on the rooftop taking as many personnel it can take it will remind me of that day.

  • http://hgworld.blogspot.com Historyguy99

    Hi Louis,

    Thank you for commenting.

    I checked the list of naval ships and could not find a record of a USS Santa Maria.

    Here is the list of the Military Sealift Command ships in the operation. Maybe one of them comes to mind.

    Sgt Truman Kimbro, Sgt Andrew Miller, Greenville Victory, Pioneer Contender, Pioneer Commander, Green Forest, Green Port, American Challenger, and Boo Heung Pioneer.

  • Bob Griffin

    I was crew of USNS Greenville Victory off of Vung Tau on that morning. We had already evacuated a group from Cam Ranh Bay earlier that month. When Saigon fell we took many, many “boat people” on board, lifting the kids via cargo nets. We took them to the Phillipines and then I and 5 others volunteered to go on the Mayaguez Rescue. We were the six civilians who accompanied the Navy and Marines in getting the vessel out of Cambodian waters and underway. April 75 turned out to be a pretty eventful month for us.

  • Larry McTernan

    Operation Frequent Wind by itself took great planning and execution by ALL chopper pilots. When the Vietnamese filled the horizon with UH-1s’s, some crammed with 35-41 Vietnamese refugees, time seemed like a foreign concept. I performed medivacs with the Duluth’s crew, echanged food for weapons, searched abandoned fishing craft and medivacing more refugees to the BlueRidge. I don’t think I slep the first 48 hours. Mike 3/9, of which I was 2nd platoons corpsman, was supposed to secure the CIA building, but NVN rockets kept us on ship. When we left Fuji, our Bn Surgeon decided that he didn’t want responsibility for the Bn’s morphine Sulphate supply, so he left it locked in a safe at the MCB Mt Fuji. The Duluth’s doctor allowed each corpsman one box of five syrettes each. We were supposed to carry five boxes. Who to give morphine to became a question that bothered me. At the time, most of my companion were thinking that they didn’t want to be the last person to die in Vietnam. Saw a lot of hairy things, which even after PTSD treatment, continues to invade my mind with horrific images of choppers running out of fuel and crashing 50 yards from our flight deck. Noone survived that. There is much more to Operation Frequent Wind than what’s in print. Happy Anniversary TF76. HM3 McTernan, Mike 3/9, 9th Amphibious Brigade

  • Daniel E. McCall USMC (Ret)

    I was there as part of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regt. We had just come from the Cambodia evacation and where called on to secure the American Embassy. As I served in Vietnam with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines in 1966-67; it broke my heart to see the NVA/VC outside the gates just waiting for us to leave. By the time we had evacuated everyone,the pilots were so tired and the confusion so great, that we landed on the wrong carrier. It was late the next afternoon that we were flown to our own carrier. There is much more to the story than what has been printed.

  • LCDR Ken Badget USN (ret)

    I was there also. Interestingly, I do not find the USS Cook (FF-1083) in any of the listed ships. I do remember being in CIC listening to the embassy evacuation and having helo’s trying to land on our flight deck. We gave assistance to a VN LST who were having steering problems. Every space on that ship were crammed with evacuees. We had to use fire hoses to clean the deck of that LST so we could move about.

  • http://hgworld.blogspot.com historyguy99

    LCDR Badget,

    Thanks for commenting. Here is a different link listing some of the other supporting units in this huge undertaking.

    http://www.history.navy.mil/seairland/chap5.htm

  • Hung Pham

    My family was flown out from the Embassy compound on April 29th, 1975. My mother was working for the Embassy as a teletypist. That morning, our group (Dad, 8 of us kids, grandparents) came to the gate and my mom got us in. While waiting for the big helicopters, some armed Americans in civilian clothes (probably CIA) came by, gave us hammers and crowbars and told us to destroy all the office equipments so the looters couldn’t have them. We had a lot of fun smashing telephones, typewriters, etc.

    We were split up into two groups. My group was flown to the USS Midway around 2PM. My Mom’s group went to another carrier around 10PM. There were still a lot of people left in the Embassy compound when the airlift ended around midnight.

    I was 17 yrs old at the time. It’s been 35 years, but I still have clear memory of the evacuation.

  • Wayne A. Silvernagel

    I was on the USS Blue Ridge during this time.
    I was a Machinist Mate 2nd Class in A Gang.
    We were the helicopter refueling team when these events went down.

    Just a bit exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Louis Hoang

    historyguy99: Thank you for your reply with the list of the ships. I was able to verify and it was the Greenville Victory, not Santa Maria. My mistake.

    Bob Griffin: We are forever grateful for your help and the help of all people who participated in this rescue mission! You are correct, we were dropped off at the Subic Bay, Philippines and transferred to a civilian cargo ship named Transcolorado to head for Guam.

  • http://sammartinjr@yahoo.com Sgt Samuel Martin USMC

    I was on the USN SGT ANDREW MILLER, APRIL-MAY 1975. Why has no one talked about the Marines on that ship, we did alot on land and at sea, and my mind still hurts. I just want to talk to someone who was on board with me

  • http://ddaly288@aol.com Lcdr Daniel A. Daly USN (Ret)

    It was half-past eight in the morning of 30 April 1975 as I walked onto the deck of USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), coffee cup in hand. It was a grey and dim day. The sea was calm, almost oily looking, with the wavelets sporadically reflecting what little light came from the sky. It was strangely quiet. The ship was barely moving through the water. The Vung Tau Peninsula of Vietnam was a black silhouette only three miles away – as close to shore as Congress would permit us to go. The grey sky seemed more sad than ominous and there was a pervasive feeling of weariness that permeated the whole world.

    A helicopter would land on board in a few minutes and I wanted to watch. As I gazed at the flat, grey helicopter landing area, it was hard to believe that for most of the past twelve hours, this place was the scene of frantic activity in which helicopters were landing to disgorge dozens of frightened refugees escaping the final collapse of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). As soon as the helicopter’s last passenger exited, it would slowly rise, rotate in place, then fly off to be refueled on the aircraft carrier as another helicopter approached from astern to land in its place. Now it was almost over and all was quiet as we waited for the very last helicopter out of Saigon. It was bringing the Marines who had provided security at the United States Embassy in Saigon while helping fleeing Americans and Vietnamese into the helicopters.

    Since March of 1973, an uneasy truce had brought peace to the war-ravaged land of Vietnam. Under the terms of the truce, except for a small security staff at the embassy in Saigon, the American forces had left the country. The RVN had reluctantly accepted the fact that its enemy, the Viet Cong (VC) was permitted to occupy isolated pieces of territory within its borders. For two years the truce held, albeit there were sporadic firefights between the RVN Army and VC forces at the borders of those enclaves.

    In the middle of March 1975, in the Central highlands of Vietnam near the city of Ban Me Thuot, a firefight erupted and escalated in intensity to become a major battle that went badly for the RVN forces. The savaged RVN army attempted to cut its losses by retreating the eighty miles across the wilderness center of the country to the coast. The pursuing Viet Cong succeeded in almost completely annihilating the retreating troops and the tens of thousands of fleeing civilians with them. The battle that strung out across the line of retreat had cut the country in half. The VC, reinforced by arriving North Vietnamese troops, began to rapidly spread north and south along the coast.

    The news that a major RVN army and thousands of civilians had been massacred brought the entire country into a state of panic. For years, the assumption throughout Vietnam was that if the VC won the war, all Vietnamese who had helped the American would be tortured or executed – as the VC had done to civilians in the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Hundreds of thousands of desperate Vietnamese began to flee ahead of the advancing combined VC and North Vietnamese armies as they began to swallow both halves of the country from the center to the ends. The U.S. Navy, supported by a number of leased merchant ships, was dispatched to Vietnam to provide humanitarian relief for the refugees, with the proviso that the military ships, but not the merchant ships, were prohibited from coming within three miles of land.

    Rear Admiral Donald Whitmire, the commander of all of the U.S. amphibious forces in the Western Pacific, was placed in charge of all seaborne humanitarian efforts in the region. I was one of the Admiral’s four officers who managed the “Flag Command Center” that was the central point for the command and coordination of his operations.

    Within those first two weeks after the defeat at Ban Me Thuot, the entire country, except for the surrounded capital city of Saigon, had succumbed to the VC. The U.S. Navy was unprepared to provide care and shelter for the quantity of people in the swarm of refugees seeking its protection. Nevertheless, it found itself in the role of caretaker for nearly a quarter-million individuals. The lucky refugees had gotten aboard navy troop ships where they had food, water, sanitation facilities, some medical care and even air conditioning. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those poor wretches were crowded onto flat barges or the open decks of civilian freighters to sit in the tropical sun with inadequate water, almost no food, and a complete lack of sanitation facilities. On those ships, many people suffered from dehydration, heat stroke, and infections augmented by the filth in which they were forced to sit and lie. By the dozens, they died under those chaotic conditions, and their bodies tossed overboard, undocumented and unreported.

    Admiral Whitmire desperately wanted the refugees landed somewhere, anywhere, where they would be safe. The Government in Saigon was physically surrounded by the VC, and other than the city itself, the only other lands still under its control were a few off-shore islands. For reasons of its own, it denied the Navy permission to land the refugees on those islands. No other country in the region was willing or capable of taking them. Admiral Whitmire sent appeal after appeal to Washington for support. Finally, by 10 April, with pressure from U.S. President Ford upon the RVN president, the refugees were permitted to land in safe territory on Phu Quok Island near the Vietnam/Cambodia border.

    For the next several weeks, an eerie calm lay over the country as the exhausted conquerors rested and allowed their outrun supply lines to catch up. Other than isolated RVN air attacks against the VC, there were no reports of any firefights. The refugee migrations had faded away. No road traffic was seen from the ships standing off the coast. Everyone knew it was the calm before the final storm. Government officials in Washington DC knew that the situation was hopeless. The State Department sent message after message to the American Ambassador in Saigon telling him to get the Americans out of the country and to close the embassy. In those weeks, every routine military and civil flight carried Vietnamese and Americans out of the country, but those flights could carry only a small percentage of the people pleading for seats. Concurrently, the joint military services developed an evacuation plan in which dozens of large-capacity military aircraft would be used to carry all of the Americans out of Saigon.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin refused to close the embassy. He insisted such a closure, or even visible preparations for an evacuation, would panic the RVN Government and the people of Saigon. In the middle weeks of April, as the military situation continued to deteriorate and the risks multiplied, the civilian airlines ceased their operations in Vietnam and left no other way for the people still in Saigon to get out. During those weeks, the military airplanes reserved for the evacuation sat on the tarmac at Clark Airbase in the Philippines, waiting for the orders to begin. They waited and waited.

    There was a backup evacuation plan, named “Frequent Wind.” It was a plan that would be used only if all else failed. That plan called for a fleet of giant H-53 helicopters, each with fifty-five seats, to fly from navy ships under Admiral Whitmire’s command to designated landing zones within the city. According to the plan, an evacuation signal would be broadcast by a popular Saigon rock and roll radio station. When they heard the signal, pre-designated and briefed evacuees were to go to specific landing areas to meet the helicopters and be whisked to safety aboard navy ships.

    Ambassador Martin failed to cooperate with the military evacuation planners. No preparations were made for evacuation. No lists were made. Few Americans in Vietnam were told anything about the evacuation plans. The planned landing zones, in the middle of race tracks and certain parks throughout the city remained known only to the Ambassador and to the pilots who would fly to them.

    Unaware that the Ambassador was not doing his part, the Navy gathered 44 ships, including two aircraft carriers, 132 passenger-lift helicopters, plus 6,000 Marines, to prepare for the possibility that Americans and other people might need to be evacuated from Saigon.

    In the middle of April, artillery fire from outside the city blew dozens of large holes into the runways of Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut airbase. The cratered runways were no longer usable and the plan to use fixed-wing aircraft to evacuate the city was no longer viable. With no other options, the responsibility for the evacuation was shifted to Admiral Whitmire and his helicopters.

    About seven AM on April 29, artillery fire began to erupt all around Saigon and North Vietnamese troops began to invade the city. The first artillery fire struck Tan Son Nhut airfield. As artillery began to destroy the parked RVN aircraft, Vietnamese helicopter pilots ran to their aircraft, started their engines and flew away – at first, no one knew where they were flying to.

    At approximately nine o’clock in the morning, the radars on the ships of the evacuation forces picked up “a cloud” of approaching unidentified aircraft. At their speed of about 120 miles per hour, they were almost certainly helicopters. The crews aboard the ships manned their guns but nervously held their fire as they watched the helicopters approach. The aircraft markings indicated they were of the RVN Air Force, but binoculars revealed they were jam-packed with women, children, and the occasional goat or motor scooter. These were the helicopters the pilots had taken without authorization when Tan Son Nhut came under fire. The pilots had flown them into the city and loaded them with their family members then started looking for a safe haven. They had heard the U.S. Navy was just off shore from Vung Tau and they headed that way for lack of any other direction that had hope of safety. Suddenly, they were like a swarm of bees looking for anyplace flat to land. Without permission, they started landing on the ships.

    Most of the ships had room enough to accommodate only one helicopter at a time. A series of voice radio messages flashed between the ships as an ad hoc plan formed within a matter of minutes to become the standard operating procedure for the next half hour. Each helicopter was permitted to land while its passengers were off-loaded and rushed below. While it was unloading, a Vietnamese-speaking man would point a pistol at the pilot and force him to stay in his seat while sailors helped him into a life jacket. As soon as his last passenger was off, the pilot was ordered to take off and to deliberately land in the water. He was told to swim away from the sinking aircraft so that a boat could rescue him. GO! The pilot, in a state of confusion from the rapid turn of events dominated by a pistol in his face, would take off as ordered and then fly around uncertainly as he tried to figure out what he had to do.

    Apparently, the Vietnamese pilots had not been taught how to ditch helicopters into the water. Most of them entered a hover a few feet above the water and then jumped out, leaving the helicopter to do whatever it would do. Most flew a little distance before they struck the water, some crashed next to the floating pilot. One flew in a circle and crashed into the side of the Blue Ridge. No records were kept of how many RVN helicopters went to the bottom; my personal estimate would be about seventy-five amongst all the ships in the force. Probably a dozen were kept on the ships that received them. But in about a half hour, it was all over. Not a single Vietnamese pilot had been killed and only one was seriously injured with a broken leg when he jumped out of his helicopter at more than one hundred feet of altitude.

    Even as the city was being overrun, Ambassador Martin still did not authorize an evacuation. Frantic messages from the off shore military forces to the White House urged that the order for the evacuation be given before it became impossible. Finally, half-past nine in the morning, an order from President Ford, through Secretary of State Kissinger was sent to Ambassador Martin, who finally conceded late in the morning to authorize the start of the evacuation.

    Our plan estimated that with about 16 helicopters in each wave, we would be able to bring out about 800 evacuees with each cycle. Each round trip for the helicopters, including time on the ground at each end, was expected to last a little over three hours. We had no idea how many people we would have to transport since we had been unable to obtain a list of the people to be evacuated. Based on talks with embassy personnel, we thought that two waves might be enough to evacuate about 1500 people plus our own troops. Nevertheless, we were prepared to fly three waves of the helicopters.

    A major error then occurred within the military that caused two hours of additional delay to the beginning of the evacuation operation. Once that issue had been resolved, a number of the giant helicopters took off from the aircraft carriers to fly to the various troop ships to pick up two hundred combat-ready Marines in full battle gear who would provide security at the planned landing zones. That process took about a half hour before the loaded helicopters returned to the carriers to top off their fuel tanks. While they had been loading their troops, the other helicopters had launched and were circling the carriers, waiting for the aircraft with the troops to precede them. Just before two in the afternoon, the first wave of helicopters went in.

    The progress of those first flights to Saigon were monitored by all of us in the Flag Command Center aboard Blue Ridge with apprehension. We knew that the VC had shoulder-fired ground-to-air guided missiles, plus large-caliber machine guns that could knock our helicopters out of the sky. Yet, our intelligence teams had picked up a rumor in the form of a warning that any evacuation operations had to be completed by 30 April. Despite our best efforts, the rumor could not be confirmed. All we could do was hope that our efforts would be unopposed. As the flights progressed further and further over occupied territory, we all began to breathe easier as the flights continued unmolested. In fact, the entire evacuation proceeded without interference from the VC.

    It was just after three o’clock in the afternoon when the helicopters arrived at their initially assigned landing zones. No one was there – or worse, in one case, a camp was being constructed by a group of North Vietnamese soldiers. Only the embassy was secure and there wasn’t enough room for all the helicopters to land in the parking lot at the same time. Some helicopters had to fly around in circles, using precious fuel while waiting for a landing spot to open. The Marine troops herded people through the huge ramps and aboard the huge helicopters on the run. As soon as the helicopter was full, its ramp closed and it was airborne on its way back to the ships, its parking spot to be occupied by another helicopter within a minute. Approximately every ten minutes the cycle would repeat.

    The evacuation signal was Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” (in April) and it began to be broadcast around noon. However, the Ambassador had not allowed the evacuation plans to be made known to most of the people meant to be evacuated. Thus, most the American civilians did not know that the evacuation had begun or what they should do. Later, the evacuees told us they saw the helicopters flying over the city and they followed them to the embassy. At the embassy, they found long lines of Vietnamese waiting to be taken out of the country. Contrary to the fears of Ambassador Martin, the crowds were not panicked; rather they were glum but patient as they waited in lines outside the Embassy’s gates to be evacuated – confident they would not be abandoned by the Americans. They did not protest as the arriving Americans went to the head of the line and were admitted through the embassy gates by the Marines.

    When the first wave of helicopters returned to the ships, we found to our horror that we had not gotten a single American out of the embassy. Back at the embassy, Ambassador Martin was personally directing the Marines. He insisted that many of the Vietnamese should have priority over the Americans because he was certain that they would be severely punished, if not executed, by the VC.

    On the Blue Ridge, there was anger and frustration. Before the helicopters went back in the second wave, marine generals used tough words and got vows from the pilots to not be intimidated by the ambassador. Four hours later, they returned with about a 50-50 mixture of Americans and Vietnamese with reports that there were still more Americans to be evacuated, including the Ambassador. It was about nine PM when the third wave of helicopters set off with orders to bring back the Ambassador. When they returned, close to midnight, he was not aboard – he had flatly refused to board the helicopter.

    Then a new problem emerged, many of the helicopter pilots refused to fly any more missions. They claimed they had flown more than twelve hours and their fatigue would compromise the safety of flight. In response to a plea from Admiral Whitmire, a message from President Ford ordered the pilots to fly one more mission. Thus a “Final Wave” of helicopters departed the naval force and headed to Saigon at half-past two in the morning. At the same time, frustrated by Ambassador Martin’s interference, Secretary of State Kissinger sent a message to the Ambassador with a direct order to shut down the embassy and to get on the helicopter. A marine general rode in to Saigon on one of the helicopters after swearing that if the Ambassador did not get on the helicopter voluntarily, he would be ordered aboard at the point of a gun. It was almost four in the morning when the Ambassador finally took off from the embassy to fly to Blue Ridge. The Marines on the helicopter resented the fact that he had his dog in his arms.

    Shortly after we learned that Ambassador Martin was finally airborne, I had a conversation with Commander Hannaford. I proposed that little would be happening in the hour that we expected the Ambassador’s helicopter to be in flight. Once it landed on board, the evacuation operation would be over and we would resume normal operations in which the Flag Command Center would be re-established. I suggested that I go to a corner of the room, sit on the deck and take a nap until the Ambassador’s helicopter arrived. At that time, I should be awakened and would take the first four-hour “watch” so everyone else could go to bed. Hannaford, who knew that I had been on duty for more than 24 hours agreed. As I sat down, I said, “Wake me if anything happens.”
    —————
    I jerked awake. Everyone was standing zombie-like around the room, but still at their posts. I looked at my watch, I was surprised to see it was a little past eight. Commander Hannaford was leaning against a wall, half asleep, “What happened,” I asked? “Why didn’t you wake me at five?”

    “The Ambassador landed around five and we began to shut things down when we realized that the Marines we had sent in as security guards were not on the helicopters. When we asked the pilots where the Marines were, they just shrugged, and then went to bed. So, without those pilots, we couldn’t operate the H-53’s. The Marine H-46 pilots were willing to keep on flying, but with a capacity for only 14 passengers per helicopter, we didn’t have enough capacity to bring out all the Marines in a single lift. We had to divert the H-46’s from what they were doing, brief the pilots, give them charts and send them to Saigon as they became available. The last helicopter is on its way back and should be landing on board in about ten minutes. I figured since there was nothing for you to do, I’d let you sleep until then.”

    I shook my head in disbelief. “Tell you what. I’m going to get a cup of coffee and go up to the flight deck and watch the last helicopter land. Then I’ll take over. You look like you’re the way I was four hours ago.” He grinned and nodded.

    A few minutes later, I was standing to the side of the helicopter landing pad. Other than me, there were only two sailors on deck who would secure the helicopter after it landed. A huge thunderstorm loomed in the distance beyond the coast, in the direction of Saigon. Occasionally the black clouds of that storm flashed translucent grey from unseen internal lightning bolts. To the right of it, still far away, I could see the dot of a single approaching helicopter. It was a depressing sight and became a moment for musing. This war would be over in a few more minutes, when that helicopter lands. The whole event was winding down; people had become exhausted and had lost interest in the last act. These final moments seemed trivial, like picking up the mess after a big party. I thought, “This is the way the war ends; not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

    Very faintly at first, then gradually, the whump-whump sound of helicopter rotors built in intensity as the H-46 approached then landed with no wasted motions. The aircraft’s rear ramp lowered. Tired, dejected marines began to exit. Their shoulders were slumped, their heads were down and they dragged their feet as they walked toward the hatch that would lead to their yearned-for bunks. It was hard for them to be proud during a withdrawal, even though they had contributed significantly to a herculean effort. Our statistics indicated we had removed 1373 Americans and 5,595 non-Americans from the embassy without a single casualty to the evacuation helicopters or to any of their passengers.

    At first, I saw it out of the corner of my eye; I had heard nothing and almost missed it. A short distance astern of us, a column of water was silently rising in slow motion, up and up to more than a hundred feet. I instantly knew what it was and turned toward Vung Tau to see if I could see any smoke from the heavy artillery piece that had fired the round – there was none that I could see. As I watched the water column slowly collapse and fall back into the sea, I knew that it had not been aimed at the Blue Ridge. It had landed precisely where it had been aimed, a hundred meters astern. It was a symbol, the opposite symbol of “a shot across the bow,” which is an order to stop. This was a slap on our butt, an order to get going – to just go away. As if in response, I felt the deck begin to vibrate as the ship started to move.

    This was the last shot of the Vietnamese War, “The American War” as the Vietnamese would come to call it. The Vietnamese knew that our helicopter was carrying the last Americans out of the country. Since 1945, in a struggle to unify the country and to eliminate foreign interference, an estimated five million Vietnamese had died, many of them civilians, and at least forty million more had been wounded, or made homeless as casual victims of the collateral damage of war. Over the previous twelve years, the war had cost America more than 55,000 dead; perhaps eight times as many had been wounded. Now, with the landing of that last helicopter from Saigon, the war had ended.

    On 2 September 1945, when the Japanese signed the surrender documents aboard USS Missouri, General Douglas MacArthur announced with a simple four-word sentence, the end of the surrender ceremony and with it, the end of World War Two. I thought the same sentence applied to the events I was witnessing. Further, I thought the artillery round was more than just the last shot of the war; more than a bang rather than a whimper; and more than a symbolic slap on the butt. Most of all, it was the definitive punctuation mark, the “period” to General McArthur’s sentence; “These proceedings are closed.”

  • CWO3 Jim Steelman USN (Ret)

    I was an EN3 in “A Gang” on the USS Prairie (AD-15) at the time. We were told to make preps to get underway, which we did. They later decided to keep us in Subic to set up the refugee camp on Grande Island (probably because our DASH helo deck could not have handled a full size helo’s weight). We then used our boats to ferry the incoming Vietnamese civilians from Cubi Point to Grande Island. I personally served as a boat engineer for several days ferrying people and supplies to Grande Island. We spent the remainder of the time resupplying the ships and boats that entered the harbor from Vietnam before sending them on to Guam. I always wonder about the many Vietnamese that came through Subic and how they fared after they moved on from there.

  • George Crawford

    I was also there. Sergeant, USMC. I was an electronic calibration technician TAD to HMH-463 from H&MS-24 at Kaneohe Bay. I was on baord the Handcock for Operations Eagle Pull and Frequent WInd.

  • L. Leo Leonardo

    I was there on The USS Mobile LKA-115 as one of the receiving ships of Task Force 76. I was the EN2 on the “A” Gang Helo Refueling Team that was operational for the full 24 hour period. It was an event with a double edge, on one hand, with all we (the US Armed Forces) did, eventually South Vietnam fell to the North, but on the other hand, we were able to rescue so many during Operation Frequent Wind, but not all. I still have nightmares about seeing those refugees out in the open sea in over-loaded fishing boats, some even lit their boats on fire in a risky attempt to cause the Task Force to rescue them. We could not. I often have troubled thoughts of what happened to the hundreds of over-loaded small boats trying to get away. I know some didn’t make it, but those we had on board were the lucky ones. With the anniversary coming up soon, those that were there will remember it as a job well done. We allowed a generation of Vietnamese a second chance in life.

  • Michael P. Mitchell

    Hello, everyone. I was one of those refugee kids who was part of Operation Frequent Wind. I remembered waiting in line in middle of a clear crisp night. I was looking up at the stars. I remembered that I was in an aircraft (helicopter) flying over the ocean. I looked out the window and saw light blue “stuff and white “stuff” at the time. I didn’t know what they were at the time. I also remembered being on a naval ship (I do not know which ship I was on) and I was in a circle in a dimly lit room. I was eating chili when I saw someone scraping someone’s back with a utensil. If there is anyone who remembered someone scraping someone’s back with a utensil, you probably were on the same ship I was on. I was only four years old at the time. When I mentioned this to one of the Vietnamese adoptees at the Baltimore Reunion on April 28-30, 2000, she told me that it was a spoon and it was a way for someone to feel better. I remembered looking down at the ocean to see the white water that the ship was creating as it moved. I remembered all of this as if it just happened yesterday.

    I also called Camp Pendleton for pictures of the Vietnamese refugee kids from 1975 because I had learned that I ended up there. I remembered the bunker beds, but I do not remember the picture being taken. There is a picture of a little boy and I believe that little boy is I. I called the camp and asked to have the pictures sent to me. I remember a black cat running away from me when I opened the door. I still remember few memories of my early childhood when I was in my motherland and coming to the USA.

    If anyone has any information, please contact me at my email address: vietasianfox45@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you about the journey and the era of that time. I would like to know what happened from the time I left Saigon to coming to Camp Pendleton. I also would like to know who was with me on the journey as well. My former guardian’s name was Thien The Mai (Mai The Thien). I am trying to search for him because he has a picture that I need to get. It is a picture that has me as a baby in it. I also would like to know if there were any workers who helped as well. I would like to get to know more about my early childhood. Thank you for your help in advance.

  • John Engeholm

    I was onboard the USS Mount Vernon (LSD39) during Operation Frequent Wind. We took on and then processed many evacuees to other ships. We ended up taking many evacuees to Subic, during the trip there was a baby born onboard. We heard that he was named Vernon in honor of the ship but I’m not sure if that was true. I would love to get in contact with him and invite him to a reunion. If anyone knows who this is please contact me. Thanks!

  • Pat Mahoney

    USS COOK indeed participated in Frequent Wind. I was Officer in Charge of the embarked HSL-33 helo Detachment. We provided close in surface surveillance and acted as pathfinder for Air America helos flying out to the COOK and KIRK to refuel. COOK took aboard VNAF Hueys which were searched and then pushed over the side. We took one Huey back to Subic Bay. COOK sank one ship with gunfire from her forward mount. I was put aboard one VN Navy ship to supervise dearming prior to entering into Subic Bay. The technical expertise was provided by an E-8 GM from COOK ships company.

  • Bryon Stones

    I was also in A gang on the USS Mobile Lka 115 in 1975 and was there for the evacuation. The events of that time have never left my mind. I am grateful they did not use Mike boats like they were suppossed to at first. I was volunteered to be a gunner on one of the boats and found out the whole thing got scrapped when the Peoria was struck near our landing site. I was on the crash crew and had a front row seat about a mile off the coast to the whole event. I got to see me first Mig 17s and the first combat flight of the F-14s a short time later. A boeing 707 flew over our ship and I later found out that was President Theou leaving the country. I still remember the first RVN uh-1 coming stratight at our flight deck, being waved off and coming anyway. We had a radio, a flagman, an ensign with a shotgun, and over 100 guys leaning on the rear of the superstructer watching. The helo came straight in and landed. It had a mini-gun on one side and an m60 on the other. If that had been VC there would have been alot of dead guys that day. The pilot was forced to ditch and jumped out about 50-75 feet up and the helo hit the water at about a 40 degree slant. When the water hit the rotors you could see the bottom of the helo with nothing on top before it sank. The pilot was face down in the water. He was unconcious and a broken leg. We all though he was dead. We found out later he was alive. We were close enough to see white tracers under helo lights and an ammo dump go up during a lightning storm. We saw old ladies with kilos of heroin and reporters never so glad to out of a place in their life. We took in over 5000 refugees and supported the fleet that came out of Saigon the next day on our way to the Phillipines. We were breifly called off on the way to assist in the Mayaguez incident but it was resolved prior to our arrival. Every time I meet a Vietnamese I wonder if they or their relatives were on our ship.

  • GySgt. H.C. Rockwell

    I was aboard the USS Denver LPD-9 during the Operation Frequent Wind. I had hope that we would go in and help with the evacuation. But that was not to be. We instead took on refugees and some VIP’s. All I can say for this, we didn’t know what aircraft was friendly or enemy. While the CIA flew in and out the Infantry unit I was assigned as a Logistic Chief seemed to feel empathy for the refugees that were landing on the Denver.I don’t think I’ll ever forget the aircraft that were thick as a bee hive. I watched as other ship took on aircraft and was sadden by pushing the material over the side to point it became dangerous. We had to give up some 782 gear to give to the Vietnam refugees to at least provide the basic comforts. Our ship was really loaded and we took all of the refugees to the Republic of the Philippines then remain in the area until everything was over. It was a sight not to be forgotten.

  • James Miller

    I was aboard the USS Blue Ridge. I was the Ship’s Armorer. I disarmed ex Vice President Key. Still have his hat!!

  • Michael Kelley

    On April 29, 1975, I was the junior Electronic Warfare Evaluator on a Navy EPE-3E from VQ-1 flying out of NAS Cubi Point in support of the Vietnam operations. For me and my crew it was the 114th day of a deployment from Guam, to the US, to RIMPAC 75 in Hawaii, back to Guam for 18 hours, then on to Japan, and from there to Cubi Point. It was a total of 1972 hours working or flying in just 114 days.

    That day I sent the message which was the first official call for the commencement of the evacuation when both Evaluators senior to me refused to take the responsibility for sending the Flash message (What if we’re wrong?”). The message was just four words, “Commence Operation Frequent Wind.”

    I had to wait 35 years after the fact to state where I was or what I did. The National Security Act is a cruel Master.

    Now, those of us from VQ-1 qualify to exchange our Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals for the Vietnam Service Medal…but VQ-1’s operation are still cloaked in enough secrecy and mystery that trying to get the Navy to do what Congress authorized in 2003 has proven to be a multi-year, multi-application chore.

  • Joe M Sanchez HM3

    I was on board the USS Mt Vernon LSD-39 during Operation Frequent Wind, I was part of a detachment group BMU-1 Echo team @ which we coordinated with the ACU-1 humanitarian mission 28 Apr.- 5 May ’75

  • Jose Antonio Sepulveda

    I was a Corporal, USMC with A Co. 1st AmTrac Bn attached to G Co. 2nd Bn 4th Marines aboard the USS Vancouver during Operation Eagle Pull and Operation Frequent Wind. We were to transfer the South Vietnamese Marines into Cambodia but due to the treaty that was signed in 1973, that no American Forces would land on Cambodian territorial waters, so the USS Vancouver personnel transported the South Vietnamese Marines into Cambodia. We participated with the evacuation of US Personnel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We then preceded to Subic Bay for a well deserve R%R and wandering about the next mission “When” and “How”. During the week in Subic Bay, I recall that all liberty were cancel and to return to the USS Vancouver for an immediate departure. There are more during and after Operation Frequent Wind but I can’t continue with this…

  • Bill Ingham

    I have, through the years, related the story of my time with Surgical Team 9, out of Balboa Hospital and TAD to the USS Hancock during Operation Frequent Wind. Chaos, body cavity searches, running out of finger cots as we lined evacuees agains the railing to perform rectal exams on the males. And, being on deck, the fateful night of the loss of a Marine Helicopter Crew and the impossible, heroic rescue of the two surviving crewmen by a second Marine Chinook. To this day, my children can relate the story of that night as I will never forget the incredible bravery shown by the rescuing pilot as he dipped his lights underwater, and floated the two survivors into his doorway. And finally, lifting off, with Air America to Subic and seeing from the air the MASSIVE armada of American ships. I see it all so vividly….

  • http://www.technologyparagon.com Syed

    how many helipcopters were ditched in the sea

  • Bob Boone

    I was a Machinist Mate in U.S.S. Long Beach. During the evacuation of Da Nang we were sent to catch the U.S.N.S. Greenville Victory, which I believe had been commandeered by Vietnamese Marines and was making for the Philippines. I was one of about 25 sailors assigned to the boarding party. We mustered at 2330 in the CIC (I believe) and were briefed on boarding the Greenville Victory and sailing her to Vung Tao on the Saigon River. I personally did not think this to be a very good idea. The boarding was scheduled for early in the AM. Prior to the morning muster I went on deck and got a close look at the Greenville Victory. I my Mind I remember seeing Vietnamese soldiers filling all the weather decks and even up the masts and on the yards. Then the destroyer that had accompanied us fired a shot across the the Greenville’s bow and the then the Greenville came about and was escorted to Vung Tao.

  • STEVIE NORRIS

    I WAS ON THE USS DURHAM FROM 1974 – 1977 DID WE TAKE THE 8 BOATS ON LAND ONE OR TWO TIMES to get vietnamese. I think that we did i remember having alot of people on my 8 boat a number of time.Late me know if you recall it.

  • Dan Shull

    I served as an FTM on USS Long Beach in FE Division (forward Terrier missile batteries)when we intercepted and escorted Greenville Victory to Vung Tau. I also have several photos I took of USS Blue Ridge conducting rescue operations during this time, yet I have never seen Long Beach listed as a participant in Operation Frequent Wind. Are Long Beach vets from that period eligible for the Vietnam Service Medal that has been awarded to fleet units involved? If not, why? It was many years ago, but I remember those times quite clearly.

  • Jose Antonio Sepulveda

    Marines or Navy personnel aboard the USS Vancouver have any photos taken during Operation Eagle and Operation Frequent Wind.
    Are there any photos, taken in the well deck, a navy personnel shouter out HIT THE DECK? I could not hear where it was coming from, then I notice the captain with his pistol in hand came toward me and said “HIT THE DECK”, I hit the deck, when suddenly notice the enemy gunboat trying to block our boat from launching into the ocean.
    Please send to my PO Box: Jose A Sepulveda
    PO Box 362224
    San Juan, PR 00920-2224

  • Michael Hartert

    I was on board the USS John Paul Jones DDG-32 during Frequent Wind and cannot find my ships name as being involved. According to the above info there were “8 destroyer types” in the so called Service Force. 3 of the 8 ships were named, but not mine. Is their a record of some kind naming all the ships involved? I did recived my combat zone tax free pay statement as being the only record I was there. Can someone share any information on this matter for me!? Thank you very much.

  • Michael Hartert

    I did find this personal log from a salior on board the USS Hancock that notes all the ships involved. It’s not “official” But, I’m still wondering if there is some record from the Navy of the USS John Paul Jones DDG-32 involvement.

    http://ships.bouwman.com/Navy/SubicBay/FREQUENT-WIND.html

  • Sgt Jeff Trnavsky USMC

    To: Sgt Sam Martin USMC. Sam, I read your post, I was Cpl Ski, 2nd Fire team leader port section in your squad aboard the Sgt Andrew Miller. I desperately want to talk to you too, I wonder also why no one has ever heard about what we did and went through in Vietnam. My mind hurts very bad about it too, like you. I wonder often about the M/Sgt and Cpl who were wounded in the barge, I do not even recall the medivac I was so exhausted and dazed. How can I contact you??

  • http://U.S.ArmyUSARPAC James Fulton

    I took part in Operation Frequent Wind and New Life New Arrivels. I was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for efforts in Tent City in Guam, nothing for the 3 trips to Tan son Nhut and Cam Rhan Bay though leading up to the final pull out. I was with The Army 25th ID working out of Anderson AB (Guam) Our last trip in country was April 28 1975. Our ride back to Guam to damage from the assult on Tan Son Nhut so we had to take a 3 hour 4 mile jeep ride to The Embassy. We eventually got to The Coral Seas. By the time I got back to Guam (the CO was pissed I went to The Phillipines LOL) I was being sent back to Hawaii. I made a lot of Marine and Navy friends, One I ended up working with in the Postal Service. from the Navy that was also on The Coral Seas same time I was. Anyone know how I can get my AFEM let me know. Thanks and Welcome home.

  • Cpl William Gager

    I was part of the communications detachment aboard the U.S.S.
    Blue Ridge. Brings back some memories

  • Bill Grotz

    Semper Fi Brothers, Amtracs 1974-1976. Court House Bay, Camp Schwab Okinawa 1974-1975. Operation Frequent Wind, left Okinawa on USS Duluth LPD-6, returned on USS Tuscaloosa. Amtracers were used in Mike Boat landing crafts, as boarding parties, and helicoptors search and secure refugess, before taking abord ship. Would like to hear from anyone. e-mail momsanddadsonly@aol.com

  • Sgt. Jimmy Kellum USMC

    I was A Marine at the time; I was also like others who talk of what they seen, during this History making moment. I was on a LST Frederick I seen the effects most writers have seem to have missed out on seeing. The night sky being red in color lighted up by the continuing fall of fire power upon the country side. I recall the sky line turning red and it never went to another color for that was how much burning and exploding fire power sent into that area. I recalled it and thought I was the only on who seen the until I came across a man that name is Quinton Mills a Gospel singer now. We talked about what we seen as away of finding a answer to what we had been expose too. I recall seeing the sky line looking like a drove of blackbirds flying toward the ships. And choppers going into the sea. I recall taking the people to the Phillipines and taking them on board the Transcodoroda freight ship that we could take the people to Guam. And true it was not the best comfort i’m sure of traveling that way we had to at the time. But there was a special life giving time in two folds here; helping others to freedom but the arrivel of a new born child. It was something I helped the young lady to the ship hospital, and her husband slso there, and they was blessed with a new born boy; that they Named after the ship Captain and the ship. John Transcolorado and i’m not sure of the last name. And one other person stood out also from that time he was a baptist preacher from the South, he said he and his wife with all their childern would find hope now, and he stated to me that all he had was the money in his pocket from a fallen Goverment that now was no longer able to make good for what he had in funds. I ask he did he want to make a trade; his worthless funds at the time and trade them to me for US dollars so he could have someting to buy milk with for the young children and he said; yes so we exchange the funds and he was very thankful, I was also blessed just to help.we made it to Guam and off loaded the people and had a mission complete…

  • Randy Belstad DP3 USS Mars (AFS-1)

    I was on the fleet supply ship USS Mars (AFS-1). We provided supplies to task force ships and our helicopters were active in the evactuation of refugees. I have some great photos of helicopters being pushed off the Midway. I am looking for information regarding the Vietnam Service Medal for participating in Operation Frequent Wind but haven’t been able to get my questions answered. I have tried my Congressperson, Senator, the VA and Dept. of Navy but no response. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Ricardo Carmona

    I was a lance corporal at the time and served aboard the USS Dubuque, USS Okinawa, USS Mt. Vernon and I don’t remember the other ship. But, I was the ammo tech for 1st Bn/4th Marines H & S Co. out of the S-4 shop. I was responsible for all the ammo in 4 ships loaded out of the ammo dumps in Okinawa. I spent 45 days going back and forth keeping inventory and I also participated in helping with the evacuation. This was from March, 1975 thru April 30, 1975. I have not heard from anyone out of these ships and would like to know if anyone remembers me. My name is Ricardo Carmona and I worked for Captain Harley and Lt. Eversole and Staff Sgt. Toher on the USS Dubuque.

  • Fred Austin

    I was also on board the carrier Hancock during frequent wind and eagle pull. I was with HMH463 and I have tried to get information about the medals that we were awarded, and have ran into road block after road block. Is it just me or is there other fellow service members out there that is having this problem? Semper Fi

  • Don Buchanan

    for LCDR Daniel A Daly, USN (ret)
    Request permission to publish your article in a local Phoenix Vietnamese Community Magazine (. Of course the source and authorship would be detailed.
    Sincerely, Don Buchanan

  • l/cpl ramiro rodriguez a.ka. gorilla 3/9

    i remember being asked to give a reporter from united press , or the associated press some utility clothes because all he had was underwear on, and cameras strapped around his neck. looking to find micheal kerski,david lerma, cpl.ahlert ,sgt. haupu, gunney denton. i at that time voluntered for mike boat duty helping to secure the area and the people we were there to rescue. the highlight of my life was being on the u.s.s duluth

  • CWO2 Thomas Gaines (Ret) (YN3 VP-19)

    I was a young 20 year old YN3 assigned to Patrol Squadron 19, NAS Cubi Point, Philippines. I assisted the Vietnamese families coming in from the ships landing at Cubi. We were tasked in evaluating the people if they needed medical attention, if not we loaded them up on buses to be taken by boat to Grande Island. Additionally, I was assigned to Grande Island to dig latrines and whatever else was needed to assist these people who had sacrificed everything for freedom. I remember at quarters, CDR Leban (Skipper for VP-19) spoke the first words I had ever heard against the President and Congress for allowing 58,000+ Americans die in vain. It was a sad time in American history, however, the people who were saved through Operation Frequent Wind and the thousands of “boat people” that made it to American shores have been a shining light for their people and I am proud of what they have accomplished since April/May 1975. God Bless America!!!

    Thomas Gaines
    Yeoman Third Class, USN
    Chief Warrant Officer, W-2, USN (Ret)

  • Randy Cone

    I was stationed onboard U.S.S. Cook (De-1083) during Operation Frequent Wind. I was a Sonar Technician Third Class at the time.
    I seem to recall we were one of the first ships on the scene along with Kirk (De-1087) (Not absolutely sure about it being Kirk), and a few freighters or some civilian ships to receive the evacuees.
    I seem to recall us getting there around April 25th.
    When the action started, I recall many hueys landing on our flight deck and then being pushed over the side. After a while the air was thick like locusts with Helos, and the pilots were told to land the passengers and then take off and ditch their helos in the water to speed up the process. Our Captains Gig and Motor Whaleboat were very busy rescuing the pilots from the water.
    I also recall the water being filled with thousands of small craft carrying evacuees. They were not allowed to board our ship, but at one point one of them caught fire, and our Sea Sprite Helo flew out and rescued them (It may have been the Captains Gig… too long ago to remember accurately). It seemed like several other small boats mysteriously caught fire right after that, we assumed in the hopes of being rescued also.
    We escorted a Vietnamese Destroyer and several freighters back to Subic Bay. I recall our gunnersmates disabled the big guns on the destroyer, and a workingparty emptied the smallarms locker. I recall walking back to the gangplank that connected our two ships, with armloads of automatic weapons of every description, and handguns too, and the Chief Gunners mate stopping us and telling us to throw them all overboard!
    I also recall the misery of the Vietnamese who were crowded on the decks of these ships. We were distilling water for them to drink, and I recall our crew going many days without showering to enable this to happen.
    The ships store was emptied of everything edible, by many of our crew, who purchased it and gave it to the evacuees.
    I recall when we got back to Subic Bay, the Kirk was there too. (Sorry if I am wrong about that name, It’s been too long) Their helo hanger was damaged from landing a Chinook during the evacuation. Someone had painted a red huey for each landed helo, and a red chinook on the side of their helo hanger!
    I left Cook just a day later, and came back to the States to get married and a Change of Duty Station. (Our Helo Pilot offered me a ride and I rode with the mailbags From Cubi Point to Clark AFB in our Sea Sprite Helo!)As such, I was not on board to buy a West Pac Cruise Book when Cook returned to San Diego.

  • anderson,robert

    im trying to find proff that uss reasoner ff1063 was in brown water in nam around april,may 1975 please help thanks , i was on her during that time

  • Calvin C Starling

    I was station aboard the U.S.S Peoria (LST 1183)I assisted with helping get the vietnamese on the ship to be transferred to the cargo ships.We had to board a sanpan get some of the people off and it broke away from the ship and drifted about 1/4 of mile.We were the closest ship in about 4 mile from vung tu. We had marines aboard too.

  • https://www.facebook.com/SamGrant U. S. “Sam” Grant, LtCol., USMC (retired)

    I have been relating on Facebook my memories when I was serving as an Air Observer with Sub-Unit 1, 1st ANGLICO, forty years ago during the Easter Offensive of 1972. Today, while looking for a picture of a Bird Dog to post on today’s entry, I came across this website. The timing is an interesting coincident. I was at 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing when this occurred so remember many of the details and the influx of the Vietnamese refugees (including General Key) in the days that followed.

  • Lcpl Robert Juarez

    I took part in Operation Frequent iwas with 3dBn 9thMar 3dMarDiv FMF i never received my meadals and does not show on my dd214 how can i get them my email is juarezjr29@yahoo.com

  • Stephen Hardy

    I was on the USS Okinawa LPH-3.It was a very exciting time as a 20 year old kid. I worked in the OR’s with the surgical teams.I was stationed on the Okinawa from 12/72 – 6/75. Sorry to see that the Oki is now at the bottom of the ocean, sunk in 2002.

  • Patrick Cotton (USMC)

    Hi, was on the USS Okinawa, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, H&S Co. and worked in S-4. Shout out to Ricardo Carmona of 1/4. I was one of 2 others in S-4 under Capt. Beta that collected and tagged all the armament everybody was claiming as war bring backs. They filled up half the room almost all the way up to the ceiling. I’m sure y’all remember giving up your bunks so the refugees would have a nice place to sleep. Man, there was beetlenut all over the floor (cus we had to clean it up). And the refugees were selling everything they had to us for american money. Clothes, money (I still have a 500 dong note), trinkets, and other things best left unsaid. I lost count of how many helos that landeed. In the beginning the guns were taken off and the refugees were only allowed to take what they could carry off the helos, the rest went overboard with the helo. Toward the end, the refugees barely got to keep anything before the helos were either dumped or took off to ditch in the sea. All this to make room for all the other helos that just kept coming. Didn’t mean to go on about it…..

    I wouldn’t mind getting in contact with all y’all that was part of 2/4 and the USS Okinawa to maybe get some pics, etc. and anybody else that was part of this thing to swap stories, etc.

    Semper Fi

    Email: txcotton55@yahoo.com

  • Jerry Hunter, YN2

    I was on the USS Enterprise CVAN 65 during the evacuation. I was assigned to the Captain’s Office so I was pretty much below deck while the helos were coming and going. I remember going topside on a break in time to see a mule pushing a huey off the flight deck into the ocean. We just didn’t have room for them. During one break topside I watched as several Vietnamese gentlemen got off a huey carrying beautiful leather brief cases. I was later told by a crewman that the briefcases were full of money, gold and other valuable things. I have no idea if this was true or not.

    Days leading up to the fall of Saigon we launched aircraft day and night. We could hear explosions and see bright flashes on the horizon but was told that what we were seeing and hearing was “ground lightening” and thunder. We were told that the aircraft coming back dropped their armament in the ocean before landing in case there was an accident on the flight deck. They must have thought we were very gullible not to be able to figure out what was going on.

    We also evacuated numerous Marines. Since debriefings were held in the area where my office was located, these Marines would sit in chairs in the hallways waiting to be debriefed. We were given strict orders not to talk to any of them or answer any questions they may ask us. I remember looking at one young Marine who was just staring into space and thinking he was younger than me and from the look of his uniform and behavior must have been in some really bad situations before coming aboard. It was really quite saddening.

  • Gerald Heath

    I was aboard the USS Dubuque. We then were moved to the SS Green Forest, I was attached to 9th Marines.

  • Cecil Rea

    I was an 18 year old HT striker on the USS Midway when we had to suddenly pull out of Subic Bay for what would turn out to be Operation Frequent Wind. Most of our planes flew off and were replaced by Air Force Jolly Green Giants for the evacuation of Saigon. We kept evacuees in roped off areas on the hanger deck and made sure they made their way to the head and didn’t stray. Most were too scared or worried about family members to be a problem. I will always remember the seventeen year old girl who was concerned about her father. She spoke fluent english and french and wanted to be a doctor. Her family left with nothing and her father needed scivy shorts and had chafing issues. He was just a little guy and I couldn’t help him in that department. There was a mustanger marine Major Cisneros who was the CO of the marine detachment who confronted me and wanted to know what the problem was. After I told him of the situation he left for awhile and returned with two pair of his own scivvy shorts! That blew my mind! This guy was the most decorated and respected marine on the Midway. I will never forget that day.

  • Steve Jones

    I was on the USS Okinawa, I worked on the Hanger Deck.

  • SGT.JESUS F SALAZAR

    I was on-board the USS Mount Vernon during Operation Frequent Wind an Operation Eagle pull . I was part of those operations i was with LSU 3/9 3rd Bulk Fuel Co 3rd FSR out of a small camp on Okinaw named camp tingan just 2 clicks south of Camp Courtney . I am trying to find old friends both Marines & Sailors i also worked on the ships mess-haul . I am having trouble with the V.A. Proving that i was on-board the Mount Vernon . I was a PFC then i was only 20 yrs old i always followed my orders and went weir ever i was told to go an now like alot of Viet Nam Vets i have to prove my exist-ens . I am hoeing that some one out their remembers me an sen me a letter saying that i was their along side if you do will you E-mail me at gunghojarhead1@hot mail.com or write me to 4416 highland ave #1 San Diego Ca 92115 Simper-Fy I served with honor .

  • Gary Purvis

    I was lance cpl assigned to amphibious detachment H. I remember being transfered to several ships we qot their early april 17 1975. We made a amphibious landing on a mike boat, we were very confused because we were not sure if we were going to drive the viet cong out of siagon or rescue refegees. I was 18 years old at the time and I thought I was dead. We were instructed by our second Lt who was a little older than me that he was told they might not be able to pick us up if it got bad and we would have to get back on our on. President Ford decided at the last minute we were going to evacuate people instead of driving back the viet cong. I remember the whole city was lit up with enemy fire it sounded like the forth of July but it was live fire not fireworks. We ended up evacuating several refegees and taking them to several different ships. I can’t remember the sequence of which ship I was on but the were USS DULUTH, DENVER, OKINAWA, ANCHORAGE and MT VERNON. We ended up in the Philippines and placed on SS TRANSCOLORADO. I remember that trip like it was yesterday. Thier were several thousand refegees there were so many we could not rescue all of then from Saigon. It haunts me to this day that several thousand children were left behind, I heard most of them became slaves to the viet cong. I also remember how afraid all the people were and I can remember the crying ang begging for help but we were overloaded with people. On the way to the Philippines we passed several boats that were so loaded with people they were hanging over the side of the boat they were taking turns in and out of the boat. Some made some did not. The women who were left behind were shaving their heads so they maybe the viet cong would not rape them. I remember on the Transcolorado thier was a young boy he wad about 4-6 years old he talked like he was 25. He called me Joe for GI Joe. He was so funny. I gave him my chocolate candy from my sea rats and
    everubody
    else started giving their Chocolate away too.

  • Tony Dao

    I am glad to have found this particular site summarizing the evacuation in April 1975… I was 15 and left w/ my family to Phu Quoc island about 10 days before 4/30th… there we waited until the night of April 29th and we then were evacuated from the island to the American Challenger and stay next to the 7th fleet armada until we were off loaded to Guam about 7 days later. I was young but still remember many things during those floating days but one memory still etched in my mind is the awesome powerful display of the carriers and their task force all around the ship I was on…
    I just wonder what is now become of this American Challenger ship ?

  • Ross wilson

    I was on the Greenville Victory during the evac. loading Boat people on If there are any other Marines that were on there during that operation Operation Frequent Wind: April 29-30, 1975 please contact me Via E-mail I lost all my pic and would like to get some to show my Grandsons. wilson.ross76@gmail.com Thanks

  • Ralph h Rogers jr

    I was an En3 on board Uss Peoria, I was one of the boat engineers along with Pos Kotoff and Edelman,there were others,I can’t remember all the names.I don’t remember Peoria getting stuck,although I spent a lot of time in the captains gig,and Lcvp3. I remember the horizon filled with small vessels overloaded with people,flying SOS flags..could anyone out there refresh my memory of Peoria’s actions there? I remember,picking up refugees,we pushed a small amount of helos from our deck,5 ? Or maybe 7. I was in a gang and when we weren’t in the small boats we were refueling holos. We had one rifle and a case of hand grenades in the captains gig.I remember wondering what the hell are we supposed to do with these grenades as the sky was filled with helos.myself and a crewman I think named Alvin Nims picked up a pregnant refugee and as we helped her onto the Jacobs ladder of one of the transport ships we thought she was going to have the kid right there.always wondered what happened to those people. Thanks for any info !

  • Lcdr Daniel A. Daly USN (Ret(

    To Don Buchanan. You may reproduce my story of the end of the Vietnamese war as you wish. I would appreciate a copy of whatever medium it is published in. Thanks.

    Dan Daly

  • Gary Purvis

    Everyone who was in operation frequent wind
    qualifies for some Vietnam medals go to American War library and request a 201a report. You can do it on line. You’ll need a copy of your dd-214, you may need to get a copy of your service record its free

    NATIONAL PERSONNEL RECORDS CENTER
    1 ARCHIVES DRIVE
    ST LOUIS, MO 63138-1002

    You can request it online also when you request a form sf-180

    In your service record their is a combat history-expeditions-awards record. it will
    show the date you were in Vietnam or frequent wind.

    also if you do a web search type in operation frequent wind and lots of info will appear.

    Further everyone is allowed a one time replacement of all their medal, it takes forever or you can order all your medals and medal certificates from the american war library
    amerwar@amervets.com

    You’ll be very surprised how many medals you earned, that you never got.

    BT1 Gary Purvis (RET)

  • Gary Purvis

    I forgot to mention to everyone who partcipated in operation frequent wind and are applying for disability benefits. You need to get a copy of your service record again its free. Everyone may have been exsposed to agent orange herbicide.

    The afore mentioned
    records page will prove that you were in frequent wind. Exsposure was extended to all ships in the coastal waters of vietnam.

    Furthermore any vietnam Medal certificate of a Medal you earned will provide proof that you were exsposed to combat.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ImmortalPhoenixCat Michael P. Mitchell

    Here is my Facebook page so all of you can contact me. I would love to hear from all of you about Operation Frequent Wind since I was a part of it as a four-year-old Vietnamese refugee.. I have tried to find some of you on FB and most of you, I cannot find at all. :( I have sent a message to two people so far who are definitely on Facebook or YIM.

  • http://navalhistoryblog steohen d wilson

    I was an MM3 on uss enterprise cvn-65 for frequent wind, making steam to launch our planes as well as rotate #4 screw in #4MMR. On the night of April 28th, we watched Tan Son Nhut airbase getting shelled from the flight deck back aft. Pretty surreal and scared the crap out of me! Found out later we did 95 sorties the next day and provided refueling/refuge for the Marines flying those Jolly Green Giants. Didn’t see a lot of the flight deck happenings due to the operation (figured I’d best keep out of their way!). Did however see the Marines in the chow line after the op, and the looks on their faces were tired and worn out; the “look right through you” look. Will never forget those looks nor the shelling as they changed my life. Seeing the F-14 pilots sitting in their planes hooked up to the catapults reading books as they awaited their call to fly was a bit unnerving as well. Not knowing when the shit was going to hit the fan and whether or not we were going to be attacked ourselves was scary. We had about 20 (?) or so CH-53’s on our bow on the way home, all neatly folded up, don’t recall where we dropped them off. Was certainly a quiet 3 week ride back to the states afterwards. My hat is off to those airdale Marines, they did a hell of a job, as we all did during the op. Just glad we saved who we did…

  • http://navalhistoryblog stephen d wilson

    Error in my first name spelling; it’s stephen, not steohen. Want to thank Mr. Purvis for his info re: medals and benefits, most helpful!

  • Eugene Jenkins

    I also was in Operation Frequent wind and with ! bn 9 th Marines and my 214 does not show that i was there if you get yours corrected let me know so i can get mine done thanks Cpl Euen Eugene Jenkins USMC 1973-1977 M.T
    mpd300@yahoo.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.t.duchesneau John T Duchesneau

    Probably best to contact your Congressman about the AFEM. I think they changed it to the Vietnam Service Medal back in 2004. Good luck.

  • cory kilvert

    I was onboard USS ENTERPRISE CVAN-65 for Frequent Wind. Worked in the Intelligence Center, IOIC as a PT (Photographic Intelligenceman).
    In the threads here, I reading alot of reference to medals, ect. Your DD-214 should clarify this. If stuff is incorrect, you need to fill out a DD-215 to correct mistakes. Those of us who recveived AFEM can covert for the Vietnam Service Medal. DD-215. I did this. It took two years through the Navy Department.
    If your not in a veterans group, join one. I’m active in VFW (Past Commander) and VVA. This is where I found out about medal problems, ect.
    Cory Kilvert

  • t l rickert

    Cpl Tim L. Rickert USMC USS duluth. I remember the ships captain telling us that thousands of refs were rowing to the ship general quarters sounded then we took aboad 2,000. I was in charge of several hundred kids just getting them fed and watered. I remember my CO grabbing kids off the boats and tossing them on to the ladders. Like it was yesterday

  • t l rickert

    It was duluth or handcock, or okinawa. I forget

  • t l rickert

    1/4 3rdmdiv a co

  • Michael Horvath

    I was aboard US Durham. We were not told anything.

  • Samuel Dykes

    Samuel Dykes A Co. 1/4

  • http://www.facebook.com/iqlaaq Iqlaaq Hanif

    I was on the USS Vancouver, 2ndBn/4thMarines , Operationfrequent Wind n Operation Egale Pull, Phenam Phen, Combodia, 1975, A co, 1st Amtrac., USS Peoria, USS Duluth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ernie.clements.9 Ernie Clements

    Tony, American Challenger was the 1st ship I joined after receiving my 3rd engineers license in 1979. Many a tale were told by the crew and a photo book onboard the vessel documenting the Vietnam refugee lift at that time. Unfortunately, the vessel was scrapped in 1988, as the US merchant marine transitioned from freighters to container vessels. I often wonder what happened to the historical records (log books and photo album) the SS American Challenger had when she was sent to the breaker’s yard.

  • Jim Steelman

    I too was a young 3rd Class in “A Gang” on the USS Prairie (AD-15) at the time. We were pierside in Subic when we got the word to prepare to get underway for Vietnam. All the other ships left and we were still there. They finally told us we were staying behind to prepare for the refugees. We set up the camp on Grande Island and ferried supplies to it. The refugees began arriving by plane at Cubi Point, so we (I was a boat engineer) used our 40′ boats to ferry them from Cubi to Grande Island. We switched to resupply missions once the planes stopped coming in. We borrowed an LCM-8 from the base and I and the BM’s manned it for about 28 hours straight. We, along with our ship’s boats, ferried supplies to Grande and the incoming boats and ships for days. We would resupply those that were seaworthy and they would sail on to Guam. I remember one large cargo ship arrived full of Vietnamese, as well as .50 cal and RPG holes. They had sailed down the Mekong and taken heavy fire from the VC. Our divers had to put a patch below the waterline before it could go on to Guam. Those were long, but exciting days and nights. I recently met one of the Vietnamese that came through Subic. He was 13 at the time and has quite a tale to tell about his escape from Saigon. He is now my insurance agent!
    Jim Steelman
    Engineman 3rd Class
    CWO3, USN (Ret)

  • PLK

    I was on the USS Duluth with Battery G 12th Marines 3rd Marine Division and I also participated in Operation Frequent Wind. I thought I was the only one whose dd214 showed no overseas involvement of any kind. The V.A. is denying my claim because of it but I got a unit diary search back from HQ Marine Corp and am appealing this nonsense. PLK

  • PLK

    Lance coporal Keller, I was on the Duluth in operation frequent wind. Iwas in g battery 3rd mar div.

  • Benjamin Richmond (LtCol US US

    LtCol Grant:
    I am doing some research on my Uncle who was with 1/9 during Frequent Wind (Cpl Bob Uzarski, Cook, H&S Co). His records says he was with SU#1, H&S Co, 1/9. What was a Sub Unit #1?
    -Ben Richmond
    brichmond97@earthlink.net

  • Thomas Broderick

    Gary I was on the Midway during frequent wind. My service record DD 214 has not on it. Only my DSM medal nothing else. I have suffered PTSD and got a nice heart attack in 2011. Don’t know if it was due to agent orange. As I was around these people every day. How do you prove you were there or any of this. As it has now been 38 years. It was the saddest days in my life. Tom

  • stan

    Just had a feeling tonight to do a search on the fall of Saigon and the rescue of the USS Mayaguez as the anniversaries are fast approaching. Can’t hardly believe it will be 40 years ago next year (2015) as time sure has flown by.

    I was a MRFN on the Coral Sea at the time and spent way too much time up on the island watching both operations. Just couldn’t believe men would such things to each other. After the evacuation was complete we stayed on Yankee Station with two A-6 Intruders on deck ready to launch both armed with nukes. According to a friend in the weather office the target was Cameron Bay. Skuttle butt also had a Soviet fast attack sub on our tail with its torpedo bay doors open. It was also said the sub was equipped with nukes. Thankfully Gerald Ford was President, not Nixon. I believe if Nixon had still been in office he would have pulled the trigger and I would not be here to write this.

    Thanks for the info on Agent Orange. I have a 60% disability rating (PTSD and hearing/tinnitus) and will contact the local DAV office about filing for additional compensation.

  • Guadalupe Sanchez

    I have been trying to locate anyone that worked Grande Island during the evacuation. I was on the USS Hancock with RVAW 110 Det 6, we were off loaded at Cubi Point and soon after that started on work details. I submitted PTSD CLAIMS but the VA does not believe any airdales took part in the Evacuation. If you can point me towards any info to help me I appreciate it.

  • David Malstrom MR3

    My DD214 doesn’t say I was even on the USS Oklahoma City, I spent 3 years on there, I was 17 when I came aboard, I spent 6 Months I White City in Southern Oregon and they convinced me I wasn’t even there, it took me 6 plus yes to prove to them I was in the Evacuation, I was in the Refueling Team of two us Dennis Terimi and I, I remember the dark cloud in the distance then it turned into small dots which tuned out to be Helicopters, then they were flying around the ship waiting to land, many of which were running out of fuel and then crashing into the water full of families, so much happen in such a short time and it’s been etched in my mind ever sense, my Birthday is April 26 1957 and every year there after is a reminder of the evacuation, and every time I smell diesel fuel is a reminder, so this is part of history I can share.

  • Scout Fourby

    MR1 Gary L Clark USS Gurkey DD783. I remember the flotilla heading for the PI. Wish I had some Pictures of that. Ships as far as the eye could see..

  • Alicia Pugh

    I know it is a long shot, but I was wondering if you knew my uncle, Daniel Cherrone. He was discharged in January 1975 but I do know he was in the Marine Corps and served in Cambodia.

  • GatorSailor

    I worked Grande Island during the evacuation.

  • Randy Holmberg

    The USS Denver (LPD 9) will be decommissioned in Pearl Harbor on August 14.
    I will be attending with several members of my immediate family. 3 of them were refugees in the last few to be taken aboard the Devner 9 before they sailed for Subic Bay.

    I would love to know if other refugees rescued by the Denver 9 are watching this blog…especially if you might be attending the festivities in Pearl Harbor.

    Thanks

  • Randy Holmberg

    My entire family would like to thank all the people in Operation Frequent Wind for bringing our 3 Vietnamese family members out of Vietnam.

  • A. Caberto

    Hello Gary, I too, was on the Midway, before during Operation Frequent Wind, I am currently being treated by SFVA @ Ft Miley San Francisco California, for Multiple Myeloma. 3 years ago, The Claim was filled out, in the AMVETS office, but Denied, I know there is a expiration date, but, I was not advised that This Dept of National Personnel Records was an option? I was going through full blast Chemotherapy and was not mentally sound to even think of what you’ve indicated, has this option been exhausted as far as I’m concerned?

 
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