1975
"EAGLE PULL"   -   "Frequent Wind"
A Marines View

This is the scene of the flight deck on the USS Hancock when the refugees started to land.  We ended up with over 5,000 refugees on the Coral Sea.  Soon, we landed in the Philippines for some R&R (Rest & wReckage) and a trip back to Okinawa.
The pictures of the choppers on the flight deck are exactly as I remembered them, It is amazing how after 28 years ago that this would still be fresh on my mind. I live in Wynne, Arkansas approximately 45 miles west of Memphis TN. and we have a couple Vietnamese Refugees that were rescued and brought over here in 1975, The only problem is that they can't remember what ship they came over on, and for the record, these guys speak english as good if not better than those of us born and raised right here in the United States, Take care ......Randy Williams BM 74-76 2-13-2003

This is the USS Midway CVA-41 with a complement of Marine CH-53 helicopters enroute to Saigon for the evacuation.  Operation Frequent Wind was one of the largest Naval Fleets ever assembled after World War II, with over 70 ships.

Midway Berthed at Bremerton, Wa., on 18 October 2002, stripped of electronics and weapons, awaiting disposal. Submarine alongside is ex-USS Sailfish SS-572) WASHINGTON. This is Sailfish II. see: USS Sailfish-I (SS-192).

..
When the NVA mounted a major offensive in late 1974 and into 1975, the RVNAF were unable to resist the onslaught. Inexorably, cities and provinces fell to the enemy. By April 1975 it was clear that the collapse of South Vietnam was nigh; and a contingency plan code named 'Frequent Wind' (formerly 'Talon Vise') was implemented for the evacuation of the remaining US staff in Saigon and selected South Vietnamese personnel. A fleet of four carriers, two with their normal complement of aircraft and two configured for helicopters, and support ships with 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade was hastily assembled and arrived off the coast of South Vietnam on 20 April. The Marine helicopters comprised thirty-four CH-53's of HMH-462 and -463, twenty-seven CH-46s of HMM-165, six UH-1Es of HML-367 and eight AH-1Js of HMA- 369, augmented by six CH-53s of the 2ISt Special Operations Squadron and two ARRS HH-53s of the US Air Force.

  After considerable political prevarication, Operation 'Frequent Wind' got underway on the afternoon of 29 April with the insertion of a Marine security force to guard the principal extraction site at the Defense Attachés Office (DAO) compound, adjacent to Tan Son Nhut airfield. The evacuation proceeded smoothly, although not without incident, as frantic refugees clambered aboard the helicopters.

  By 2100 hours the evacuation was complete at the DAO compound, and after the complex (including millions of dollars in currency) had been destroyed with explosives, the last two CH-53S lifted off at 0012 on 30 April. Meanwhile, amid the fires of downtown Saigon, the evacuation of the US Embassy proceeded more slowly, compromised by having only two landing pads: one on the roof, and only one large. enough for a CH-53 in the car park, which was illuminated by a slide projector. With the weather deteriorating and increasing anti-aircraft fire from both the enemy and disgruntled ARVN troops, each flight became more hazardous; yet still the stream of refugees seemed endless. Eventually, by presidential order, only Americans were to be transported. At 0458 the ambassador and his key staff took off aboard an HMM-165 CH-46, 'Lacey Ace 09'. Only the Marines guarding the perimeter of the embassy remained. After sealing and barring the building, they climbed the stairwell to the rooftop helicopter pad to board several CH-46s, the last being 'Swift 22'which lifted off at 0753. The night of the helicopters' was over, and with it, the helicopter war. (Vietnam Choppers, Helicopters in Battle 1950-1975, Simon Dunstan, Osprey 1988.)

By Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller

Go toStories Page