Chronology/Operations - Period - 1972 To 1975
VC = Viet Cong(local force enemy). NVA= North Vietnam Army.
FSB = Fire Support Base. A defended perimeter within which artillery and/or mortars were placed to support tactical operations by infantry or armour that were operating more than 10 klms(maximum gun range) from the Nui Dat Base.
FSPB = Fire Support Patrol Base. As above. Provided a secure base to operate patrols from.
AO = Area of Operations. TAOR=Tactical Area of Operational Responsibility
KIA = Killed in action. WIA = Wounded in action. MIA = Missing in Action. DOW = Died of wounds
RAR = Royal Australian Regiment(Infantry). RAA = Royal Australian Artillery. RNZA = Royal New Zealand Artillery. RAE = Royal Australian Engineers
Art = Artillery. Bty = Battery. Coy = Company. Bde = Brigade. APC = Armoured Personnel Carriers.Tp = Troop. Cav = Cavalry.
Dr Henry Kissinger, US National Security Adviser
"Peace is at Hand".
13 - President Nixon announce that US troops withdrawals will reduce US commitment to 69,000 .
29 - The RAAF 35 Sqn Caribou flights cease except a daily courier run to Siagon.
13 - All RAAF No 35 Sqn Caribou flights cease and to the unit prepares to depart for Australia.
19 - 4 Caribou aircraft from No 35 Sqn depart Vung Tau arriving at the Richmond Air Base, Sydney on the 26 Feb 1972. During their tour of 7 years No 35 Sqn established an outstanding record, having flown 80,000 sorties totalling 47,000 hours in the air, carried more than 677,000 passengers, 36 million kg of freight and 5 million kg of mail.
29 - The last of the Australian troops depart Vietnam on HMAS Sydney.
2 April 1972, soon after it became apparent that a major Communist effort was underway, President Nixon ordered his Pacific forces to strike that region of North Vietnam nearest to the DMZ by air and sea.
12 - 4 RAR completes its second tour and final tour of Vietnam.
30 - North Vietnamese forces invade South Vietnam. The U.S. Navy gave its sister service some of this additional time when the fleet sortied into Southeast Asian waters to help stem the Communist Easter Offensive that began on 30 March 1972. This massive, three-pronged enemy attack, which broke across the DMZ, through the Central Highlands, and toward Saigon from the north, sparked an immediate American response. Seventh Fleet cruisers and destroyers steamed into the coastal waters off I Corps and added their 8-inch and 5-inch guns to the South Vietnamese defense of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces. Each day, between 15 and 20 U.S. ships poured fire into the ranks of the North Vietnamese divisions striking for Hue. Navy and Marine Corps spotters ashore or in the air called in heavy bombardment. On occasion gunfire support ships fired directly at enemy troops and tanks on the beach. Expending thousands of rounds each month, 117,000 in June alone, the fleet surface force was a prime factor in the successful South Vietnamese defense of Hue and subsequent counterattack to retake overrun areas.
5 - US Air Force fighter bombers reinforce units in Thailand.
6 - US Admiral Moorer announces the resumption of aerial and naval bombardment against North Vietnam.
During April, the first month of operations, the Seventh Fleet resumed the interdiction campaign that ended in November 1968. Task Force 77 swelled to include five carriers, Constellation, Kitty Hawk, Hancock, Coral Sea, and Saratoga (CVA 60). The addition of Midway to the task force in May would make this the largest concentration of carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin during the war. The air squadrons, massed for multiaircraft strikes in Operation Freedom Train, hit key military and logistic facilities at Dong Hoi, Vinh, Thanh Hoa, Haiphong, and Hanoi. Smaller flights attacked enemy troop units, supply convoys, and headquarters in the areas around the DMZ. Also taking part in Freedom Train were the fleet's gun cruisers and destroyers, which ranged the southern North Vietnamese coastline, shelling transportation routes, troop concentrations, shore defenses, and Communist logistic installations. Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) and Richard B. Anderson (DD 876) opened this renewed operation on 5 April when they fired on the Ben Hai Bridge in the northern half of the DMZ. Then on the 16th for the first time, cruiser Oklahoma City and three destroyers obliterated targets on the Do Son Peninsula, which guarded the approaches to Haiphong.
From April through September, the cruiser destroyer group fired over 111,000 rounds at the enemy, destroying or damaging thousands of bunkers and buildings; knocking out tanks, trucks, and artillery sites; killing 2,000 troops; and sinking almost 200 coastal logistic craft and 4 motor torpedo boats. In August, Newport News, destroyer Rowan (DD 782), and naval air units sank two of the PT boats that attacked the American ships off Haiphong.
1 - Quang Tri City falls to the North Vietnamese.
8 - President Nixon announces the mining of North Vietnam harbors.
From May through December 1972, no large merchant vessels entered or left North Vietnamese harbors. An attempt by the Communist to lighter cargo to shore from ships in international waters was foiled when fleet ships and aircraft, including Marine helicopter gunships, intercepted and destroyed the shuttling craft. The deployed American fleet even curtailed the enemy's intracoastal movement.
Complementing this effort at sea was the massive aerial offensive by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force named Linebacker. In contrast to the earlier Rolling Thunder campaign, in Linebacker Washington gave operational commanders authority to choose when, how, and in what order to strike and restrike targets. Commanders could adjust to changing weather and the enemy's defenses and concentrate their aerial firepower to best effect. As a result, American air squadrons interdicted the road and rail lines from China and devastated North Vietnamese warmaking resources, including munition stockpiles, fuel storage facilities, power plants, rail yards, and bridges.
Using Boeing B-52 bombers and new, more accurate ordnance, such as laser guided bombs and advanced Walleye bombs, the Air Force and the Navy hit targets with great precision and destructiveness. For instance, the U.S. air forces destroyed the Thanh Hoa and Paul Doumer bridges, long impervious to American bombing, and the Hanoi power plant deep in the heart of the populated capital city. They also knocked out targets as close as 10 miles to the center of Hanoi and 5 miles from Haiphong harbor.
Between 9 May and the end of September, the Navy flew an average of 4,000 day-and-night attack sorties each month, reaching a peak of 4,746 in August. This represented over 60 percent of the American combat support sorties during the same five-month period.
The North Vietnamese attempted to counter the American onslaught. Employing thousands of antiaircraft weapons and firing almost 2,000 surface-to-air missiles in this period, the enemy shot down 28 American aircraft. In one day alone, the Communist air force challenged U.S. aerial supremacy by sending up 41 interceptor aircraft. On that day, 10 May, Navy pilot Lieutenant Randy Cunningham and his radar intercept officer Lieutenant (jg) William Driscoll became the war's only Navy "aces," adding three kills to the two already credited to them. American air units destroyed a total of 11 North Vietnamese aircraft that day, but lost 6 of their own. The Navy's ratio of kills to losses had improved by the end of air operations on 15 January 1973, when the total stood at 25 MiGs destroyed in air-to-air combat for the loss of 5 naval aircraft. During the Linebacker campaigns, the fleet's SAR units rescued 30 naval air crewmen downed for various reasons in the North Vietnamese theater of operations.
The nature of the campaign changed in May when President Nixon ordered the virtual isolation of North Vietnam from external Communist support. Aside from the obvious military rationale, the President sought by this action to end North Vietnamese intransigence at the stalled Paris negotiations. For the first time in the long Southeast Asian conflict, all of the Navy's conventional resources were brought to bear on the enemy. On 9 May, in Operation Pocket Money, Coral Sea's A-6 Intruders and A-7 Corsairs dropped magnetic-acoustic sea mines in the river approaches to Haiphong, North Vietnam's chief port. Shortly thereafter, the other major ports were mined as well. Over 85 percent of the country's military imports passed through these ports. Washington gave foreign ships three days to depart the country, after which the mines armed themselves. Despite this advance notice, 32 foreign, mostly Communist ships elected to remain trapped in North Vietnamese waters.
On 10 May the 8-inch guns of heavy cruiser Newport News bombarded targets near Hanoi from a position off Do Son while guided missile cruisers Oklahoma City and Providence and three destroyers suppressed the enemy's counterbattery fire from the peninsula. Normally three or four U.S. ships made up the surface action group that cruised along the coast ready to provide air-spotted or direct fire.
13 May, in order to frustrate Communist attack plans, Marine helicopters from the amphibious ready group's Okinawa (LPH 3) landed South Vietnamese marines miles behind Communist lines in I Corps. On 24 May and again on 29 June, the amphibious task group deployed South Vietnamese troops on the enemy's exposed coastal flank and rear. These actions and strikes by naval air and gunfire support units eventually helped force the North Vietnamese in retreat.
12 - The last American ground combat troops leave Vietnam. 43,500 airmen and support personnel remain.
Jane Fonda Broadcast from Hanoi, August 22 1972
By the end of September 1972, the North Vietnamese diplomats in Paris were much more amenable to serious negotiation than they were at the end of March. Allied air, naval, and ground forces had repulsed the Communist offensive in South Vietnam and in I Corps even regained much lost ground. After drastically reducing the enemy's reinforcements and munitions infiltrated into the South, the U.S. air and naval campaign in the North gradually destroyed Hanoi's ability to prosecute the war.
Believing that a negotiated settlement of the Southeast Asian conflict was within reach in Paris, on 11 October the Nixon administration ordered U.S. Pacific forces to cease bombing in the vicinity of Hanoi. Then on the twenty-third, Washington restricted allied strikes to targets below the 20th parallel. Nevertheless, negotiations with the North Vietnamese again bogged down in Paris while the enemy strengthened the air defenses of the capital and Haiphong and restored the rail lines to China. The Communist once more stockpiled war reserves. In response to these developments, President Nixon ordered a massive air assault by Air Force B-52 bombers, tactical aircraft, and the Navy's carrier attack units against military targets deep within Hanoi and Haiphong.
5 -Australian Labour Government elected under Gough Whitlam. Conscription ends.
18 December the joint attack, designated Linebacker II, fell on the enemy capital. That night and on succeeding nights of the operation, wave after wave of B-52 bombers and supporting aircraft struck Hanoi, hitting command and communication facilities, power plants, rail yards, bridges, storage buildings, open stockpiles, truck parks, and ship repair complexes. Because of the precision of the air crews and their weapons, there was minimal damage to nonmilitary property. The North Vietnamese met the Linebacker II attack with 1,250 surface-to-air missiles, which brought down 15 of the big American bombers and 3 supporting aircraft; antiaircraft defenses and MiG interceptors destroyed another 4 carrier planes.
20 - Australian Army Assistance Group(AAAG) departs Vietnam, on the last two RAAF C130 flights in support of Australian troops. This now leaves a small Australian Embassy Guard as the last of the Australian troops in Vietnam.
President Nixon orders the resumption of bombing north of the 20th parallel.
Peace talks in Paris are suspended.
The loss of six B-52s on 20 December alone, however, called for a change in tactics and more reliance on technologically superior equipment. Thereafter, the American air forces employed the most advanced precision-guided weapons and electronic countermeasure, target finding, and other equipment. They also concentrated on the destruction of the enemy's missile defense network, including command and control facilities, missile assembly and transportation points, and the missile batteries themselves. To spread thin Communist defenses, the American command broadened the operational arena to include not only Hanoi, but Haiphong, Thai Nguyen, Long Dun Kep, and Lang Dang. This redirection of effort succeeded. Not surprisingly, at year's end the North Vietnamese resumed serious discussions in Paris.
29 December, the last day of Linebacker II, U.S. forces had neutralized the enemy's surface-to-air missile system while reducing friendly losses to a minimum.
30 - Bombing of North Vietnam ceases. North Vietnam agree to negotiate a peace settlement.
By 1973, both the logistic establishment and the combat arm of the Vietnamese Navy possessed the material resources to carry on the fight alone. The 42,000-man naval service marshalled a force of 1,500 ships and craft for warfare on the rivers and canals, in coastal waters, and far out to sea. The supply, training, and repair facilities were structured to man and support the operational navy for a long-term struggle.
Despite these advantages, the Vietnamese Navy still was burdened with the old problems of poor leadership, low morale, and lack of dedication on the part of many personnel. The departing Americans in the Naval Advisory Group concluded that the relatively young, recently expanded, and still developing Vietnamese Navy had the potential to add great strength to the defense of South Vietnam, but only if given the time to mature.
5 - Letter from President Nixon to President Nguyen Van Thieu of Vietnam
Reassuring Vietnam of US support.
11 - Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck proclaims the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam by Australian Forces.
15 - US suspends military operations against North Vietnam.
23 - President Nixon's Speech Ending the War - 23 Jan 1973 . (Real Audio)
On 27 January 1973, U.S., South Vietnamese, North Vietnamese, and Viet Cong representatives finally signed the long-sought cease- fire agreement at Paris. Under its provisions, the Communist agreed to release all American prisoners of war within a space of two months in exchange for U.S. military withdrawal from South Vietnam and the U.S. Navy's clearance of mines from North Vietnamese waters.
The last provision of the cease-fire agreement that directly related to the Navy entailed removal of the U.S. sea mines laid along the North Vietnamese coast and the Mark 36 Destructors dropped into inland waterways. On 28 January, following months of extensive preparation and training, the Seventh Fleet's Mine Countermeasures Force (Task Force 78), led by Rear Admiral Brian McCauley, sailed from Subic Bay and shaped course for a staging area off Haiphong.
US KIA 58,191.
24 - Dr Henry Kissinger's Comments at News Conference
Excerpts from the Paris Accords, January 27, 1973.
28 - Lon Nol proposes a cease fire in Laos.
On 6 February, one day after Commander Task Force 78 met in the city to coordinate actions with his North Vietnamese opposite, Colonel Hoang Huu Thai, Operation End Sweep got underway. Ocean minesweepers Engage (MSO 433), Force (MSO) 445), Fortify (MSO 446), and Impervious (MSO 449) swept areas off the coast near Haiphong while being escorted by guided missile frigate Worden (DLG 18) and destroyer Epperson (DD 719). By the end of the month, amphibious ships New Orleans (LPH 11), Dubuque (LPD 8), Ogdon (LPD 5), Cleveland (LPD 7), and Inchon (LPH 12) had joined the force off North Vietnam. These ships carried 31 CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters from the Navy's Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 12 and from Marine helicopter squadrons HMM-165 and HMH-463. These aircraft towed minesweeping sleds and other devices to carry out aerial mine countermeasures along the inland waterways and the shallow port areas. A total of 10 ocean minesweepers, 9 amphibious ships, 6 fleet tugs, 3 salvage ships, and 19 destroyer types served with Task Force 78 during the six months of Operation End Sweep.
21 - Souvanna Phouma and the communists agree to a cease fire in Laos.
26 - Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announces the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam(now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam).
During February and March, U.S. aircraft touched down at Gia Lam Airfield in Hanoi to repatriate 138 naval aviators, some of whom had been prisoners in North Vietnam since 1964. The men were flown to reception centers in the Pacific and the United States, where they received a joyous welcome from families and friends. The repatriation program, appropriately named Operation Homecoming, ensured that the men received extensive medical, psychological, and emotional support for the transition from captivity to freedom. Another five men captured in the war were released earlier by the North Vietnamese while two escaped. Thirty-six naval aviators died while in the hands of the Communist, whose treatment of American prisoners was always harsh and often bestial. The Navy listed over 600 naval flight crew personnel missing and presumed dead at the end of the conflict.
The Americans began airborne minesweeping in the primary shipping channel to Haiphong on 27 February and in the ports of Hon Gai and Cam Pha on 17 March. During the early part of April, MSS 2, an old, decommissioned LST, filled with foam and other buffers and crewed by a few daring volunteers, made eight check runs up the Haiphong channel to ensure that no mines threatened the vital waterway. Meanwhile, U.S. naval instructors trained 50 North Vietnamese personnel to conduct minesweeping operations on rivers and inland waterways. Further, U.S. C-130 transport aircraft flew into Cat Bi Airfield to transfer minesweeping gear to the North Vietnamese. Airborne and ocean sweeping operations continued in the Haiphong and northern areas until 17 April, when U.S. leaders temporarily withdrew the task force to persuade the North Vietnamese to adhere to the terms of the Paris agreement. Convinced that Hanoi had received the intended message, on 18 June Washington restarted Operation End Sweep. The task force returned to the anchorage off Haiphong. In little more than a week, Admiral McCauley declared the water approaches to Haiphong and the harbors of Hon Gai and Cam Pha free of danger from mines. Afterward, the American flotilla worked the coastal areas off Vinh in southern North Vietnam. Finally, on 18 July 1973, with Operation End Sweep completed, the Seventh Fleet departed North Vietnamese territorial waters. Thus ended the U.S. Navy's long, arduous, and costly deployment off the Communist mainland.
2 - Act of the International Conference on Vietnam, signed in Paris
17 - A Cambodian pilot bombs the Presidential Palace in Cambodia. Lon Nol survives.
29 - The last American troops leave South Vietnam leaving a Defence Attaché Office.
1 - The last American Prisoners of War are released
10 - Complaints of Violations of Cease-Fire Given to Participants in the International Conference on Vietnam
29 - US Congress bans the bombing of Cambodia after 15 August.
Last Australian troops leave Vietnam.(Embassy Guard)
4 - President Thieu claims the war in South Vietnam has resumed.
27 - Siagon reports that 13,778 soldiers, 2,159 civilians, and 45,057 Communist have died since the January 1973 truce.
August 5 - US Congress places a $1,000,000,000 ceiling on military to South Vietnam for the fiscal year ending 30 June 1975.
Concluding that it was only a matter of time before all was lost in Cambodia, American leaders prepared to evacuate American and allied personnel from Phnom Penh. Fleet commanders revised and updated long-standing plans and alerted their forces for this special mission, designated Operation Eagle Pull.
On 3 March 1975, Amphibious Ready Group Alpha (Task Group 76.4), and the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (Task Group 79.4) embarked and arrived at a designated station off Kompong Som (previously Sihanoukville) in the Gulf of Siam. By 11 April, the force consisted of amphibious ships Okinawa, Vancouver, and Thomaston (LSD 28), escorted by Edson (DD 946), Henry B. Wilson (DDG 7), Knox (DE 1052), and Kirk (DE 1087). In addition, Hancock disembarked her normal complement of fixed-wing aircraft and took on Marine Heavy Lift Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463 for the operation. Anticipating the need to rescue as many as 800 evacuees, naval leaders decided that they needed all of the squadron's 25 CH-53, CH-46, AH-1J, and UH-1E helicopters and Okinawa's 22 CH-53, AH-1J, and UH-1Es of HMH-462. The amphibious group also carried the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, which would defend the evacuation landing zone near the U.S. Embassy, and reinforced naval medical-surgical teams to care for any casualties. Land-based U.S. Air Force helicopters and tactical aircraft were also on hand to back up the naval effort. Commander U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force (COMUSSAG) was in overall command of the evacuation operation.
5 - North Vietnamese troops launch attacks in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
The final test of strength between the Republic of Vietnam and its Communist antagonists that many observers had long predicted occurred in the early months of 1975. Seeking to erode the government's military position in the vulnerable II Corps area, on 10 March Communist forces attacked Ban Me Thuot, the capital of isolated Darlac Province, and routed the South Vietnamese troops there. The debacle convinced President Nguyen Van Thieu that even the strategic Pleiku and Kontum Provinces to the north could not be held and must be evacuated. Accordingly, on the fifteenth, government forces and thousands of civilian refugees began an exodus toward Tuy Hoa on the coast but that degenerated into a panicked flight when the enemy interdicted the main road. The enemy dispersed or destroyed many of the South Vietnamese II Corps units in this catastrophe.
16 - The ordered withdrawl degenerates into a rout under North Vietnamese attack.
24 - Hanoi sets General Dung a new timetable designed to bring about the collapse of SVN before the seasonal rains.
Giving up Hue on 25 March, Vietnamese troops retreated in disorder toward Danang. The Vietnamese Navy rescued thousands of men cut off on the coast southeast of Hue, but heavy weather and the general confusion limited the sealift's effectiveness. On the previous day (24 March) government units evacuated Tam Ky and Quang Ngai in southern I Corps and also streamed toward Danang. Simultaneously, the navy transported elements of the 2d Division from Chu Lai to Re Island 20 miles offshore. With five North Vietnamese divisions pressing the remnants of the South Vietnamese armed forces and hundreds of thousands of refugees into Danang, order in the city disintegrated. Looting, arson, and riot ruled the city as over two million people sought a way out of the ever-closing trap.
On 25 March, US ships were alerted for imminent evacuation operations in South Vietnam. Noncombatants were chosen for the mission because the Paris Agreement prohibited the entry of U.S. Navy or other military forces into the country.
27 March, the massive U.S. sea evacuation of I and II Corps began. During the next several days four of the five barge-pulling tugs and Sgt. Andrew Miller, Pioneer Commander, and American Challenger put in at the port. The vessels embarked U.S. Consulate, MSC, and other American personnel and thousands of desperate Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. When the larger ships were filled to capacity with 5,000 to 8,000 passengers, they individually sailed for Cam Ranh Bay further down the coast. By 30 March order in the city of Danang and in the harbor had completely broken down. Armed South Vietnamese deserters fired on civilians and each other, the enemy fired on the American vessels and sent sappers ahead to destroy port facilities, and refugees sought to board any boat or craft afloat. The hundreds of vessels traversing the harbor endangered the safety of all. Weighing these factors, the remaining U.S. and Vietnamese Navy ships loaded all the people they could and steamed for the south. MSC ships carried over 30,000 refugees from Danang in the four-day operation. American Challenger stayed offshore to pick up stragglers until day's end on 30 March, when the North Vietnamese overran Danang.
In quick succession, the major ports in II Corps fell to the lightly resisted Communist advance. Hampered by South Vietnamese shelling of Qui Nhon, Pioneer Commander, Greenville Victory, Korean-flag LST Boo Heung Pioneer, and three tugs were unable to load evacuees at this city, which fell on 31 March. The speed of the South Vietnamese collapse and the enemy's quick exploitation of it limited the number of refugees rescued from Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang. Before the latter port fell on 2 April, however, Boo Heung Pioneer and Pioneer Commander brought 11,500 passengers on board and put out to sea.
29 - RAAF HQ at Butterworth, Malaya receive telephone advice that a group of Australian C130s, plus two dakota aircraft are to be dispatched to Vietnam for relief missions.
30 - First C130 flight takes off from Butterworth for Siagon.They are refused landing when the the controller asks if any crew are armed. They return to Butterworth and resume the flight soon afterwards. The RAAF is tasked to assist in the movement of refugees and Red Cross supplies to Can Tho from Phan Rang, directly in the path of the advancing Communists.
Initially, Cam Ranh Bay was chosen as the safe haven for these South Vietnamese troops and civilians transported by MSC. But, even Cam Ranh Bay was soon in peril. Between 1 and 4 April, many of the refugees just landed were reembarked for further passage south and west to Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Siam. Greenville Victory, Sgt. Andrew Miller, American Challenger, and Green Port each embarked between 7,000 and 8,000 evacuees for the journey. Pioneer Contender sailed with 16,700 people filling every conceivable space from stem to stern. Crowding and the lack of sufficient food and water among the 8,000 passengers on board Transcolorado led a number of armed Vietnamese marines to demand they be discharged at the closer port of Vung Tau. The ship's master complied to avoid bloodshed, but this crisis highlighted the need for the Navy to provide better security.
1 - An RAAF C130 takes off from Siagon enroute to Phan Rang. Conditions at the airport are unsafe and the aircraft returns.
2 - Two RAAF C130 s make 6 flights into Phan Rang, some 1500-1800 refugees are evacuated amongst utter pandemonium and panic. The US announce Operation "Baby Lift". the evacuation by air of some 2,000 war orphans. The RAAF is placed on alert to assist the Operation.
As the magnitude of the calamity in I and II Corps became apparent, the Seventh Fleet deployed elements of the Amphibious Task Force (Task Force 76) to a position off Nha Trang. Because of the political restrictions on the use of American military forces in South Vietnam and the availability of MSC resources, however, Washington limited the naval contingent, then designated the Refugee Assistance Task Group (Task Group 76.8), to a supporting role. For the most part, this entailed command coordination, surface escort duties, and the dispatch of 50-man Marine security details to the MSC flotilla at sea. By 2 April, the task group--Dubuque, Durham (LKA 114), Frederick (LST 1184), and the Task Force 76 flagship Blue Ridge (LCC 19)--was monitoring operations at Cam Ranh Bay and Phan Rang. That same night the first Marine security force to do so boarded Pioneer Contender. A second contingent was airlifted to Transcolorado on the fourth. Dissatisfied with the condition of reception facilities on Phu Quoc and ill-tempered after the arduous passage south, armed passengers in Greenville Victory forced the master to sail to Vung Tau. Guided missile cruiser Long Beach (CGN 9) and escort Reasoner (DE 1063) intercepted the ship and stood by to aid the crew, but the voyage and debarkation of passengers proceeded uneventfully. In addition, Commander Task Group 76.8 immediately concentrated Dubuque, guided missile destroyer Cochrane (DDG 21), storeship Vega (AF 59), and the three ships of Amphibious Ready Group Alpha at Phu Quoc to position security detachments on each of the MSC vessels and to resupply the refugees with food, water, and medicines. Naval personnel also served as translators to ease the registration process<
3 - Phan Rang is abandoned then reclaimed by SVN Government troops.
4 - Tragically the airlift suffers when a USAF C-5a Galaxy aircraft loaded with 243 children, suffers a pressurisation problem and crashes on the outskirts of Siagon. 143 children, escorts and medical staff are killed, including Australian Welfare Workers Margaret Moses and Lee Mack. RAAF C130s continue to air lift the children to Bangkok. 194 children were brought out by the RAAF and then transported to Sydney by QANTAS charter.
7 - The SVN Government places a ban on any more of the "Baby Lift" flights. This ban is quickly reversed, but not without delay of more flights.
7 April 1975, the American command put Amphibious Ready Group Alpha on three-hour alert and positioned the force off the Cambodian coast. In the early morning hours of 12 April Washington ordered execution of the daring mission. At 0745 local time, Okinawa began launching helicopters in three waves to carry the 360-man Marine ground security force to the landing zone. One hour later, after traversing 100 miles of hostile territory, the initial wave set down near the embassy and the Marines quickly established a defensive perimeter.
Within the next two hours, U.S. officials assembled the evacuees and quickly loaded them on Okinawa and Hancock helicopters. Because many already had left Cambodia by other means prior to the twelfth, the evacuees numbered only 276. The group included U.S. Ambassador John Gunther Dean, other American diplomatic personnel, the acting president of Cambodia, senior Cambodian government leaders and their families, and members of the news media. In all, 82 U.S., 159 Cambodian, and 35 other nationals were rescued.
10-15 - North Vietnamese troops capture Xuan Loc, 38 miles from Siagon.
10 April, all ships at Phu Quoc were empty, thus bringing to a close the intracoastal sealift of 130,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese citizens. With stabilization of the fighting front at Xuan Loc east of Saigon and the Communists preparation for the final offensive, the need to evacuate by sea diminished. By the fourteenth all naval vessels had departed the waters off South Vietnam and returned to other duties.
Meanwhile, the Seventh Fleet focused its attention on Cambodia, in imminent danger of falling to the Communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Since 1970, the United States had aided the government of President Lon Nol in its struggle with the indigenous enemy and with North Vietnamese forces arrayed along the border with South Vietnam. The American support included a bombing campaign launched from Navy carriers and Air Force bases as far away as Guam and the delivery to Phnom Penh of arms, ammunition, and essential commodities through airlift and Mekong River convoy. Material assistance to the 6,000-man Cambodian Navy included the transfer of coastal patrol craft, PBRs, converted amphibious craft for river patrol and mine warfare, and auxiliary vessels. Despite this aid, by early 1975 the Communists in Cambodia controlled every population center but Phnom Penh, the capital. As the enemy tightened his ring around the city, the resistance of Cambodian government forces began to crumble.
12 - US Ambassador in Cambodia leaves Phnom Penh.
17 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia, falls to insurgents.
The second airlift of "Baby Lift" commences and a RAAF C130 brings out another 77 orphans.
The US Seventh Fleet marshalled its forces in the Western Pacific. Between 18 and 24 April 1975, with the loss of Saigon imminent, the Navy concentrated off Vung Tau a vast assemblage of ships under Commander Task Force 76.The task force was joined by Hancock and Midway, carrying Navy, Marine, and Air Force helicopters; Seventh Fleet flagship Oklahoma City; amphibious ships Mount Vernon (LSD 39), Barbour County (LST 1195), and Tuscaloosa (LST 1187); and eight destroyer types for naval gunfire, escort, and area defense. The Enterprise and Coral Sea carrier attack groups of Task Force 77 in the South China Sea provided air cover while Task Force 73 ensured logistic support. The Marine evacuation contingent, the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (Task Group 79.1), consisted of three battalion landing teams, four helicopter squadrons, support units, and the deployed security detachments.
21 - After a dogged defense at Xuan Loc, the South Vietnamese forces defending the approaches to Saigon finally gave way on 21 April. With the outcome of the conflict clear, President Thieu resigned the same day. On the 29th, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces closed on the capital, easily pushing through the disintegrating Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. Although U.S. and South Vietnamese leaders had delayed ordering an evacuation, for fear of sparking a premature collapse, the time for decision was now at hand.
25 - President Thieu passes command over to Vice-President Tran Van Huong and flees to the US.
25 - The RAAF conduct the last three flights into Siagon. The Australian Embassy is closed and the Ambassador and his staff of 10 were airlifted out of Siagon at approx 7 pm. Also on board were 16 Vietnamese refugees and nine Australian journalists. Four Australian Airmen(ADGs) are left behind. A reserve C130 circling off the coast is sent to pick up the stranded men up.
26 - Communists continue their advance and capture Phuoc Le, 60 klms south east of the Siagon.
28 - Duong Van Minh takes over the government of Saigon.
At 1108 local time on 29 April 1975, Commander Task Force 76 received the order to execute Operation Frequent Wind (initially Talon Vise), the evacuation of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese who might suffer as a result of their past service to the allied effort. At 1244, from a position 17 nautical miles from the Vung Tau Peninsula, Hancock launched the first helicopter wave. Over two hours later, these aircraft landed at the primary landing zone in the U.S. Defense Attache Office compound in Saigon. Once the ground security force (2d Battalion, 4th Marines) established a defensive cordon, Task Force 76 helicopters began lifting out the thousands of American, Vietnamese, and third-country nationals. The process was fairly orderly. By 2100 that night, the entire group of 5,000 evacuees had been cleared from the site. The Marines holding the perimeter soon followed.
The situation was much less stable at the U.S. Embassy. There, several hundred prospective evacuees were joined by thousands more who climbed fences and pressed the Marine guard in their desperate attempt to flee the city. Marine and Air Force helicopters, flying at night through ground fire over Saigon and the surrounding area, had to pick up evacuees from dangerously constricted landing zones at the embassy, one atop the building itself. Despite the problems, by 0500 on the morning of 30 April, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin and 2,100 evacuees had been rescued from the Communist forces closing in. Only two hours after the last Marine security force element was extracted from the embassy, Communist tanks crashed through the gates of the nearby Presidential Palace. At the cost of two Marines killed in an earlier shelling of the Defense Attaché Office compound and two helicopter crews lost at sea, Task Force 76 rescued over 7,000 Americans and Vietnamese.
29 - The Sydney Morning Herald
" The Prime Minister has lied to Parliament. He has deceived the Australian people. He has abused their trust in him...his duplicity has been damningly exposed by the publication (unauthorized) of secret cabled instructions sent by Mr Whitlam to our ambassadors in Hanoi and Saigon. Their publication brings into the open gravest political scandal since federation".
30 April 1975 - The Brisbane Courier Mail
" The charge the Prime Minister(Mr Whitlam) must answer over his cable to Hanoi and Saigon earlier this month is - to put it kindly - that he misled the Australian people and their Parliament.
If the Government's policy was in favor of Hanoi and against the Thieu Government in Saigon, then he should have said so...it was not even handed.
The cables were complementary, not similar. Both were directed against the Thieu Government in South Vietnam...this was one-sided. It was a pro-Hanoi and 'dump Thieu' policy. He should have told parliament this".
10am April 30 - North Vietnamese troops enter Siagon.
President Duong Van Minh announces unconditional surrender.
Last Flight out of Siagon
The Final Day of My Husband's Life- General Hung
The Former Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces
The Unforgettable Morning
April 30 - Van Tein Dung - Commanding North Vietnamese Troops Occupying Siagon
"I lit a cigarette and smoked." - (this last day of the 10,000 day war) - " seemed so fresh and beautiful, so radiant, so clear and cool; a morning that made babes older than their years and made old men young again"
Meanwhile, out at sea, the initial trickle of refugees from Saigon had become a torrent. Vietnamese Air Force aircraft loaded with air crews and their families made for the naval task force. These incoming helicopters (most fuel-starved) and one T-41 trainer complicated the landing and takeoff of the Marine and Air Force helicopters shuttling evacuees. Ships of the task force recovered 41 Vietnamese aircraft, but another 54 were pushed over the side to make room on deck or ditched alongside by their frantic crews. Naval small craft rescued many Vietnamese from sinking helicopters, but some did not survive the ordeal.
This aerial exodus was paralleled by an outgoing tide of junks, sampans, and small craft of all types bearing a large number of the fleeing population. MSC tugs Harumi, Chitose Maru, Osceola, Shibaura Maru, and Asiatic Stamina pulled barges filled with people from Saigon port out to the MSC flotilla. There, the refugees were embarked, registered, inspected for weapons, and given a medical exam. Having learned well from the earlier operations, the MSC crews and Marine security personnel processed the new arrivals with relative efficiency. The Navy eventually transferred all Vietnamese refugees taken on board naval vessels to the MSC ships.
Another large contingent of Vietnamese was carried to safety by a flotilla of 26 Vietnamese Navy and other vessels. These ships concentrated off Son Island southwest of Vung Tau with 30,000 sailors, their families, and other civilians on board.
On the afternoon of 30 April, Task Force 76 and the MSC group moved away from the coast, all the while picking up more seaborne refugees. This effort continued the following day. Finally, when this human tide ceased on the evening of 2 May, Task Force 76, carrying 6,000 passengers; the MSC flotilla of Sgt Truman Kimbro, Sgt Andrew Miller, Greenville Victory, Pioneer Contender, Pioneer Commander, Green Forest, Green Port, American Challenger, and Boo Heung Pioneer, with 44,000 refugees; and the Vietnamese Navy group set sail for reception centers in the Philippines and Guam. Thus ended the U.S. Navy's role in the 25-year American effort to aid the Republic of Vietnam in its desperate fight for survival.
1 May 1975 - The Daily Telegraph
"A long and dreadful chapter of Asian history has ended ... another, unknown chapter is about to begin. And suddenly there is nothing left to say. The tears have been shed. A Million words have described the agony and the horror and the bloodshed. It's over. thank God".
"Now we only pray that the people of Vietnam will be shown the mercy they have, for so long, been denied".
"There were to be almost twice as many casualties in South East
in the first two years after the fall of Siagon in 1975 than there were during the
ten years the US was involved".
(1996 Information Please Almanac)
Since the end of war , Vietnam Veterans have been fighting a private war. Changed forever by their service in Vietnam, many have been facing health and personal problems associated with that service. Cancer and Post Traumatic Disorder(PTSD) being the main problems. Many of our Veterans have suicided, far above the national rate. Many have died young. Even today there are veterans still in hospital from the war. We ask not for sympathy - just understanding.
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Last modified: June 05, 1998