Showing posts with label Mayaguez Incident. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mayaguez Incident. Show all posts

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Marines Returned 40 Years After Leaving Saigon

Last U.S. Marines to leave Saigon describe chaos of Vietnam War's end 
Chicago Tribune
April 30, 2015
On the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on Thursday, a group of Marines who were there that day returned to what is now Ho Chi Minh City for a memorial ceremony at the site of the old embassy, which is now the U.S. Consulate.
Last Marines out
Dita Alangkara, AP
Former U.S Marines pose for a group photo during the unveiling ceremony of a plaque dedicated to their fallen comrades Cpl. Charles McMahon and Lance Cpl. Darwin Judge, the last U.S. servicemen killed in the Vietnam War, at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

As the Marines scrambled to the roof of the U.S. Embassy, they locked a chain-link gate on every other floor to slow the throng of panicked Vietnamese civilians sure to come behind them. They knew if the crowd pushed through to the top, they could easily be overrun by hundreds of people desperate to get a seat on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon.

The men barricaded the rooftop door using fire extinguishers and wall lockers and waited nervously as Vietnamese gathered outside rammed a fire truck through an embassy entrance. They could hear looting going on below and watched as cars were driven away and everything from couch cushions to refrigerators was carted out of the offices. South Vietnamese soldiers stripped off their uniforms and threw them into the street, out of fear they would be shot on sight by the northern enemy.

It was still dark when the U.S. ambassador left the roof on a helicopter around 5 a.m. April 30, 1975.

A message went out over the radio with his code name, "Tiger, Tiger, Tiger," followed by "Tiger out," to signal that the diplomat was en route to safety.

When the sun came up, the remaining Marines didn't realize that the pilots mistakenly believed that the call meant everyone had been evacuated. No one was coming for them, and they had no way to contact U.S. airmen ferrying Vietnamese allies and Americans to aircraft carriers offshore because their radio signals didn't carry that far.

The last U.S. servicemen in Vietnam were stuck alone atop the embassy, hoping someone would realize they were there before the city fell to rapidly advancing communist forces.
read more here

Correction for the above article. The last killed were: Mayaguez Incident May 12, 1975
Eighteen Marines and airmen were killed or missing in the assault and withdrawal from Kho-Tang. Twenty-three others were killed in a helicopter crash en route from Hakhon Phanom to U-Tapao, but the objectives of the operation were achieved.
The Mayaguez and its crew had been rescued, though at high cost.

Enemy at the gate: The history-making, chaotic evacuation of Saigon
By Thom Patterson
April 29, 2015
Story highlights
Chopper pilots tell stories about last days of Vietnam War
"Operation Frequent Wind" was history's largest helicopter evacuation
On 40th anniversary, witnesses tell how 7,000 fled Saigon via chopper in under 24 hours

(CNN)The CIA Air America helicopter bounced as it touched down on an aging apartment building in Saigon.

Its pilot knew there was no room for error. Scores of South Vietnamese were lined up on that rooftop, waiting anxiously to scramble aboard his chopper. They knew 150,000 North Vietnamese troops were just outside the city, ready to pounce.

Delicately working the controls, the pilot reduced power just enough to set down but leaving enough lift in the spinning rotor to keep much of the aircraft's weight off the rickety roof.

He held steady, while desperate men, women and children, some carrying luggage, hoisted themselves inside the vibrating aircraft. The pilot made sure they stayed clear of the deadly rotor blades while he avoided rooftop antennas that could trigger a crash.

After 15 passengers squeezed into a compartment meant for nine, it was time to go. Very slowly, the pilot raised the aircraft and pointed the helicopter forward. About 40 minutes later, the evacuees landed safely aboard a U.S. Navy ship offshore.

Now, imagine doing that again. And again. And again. All day long. No sleep, little food. Overbearing tension.
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Nam Nights Of PTSD Still
If you are a veteran with PTSD, remember one thing, you are not stuck feeling the way you do right now. You can heal and live a better life. PTSD caused the change in you but you can change again and then help other veterans heal as well. Vietnam veterans have been doing it for decades.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Marine finds closure 38 years after Marines killed

38 years later, closure for a Marine
By Erik Lacitis
The Seattle Times/MCT
Published: May 18, 2013

SEATTLE — The two had known each other less than three weeks when they found themselves inside helicopters about to land off a Cambodian island, and were easy targets for a firestorm of Khmer Rouge bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

One would be killed as his massive chopper carrying 26 servicemen, mostly U.S. Marines, exploded on May 15, 1975.

He was among 13 who lost their lives, his remains not identified until this January. The arduous task included recovering bones using suction hoses in the sand.

The one who lived was in the CH-53 helicopter right behind and saw the fireball. Thirty-eight years later, Dale Clark cannot forget.

And so this week, he wanted to make sure his comrade in arms was remembered. Pfc. Daniel E. Benedett, 19, finally was given proper honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
read more here

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Remains of USS Mayaguez fallen to be buried together at Arlington

Remains of Vietnam veteran killed in 1975 will be buried at Arlington
Originally Published May 10, 2013
Lancaster Online
Staff Writer

Lynn Blessing probably thought he was home free when the Vietnam War officially ended in the early spring of 1975.

But a month later — May 15 — the Lancaster Marine died with 12 other American servicemen when their helicopter crashed while trying to recapture the SS Mayaguez in the Gulf of Thailand.

Private First Class Blessing, 19 years old, was Lancaster's last casualty of the war.
On Wednesday, 37 years to the day after Blessing died, his remains and the remains of others who died with him will be buried in a common grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lynn Blessing's mother, Thelma Blessing, of Lancaster, knew nothing about the ceremony when informed by a reporter Friday morning.

The Marines did notify her when the first remains of her son were found.
read more here

Saturday, August 11, 2012

37 years later, Marine killed in last Vietnam war battle is buried

37 years later, Marine killed in last Vietnam war battle is buried
LA Times
August 7, 2012
Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Robert Rivenburgh wears an identification tag bearing a picture of his brother, Richard, at Richard's funeral Monday at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

For all U.S. military personnel ordered into a war zone, there is an implied promise: If you fall in battle, you will not be left behind.

And so for 37 years, the family of Marine Pfc. Richard Rivenburgh, who was 21 when he died during the 1975 rescue of the U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez, waited.

"There was a promise unfulfilled until today," Navy chaplain Cmdr. Jim Peugh said Monday at Rivenburgh's funeral at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

"Holy God, we welcome home our brother."
read more here

If you look on the left sidebar of Wounded Times, you'll see a section that says, Christ Prayed too, For a friend in need and then Matthew 25. Many know why it is there but it has been a long time since I talked about it. The reason it is there is because of a Vietnam Veteran, told he wasn't one because they had never heard about what happened with the Mayaquez.

This "job" comes with a lot of responsibilities. Some, very public, like what you're reading right now. Other times it is filming events in Central Florida. While both are public, no one knows about the veterans I talk to all the time. I can't think of a better way to spend my time on this earth.

Then there are the emails and phone calls. I could go weeks without hearing from a veteran or a family member but then an email comes and I know someone is being torn apart.

One of those emails came a few years ago from the Vietnam veteran mentioned above. He had a career, a live in girlfriend of many years and thought he was over it. He took a trip to Washington to see the Wall. He was never the same after that. They say the Wall heals, but there is another side of this that comes with an awakening of the pain some thought they had put in the past. It brings it all back.

Well, he contacted me because he didn't know what happened to him. He was crying, having nightmares, flashbacks and the shock of the sudden change was just too much for him.

I have a rule that I will get them to understand what PTSD is, stay "with them" until they to the point where they want to go for help, then let them go to people trained in psychological counseling. Usually I won't hear from them again but once in a while I'll get updates about how their lives are going afterwards. My job basically is to talk them off the ledge and help their families understand so they can support them on the road to healing.

In this veteran's case, I broke my own rule. Hundreds of emails later, I had to give up because he needed a lot more help than I could give him but as long as I was there for him to communicate with, he wasn't willing to get better help than I could give. There is a reason for that. The Mayaquez is the reason he couldn't find help in his area.

Too many didn't know what happened and they called him a liar. He was refused help more than anyone was willing to help him. His girlfriend left him then took almost everything he had. He had more people turn their backs on him than were willing to help him. It broke my heart to cut off contact with him because I knew he needed someone able to do more than I could and then I blamed myself for not being what he needed.

I told him that as long as he saw this passage on my blog, I would be thinking of him. Every now and then I get an email from him to let me know he's still around. When a report comes out about the Mayaquez, he is the first person I think about and how there are so many stories out there no one knows about.

If you are a psychologist think about giving up some of your time to help veterans like him. They need help, someone to listen to them, show them they matter, but keep in mind they cannot pay. They have been abandoned by everyone else in their lives, so they may come off as if they are taking it out on you but you need to understand you are just part of a very long list of people they asked to help them. They need help getting paperwork done so they at least get some kind of income to live with from Social Security or welfare until they are able to have a VA claim approved. These untold stories are veterans all over this country with nowhere to turn to, so they won't find you. You have to spend some time to find them. Take out ads and let them know you care about them when no one else does.

Vietnam war deaths 1956-1975

Mayaguez incident on May 15, 1975 little known part of Vietnam War

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vietnam War at 50: A lesson for Afghanistan?

These are reporters that did the research and they added in what happened after most reporters leave off. The Mayaquez Incident

• Vietnam War: Judge and McMahon are generally considered the last to die. Lt. Col. William Nolde, a military professor at Central Michigan University who'd volunteered for Vietnam, was killed by artillery fire on Jan. 27, 1973, 11 hours before the United States signed the Paris Peace Accords. He's considered the last U.S. fatality in the war's combat phase.

But the killing didn't end even after the fall of Saigon. Two weeks later, Cambodian communist forces seized the U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez. The United States launched a military rescue operation on an island where the crew was thought to have been held. When the force withdrew, two Marines — Gary Hall and Danny Marshall — were accidentally left behind, and later killed.

Vietnam War at 50: A lesson for Afghanistan?
By Rick Hampson and Carmen Gentile
7:32 AM, July 3, 2012

At center, brothers Jeff Walling, right, and Mike Walling, left, sit as their father Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling of Phoenix, is buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, Friday, June 15, 2012. Walling's F-4 Phantom jet crashed during a mission in Vietnam in 1966 but his remains were not recovered until 2010. / AP Photo

By April 29, 1975, America's war in Vietnam had been over for two years. But as he stood post at the gate of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, a city encircled by 16 communist divisions, Sgt. Bill Newell got the news: Two fellow Marine security guards had been killed at the airport.

Charlie McMahon and Darwin Judge were new in country; McMahon had arrived 11 days earlier. They'd never fired their weapons in combat. They'd been assigned to the airport in part because it was safer and would be evacuated sooner.

Instead, because of an enemy rocket, they'd be the last Americans to die in the Vietnam War.

read more here

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mayaguez incident on May 15, 1975 little known part of Vietnam War

As hard as it is to believe, there are many stories about the Vietnam War that are not well known, even by Vietnam veterans. This is one of the stories.

Who are the Koh Tang Beach Vets?

Along with the last 41 names on the Viet Nam Wall, we are the Veterans, Families and Friends of the Mayaguez incident on May 15, 1975. It is our hope that this site will become a place where our fellow Golf, Echo, and H&S 2/9 Marines, Sailors, and Air Force Personnel as well as their friends, and families can find comfort and support to this oft-forgotten chapter of American history.

Reunion dates 12-16 May 2010 in Branson Missouri

Monday, August 11, 2008

The last battle of Vietnam has not been won yet

The last battle of Vietnam has not been won yet. Not while we still have Vietnam Veterans who are not being taken care of. They are still fighting the battles they should not have had to fight, because they have had to fight us simply because they fought for us.

Intelligence. shortly after the fall of Cambodia (17 April 1975)
reported the existence of 18-20 people on the island at that time. IPAC
disseminated this information by an intelligence spot report (SPOTREP) on
13 May.
estimated the maximum of one Khmer Communist company (90-100 men) reinforced
with a heavy weapons squad to be on the island; however, this repbrt
apparently did not reach the Marine GSF comander prior to the assault on the
island, although it did reach the transporting helicopter commander and others.
According to Major J.B. .Hendricks, Operations Officer of the Second Battalion
of the Ninth Marine Regiment (2/9), from which the Koh Tang Island assault
force was drawn,; their briefings informed them ' I . . . that there were 20-30
Khmer Rouge irregulars on the island , possibly reinforced by whatever naval
support personnel that were there associated with the gunboats sighted in the
area." A DIA appraisal which appeared i n the JCS a f t e r action report on the
incident estimated approximately 150-200 Khmer Communists on the island a t the
onset of the operation; however, there was no indication that this specific '
appraisal was generally available prior t o the assault.2

Begin a simultaneous two-phase assault a t sunrise
15 May local time (approximately 23002 14 May 1975).
m Using eight USAF CHIHH-53 helicopters, execute a
combat assault on Koh Tang Island, with 175 Marines in the
i n i t i a l wave, subsequent buildup t o a total of 625 Marines
on the island, and rescue members of the SS MAYAGUEZ t h a t
may be found there. ........................................................................
e Using three USAF helicopters, insert 48 Marines,
12 USN/f+SC personnel, and explosive ordnance team and a
Cambodian linguist on the USS HOLT, close with the
SS MAYAGUEZ, and board and secure her.
e Close a ir support and area coverage against a l l
Cambodian small craft would be provided by USAF and USN
tacticalair . Naval gunfire support would be available,
and 8-52 strikes or Naval tacticalair would be directed
against poss i 61 e reinforcing main 1 and Cambodian targets .

The MAYAGUEZ/Koh Tang Island Operation
The operation began with the first insertion of Marines on Koh Tang
Island a t about 22552 14 May (0555G 15 May) and the landing of t.he boarding ..............................................................................
, I .
party on the USS HAROLD E. HOLT a t about 23052 14 May (0605G 15 May).
Although the USS HOLT met no opposition, and the boarding party was i n complete
control of the MAYAGUE2 within about two hours (01282 15 May), the Marine GSF
and transporting
Their ordeal lasted about 14 hours ( l a s t Marines extracted a t about 13102
15 Nay).
within about 4 hours (03082 15 May) after the initial assault on the island ;
however, because of the strong enemy opposition encountered on the island,
reinforcements were required to stabilize the situation and successfully
USAF helicopters met fierce opposition from the beginning.
The MAYAGUEZ crew had been identified as safe aboard the USS WILSON
extract the Marine5 . 1
. During the initial insertion of Marines on Koh Tang Island, concern
for the safety of the IdAYAGUEZ crew, believed to be on the island, precluded
landing zone preparation by a i r strikes or naval gunfire. Even after confirmation
of the crew's recovery, fast A-7 Forward Air Controllers (FACs) were
unable to pinpoint locations of friendly units and suppress enemy fire because
of the confines of , and confusing situation on, the battlefield .
until 09302 15 May that two OV-10 "Nail" slow FACs, with loitering ability ,
were on station to pinpoint friendly positions for effective close air support.
Also, it was not until 07352 15 May that the first helicopter was able to
recover to the CORAL SEA rather than return to U-Tapao (helicopters used were
a mix of HH-53 a i r- refuelable "Jolly Green," and CH-53 non-air-refuelable
"Knife" aircraft ) .2

In summary, the Koh Tang Island phase of the MAYAGUEZ operation
involved the insertion of 231 Marines and subsequent evacuation of 227 (there
were three missing i n action and one killed i n action l e f t on the island) i n
the face of severe enemy fire. A total of 15 USMC, USAF, and USN personnel
were killed in action, 49 wounded in action, and 3 Marines missing in action.
Participating USAF helicopters incurred three combat losses, four were
severely damaged, and six received minor damage. 3
& As a result of the experience gained from executing the Koh Tang
Island phase of the MAYAGUEZ operation, CINCPAC made the following additional
observations relative to the means available to support the assault:4

To the Rescue
Monday, Nov. 03, 1975 By EDWIN WARNER

224 pages. Norton. $7.95.

For some it was the proper reaction. For others it was overreaction. Six months later, the adventure of the Mayaguez remains one of the murkiest "rescues" in American naval history. This fresh, immediate account by Roy Rowan, TIME Hong Kong bureau chief, is not likely to alter many opinions, but it manages to put the event in lucid perspective.

The 40 crewmen of the Mayaguez did not seem destined for heroism. They were the sort of obscure seadogs found aboard any patched and battered merchant ship. In Rowan's nimble sketch, even the 62-year-old captain, Charles Miller, is not a born leader. Instead, he seems a canny, experienced old salt—the sort whose grace emerges only under pressure. Indeed, when the sailors considered an attempt to overpower their captors, it was Miller who counseled prudence and avoided bloodshed.

There was an air of unreality to much of the episode. The Cambodians giggled and cavorted and had a habit of carelessly leaving their weapons about. They gnawed at apples and oranges but balked at drinking Kool-Aid until Miller downed some to show that it was not poison. Nevertheless, the men on the Mayaguez feared that they might be beheaded or shot—or, at a minimum, held hostage for years like the crew of the Pueblo, captured by the North Koreans. The greatest immediate danger came from American airmen who were bombing and strafing Cambodian gunboats in an effort to prevent the crew from being taken to the mainland. Unfortunately, the crew had been transferred to one of those boats. Some were wounded by shrapnel in the attacks; all of them were gassed.

Back in Washington, President Ford was determined to take firm enough action to save the crew and to discourage similar captures. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was anxious to prove, after the Saigon evacuation, that the U.S. had not lost its will to fight. Thus the White House ordered the Marines to recover the Mayaguez and attack Koh Tang, one of the islands in the area. Sterner measures were rejected.

As the world acknowledges, the show of force worked. But the operation proved costly: 18 Marines were killed in action; 23 airmen died in a helicopter crash on their way to the combat zone. The author seems to beg some of the larger questions raised by the rescue: Would the Cambodians have released their prisoners if the U.S. had demonstrated less power? How serious were the Cambodians about holding their captives?

Still, no journalist has treated the four days of the Mayaguez with such attention to personal and military detail. His facts, speedily and scrupulously assembled, make a strong, if arguable case for the American response. To Rowan, amid all the ambivalent U.S. op erations overseas, the recovery of the Mayaguez now appears to be an odd but valid entry in the saga of victory at sea.,9171,913654,00.html

Believe it or not, there are still some people who say that Vietnam ended in 1973. After all, that's what they've been told but this is the truth. This was the last battle for the US forces and it has been forgotten.

"18 Marines were killed in action; 23 airmen died in a helicopter crash" in this one operation."

Think of that. Now think of those who survived it all and witnessed it all. You'd think that if they had any problem after, like with PTSD, they would have been treated for their wound, but they weren't.

I don't know how many of the veterans from this operation are still alive or what state they are in. I do know about one of them and he's been told that he is not even a Vietnam Veteran. This came from the VA itself who consider him a Vietnam Era veteran. Try proving a claim with that in their head. They try getting help with counseling with this in the mind set of people who are unwilling to learn anything about history.

We made a lot of mistakes after Vietnam and this was one of them. The way we treated the Vietnam veterans with the lack of care was deplorable and what makes it worse is that today's veterans wouldn't stand a chance with having their own PTSD wounds being taken care of today if it had not been for the Vietnam veterans coming back and fighting for them. PTSD is not a new wound. It's as old as time but has just been receiving a lot of different titles. As bad as it is for the new veterans with the overloaded system and failures across the nation, it would have been a lot worse had they come home and did nothing to fight for all veterans. So why is it we're not still fighting for them?

We read about the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan as we try make sure the government takes care of them but we fail to fully appreciate those who came before them still suffering in silence and abandoned by ambivalence. The media and blogs all focusing on the devastating suffering of the newer veterans but ignoring other veterans. Agent Orange still claims their lives. Depleted Uranium still claims their lives and along with PTSD, they continue to suffer for their service to this nation. We have failed and lost, two words the politicians never want to use, but nonetheless, we failed because we have not taken care of all of them. Do we continue to fail them or do we finally take a stand and make this right? Do we take care of the new veterans and forget about the others or do we take care of all of them? The choice is ours to make but they are the ones who will either have to pay for our decisions or rejoice for finally being taken care of by this nation they served.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vietnam Vets remember the Mayaguez

A4506-18. President Ford meets with his National Security Council to discuss the Mayaguez situation. May 13, 1975. (clockwise from lower left -Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant; Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor; Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller; General David C. Jones, USAF, Acting Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; William Colby, Director, Central Intelligence Agency; W. Richard Smyser, Senior Staff Member, NSC; President Ford; James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense; and William P. Clements, Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Ford Library Photo Collection
U.S.S. Mayaguez Crisis. A4505-15. The National Security Council meeting in the Cabinet Room on the morning of May 13, 1975

May 13, hour after this photo was taken, everyone aboard this CH-53 helicopter was killed.

The helicopter launched from Nahom Phanom airfield at 2030 on 13 May 1975 with a crew of 4 and 17 USAF Security Police onboard to assist in the recovery operation for the USS Mayaguez. The helicopter disappeared from the airfield's radar 40 miles west of the airfield.

CH-53...Tail-Number 68-1033
Unit: 21st SOS
Squadron: 56 SPS
Call Sign: Knife

Pilot: James G.Kayes
Co-Pilot: Laurence E.Frohlich
Flight Engineer: George E.McMullen
Flight Engineer: TSgt.Jackie Glenn

USAF Security Police:
Sgt.Jimmy Black
Sgt.Bobby Collums
SSgt.Gerald Coyle
Sgt.Thomas Dwyer
Sgt.Bob Ford
Sgt.Gerald Fritz
Sgt.Darrell Hamlin
Sgt.Gregory Hankamer
Sgt.David Higgs
SSgt.Faleagafula Ilaoa
Sgt.Michael Lane
Sgt.Dennis London
Sgt.Robert Mathias
Sgt.William McKelvey
Amn.Edgar Moran
Sgt.Tommy Nealis
Sgt.Robert Ross

Capture and Release of SS Mayaguez by Khmer Rouge forces in May 1975

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vietnam war deaths 1956-1975

The First and the Last
The first American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. He is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956. His name was added to the Wall on Memorial Day 1999.

First battlefield fatality was Specialist 4 James T. Davis who was killed on December 22, 1961.

The last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Kelton Rena Turner, an 18-year old Marine. He was killed in action on May 15, 1975, two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon, in what became known as the Mayaguez incident.
Others list Gary L. Hall, Joseph N. Hargrove and Danny G. Marshall as the last to die in Vietnam. These three US Marines Corps veterans were mistakenly left behind on Koh Tang Island during the Mayaguez incident. They were last seen together but unfortunately to date, their fate is unknown. They are located on panel 1W, lines 130 - 131.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, US forces fought one last battle. This battle took place on May 15, 1975, and concerned the rescue attempt of 39 American sailors from the merchant vessel SS Mayaguez. The SS Mayaguez was on its way from Hong Kong to Sattahip in Thailand, when, on May 12, it was intercepted and seized by the Khmer Rouge Navy. The crew was brought to the mainland, while their ship was anchored off the Island of Koh Tang. The seizure of the SS Mayaguez was seen by the USA as an act of piracy, and the US President, Gerald Ford, demanded the immediate release of the 39 sailors and their vessel by the Khmer Rouge. When this demand appeared to fall on deaf ears, an ad hoc US military force, consisting of US Marines, US Navy and US Air Force units was rapidly assembled to try to rescue the crew.
The rescue attempt ended in disaster, when four helicopters were shot down or disabled by Khmer Rouge forces. The Marines had to withdraw from Koh Tang without finding any of the US sailors. In total, the US rescue force lost 41 killed, which ironically outnumbered the SS Mayaguez crew. The 39 sailors were released shortly afterwards, together with their vessel. Even though the rescue attempt was seen by some as being indicative of the US willingness to use military force before all other efforts, including diplomatic, had been exhausted, it also reestablished faith in the USA as a dependable ally. The rescue operation showed that the USA would go to great lengths to rescue its soldiers and citizens. In doing so, the USA were determined not to let the seizure of the SS Mayaguez turn into another USS Pueblo affair.
A few hours after the news of its capture, the SS Mayaguez was located by a US Navy P-3 Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Orion located and photographed the SS Mayaguez anchored off the island of Koh Tang, 40 miles from the Cambodian mainland. There was no sign of the crew. During the reconnaissance mission, the P-3 was hit by fire from Khmer Rouge patrol boats, being lightly damaged.
After the initial diplomatic efforts failed, orders were given to US Pacific Command to assemble a rescue force. This force consisted of 288 Marines from Battalion Landing Teams 2 and 9, as well as 51 USAF Security Police personnel from the 56th SPS. The Marines were brought in from Okinawa and the Philippines, while the USAF security Police unit was based at Nakhon Phanom. Both the Marines and the Security Police were to be transported to Koh Tang in 16 Sikorsky CH-53Cs from the 40th ARRS and 21st SOS, based at Nakhon Phanom in North-Eastern Thailand. The aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) was also part of the rescue force, as well as several other ships from the US 7th Fleet, including the frigate (FF1074) USS Harold Holt. Aboard the USS Coral Sea were McDonnell Douglas F-4Ns of VF-51 and VF-111, Vought A-7E Corsair II's of VA-22 and VA-94, Grumman A-6A Intruders of VA-95, Vought RF-8G Crusaders of VFP-63 and Grumman E-1E Tracers of VAW-11.

At 0600 May 15, the first phase of the operation began with the transfer of D/1/4th Marines to the Holt. As the destroyer escort slowly came alongside, USAF A-7 aircraft "saturated" the Mayag├╝ez with tear gas munitions. Equipped with gas masks, the Marines at 0720 hours then conducted the first hostile ship-to-ship boarding by the U.S. Navy since 1826, securing the vessel after an hour-long assault, finding it empty.

Simultaneously, the eight helicopters (five CH-53 and three HH-53) of the Koh Tang assault force approached the island at 0615, encountering intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fire from Khmer forces entrenched there. A CH-53 crash-landed on the east beach but successfully off-loaded its 20 Marines and crew of five. They set up a defense perimeter but remained cut off from both reinforcement and rescue for twelve hours.

The second CH-53 in their section was shot down by two RPGs, exploding and crashing fifty meters off-shore. A pilot, five Marines, and two Navy corpsmen were killed in the crash, another Marine drowned swimming from the wreckage, and three Marines were killed by gunfire trying to reach the beach. A tenth Marine died of his wounds while clinging to the burning wreckage. The surviving ten Marines and three Air Force crewmen were forced to swim for four hours before being picked up by the gig of the arriving Henry B. Wilson. Among the Marine survivors was the battalion's Forward Air Controller, who used an Air Force survival radio while swimming to direct air strikes against the island.

On the western beach of the island, the first section of two CH-53 helicopters came in at 0630 hours. The first landed safely but while off-loading its Marines came under heavy automatic weapons fire, destroying an engine. It managed to take off, protected by suppressive fire from the second CH-53, and ditched a mile off-shore where all but one of its crew was picked up. The second CH-53 was damaged so severely that it turned back with its Marines (including the Golf Company commander) still aboard, and crash-landed on the Thai coast, where its passengers were picked up and returned to U Tapao.

Two other sections of the first wave, consisting of the remaining four helicopters, eventually landed all of their Marines between 0630 and 0930 hours, although the final insertion required support from an AC-130 Spectre gunship in order to penetrate the Khmer fire on its fifth attempt. 81 Marines landed on the west beach under the command of the company Executive Officer, and 29 Marines of the battalion command post and mortar platoon landed a kilometer to the southwest. 130 Marines had reached Koh Tang but in three isolated beach areas and in close contact with Khmer troops. Unknown to U.S. commanders, the Khmer were well entrenched in anticipation of a Vietnamese attack over an ongoing territorial dispute. While isolated, the Marines were able to use their 81 mm mortars as fire support for their contingents and devised a makeshift communications network for controlling supporting air strikes by USAF A-7 and F-4 aircraft.

Of the eight helicopters assaulting Koh Tang, three had been destroyed and four others damaged too severely to continue operations. One of the three helicopters used on the Holt portion of the operation had also been severely damaged attempting to pick up the platoon isolated on the east beach. This left only three helicopters of the original eleven available to bring in the followup forces of BLT 2/9, so the CH-53s whose mission had been search and rescue -- the last available helicopters -- were reassigned to carry troops. The five helicopters picked up 127 Marines of the second wave at U Tapao between 0900 and 1000 hours.

15 May 1975

Koh Tang

West Beach Landing

6:15 AM

46. Lt. James McDaniel
The sun was just starting to creep over the horizon and it’s very dramatic. It’s black and then all of a sudden there’s just some faint sunlight and then all of a sudden the sun comes up and everything is blazing in light.

Coming in low across the water the first two choppers approach the Western zone. As they attempt to land the tree line erupts in a barrage of automatic weapons fire.

47. Lt. James McDaniel
You could see a bullet puncture the side of the helicopter. And it seemed like it was in slow motion as it would come through the skin of the helicopter

As McDaniel’s Platoon exits the aircraft, they become the targets.

48. Lt James McDaniel
Staff Sergeant Salinas led the charge off of the helicopter and as he walked off onto the rocks. I could see bullets bouncing off the rocks to either side of him

Sitting on the beach McDaniel’s helicopter takes punishing hits. Having lost an engine the pilot nurses the chopper out over the water.

49. GSGT Lester McNemar

I see the first helicopter in the western zone going out about 500 to 600 yards out into the ocean to the north end of the island, get down in the water, sat there for like 2 seconds, flipped over and sank.

The helicopter carrying Gunnery Sergeant McNemar and Capt. Davis – then circles back and attempts to insert its Marines.

50. Capt. James Davis

I was hit with something in the face and it turned me a flip. I looked to my left, and the crew chief/ gunner on the gun had been hit also.

Heavy machine gun fire rakes down the length of the chopper.

51. Capt. Davis
The chopper was badly damaged, there was hydraulic fluid, and you could smell fuel

52. Gunny McNemar
The pilot decided to abort and head to the mainland, back to Thailand or U Tapao, we didn’t know where we were going.

Across the island the welcome for the Choppers on the East beach is even worse.

May 15 1975

Koh Tang

East Beach Landing

6:21 AM

53. Maj. Al Corson

We were doing a high-speed ingress, which is the way you want to go in to minimize your exposure time.

54. Moa Run
4 or 5 helicopters approached the island. They were not shooting, but we knew we were in a state of war since they already bombed our boats.

55. Lt. Cicere
I stood up and looked out the right door to assess what was happening and as we started to make our approach I could see over to the other side of the island So I started thinking to myself maybe this is not maybe going along to the plan.

56. JD Harston
As we approached and started the transition from our forward flight as it into a side maneuver we started taking ground fire Randy opened up fro the left side and Rich Vandegeer punched his m16 out the side window vent

57. Terry Tonkin
Just as we started to make our turn to the beach, I started to the aft ramp of the aircraft, to exit when we landed. And as I was about half way through the aircraft, there was a loud noise And obviously we’ve been hit.

58. Mike Cicere
I heard an explosion and I looked out the door to the left and I could see knife 3-1 completely engulfed in flames at that point and the helicopter just spinning madly around

59. Maj. Corson
I lost control completely of the helicopter. We completed part of the turn then we impacted the water.

60. Terry Tonkin

I really don’t remember anything between that loud explosion and a few moments later when I wake up or became conscious, in about a foot of water with the aircraft just to my right, burning furiously.

Lt. Tonkin and several crewmembers are blown out of the aircraft by the force of the explosion. With the fire spreading many are still trapped inside.

61. JD Harston
The marines were in quite a bit disarray in the back trying to get out the helicopter

62. Terry Tonkin
See Marines trying to push through the Plexiglas windows on the side of the aircraft

63. JD Harston
I yelled at a bunch of them to follow me out from underneath the right gun there at the doorway

64. Terry Tonkin
I heard one of the air force crew chiefs to my side and he already had a survival radio out and was calling a mayday, mayday,

65. JD Harston
The pilot was still in there. And really with all the shock and every thing, Al Corson was still trying to fly the helicopter.

66. Maj. Corson
The next thing I remember is Sergeant Harston coming to my side window in the helicopter.

67. JD Harston
I yelled at him to get out and he literally undid himself, stepped out over the rotor pedals right into the water. There was just absolutely no front on the helicopter. The co-pilot Rich Vandegeer was slumped over in his harnesses

68. Maj. Corson
When I looked at Lt Vandegeer he was hanging in his harness… he was hanging in his harness just forward his head down hanging over the control stick and he was obviously dead and shortly there after he caught on fire.

Trailing just behind the greeting for the second helicopter into the Eastern zone is every bit as fierce.

A direct hit completely severs the helicopters tail section.

69. Moa Run
We shot down two of the helicopters, one caught fire and fell into the water and the other fell along the beach.

70. Lt. Cicere
Once we hit the deck people collected themselves and made and immediately b-lined out of that helicopter and into the tree line.

Lt. Cicere and 3rd Platoon are pined down and cut off. Only minutes into the landing, four of the eight helicopters are damaged or destroyed and 14 Marines and Air force crewmen lay dead.

71. Lt. Cicere
With one helicopter burning out in the water just to the south of us and the carcass of what is left of our helicopter sitting fouling the landing zone it became apparent very quickly that no one else was going to land in there…

Now the focus of the Khmer Rouge guns shifts to the survivors in the water.

72. Maj. Corson
From the time we exited we were all under small arms fire and automatic weapons fire. The only option that we had was to try to get away from that ground fire which meant going out.

73. JD Harston

Everyone else took their helmets off – and I didn’t, and I do not know why I didn’t I just didn’t and I was swimming, facing the Island dog paddling backwards, with these guys, the two marines actually hanging onto my shoulders on my back. And a round smack me right between the eyes about an inch above where the helmet comes right across, and drove me back into the water, and it was the guys who I had pulled that now pulled me out because they had to drag me out from where it drove me back in the water, and it split my helmet right in two.

Koh Tang

West Beach

8:40 AM

After making repeated attempts to land the helicopter carrying the command unit with Lt. Col. Randall Austin is forced to unload nearly a mile South of the West beach.

By 10:00 o’clock the Marines find themselves divided into three groups, separated by dense jungle and rugged terrain. With the command unit isolated the leadership of the main assault force falls into the hands two 2nd Lieutenants -- with no combat experience.

74. Lt. McDaniel
Col. Austin comes over the radio and wants a group of marines come down and linkup with his position.

75. Col. Austin
We were not what you would call a potent fighting force, not the kind of group that you want to be isolated with in a situation like that.

76. Lt. McDaniel
He was the command group and they only had 4 rifles among their group.

Lt. McDaniel selects 14 Marines and heads South to link up with Austin.

77. Lt. McDaniel

All of a sudden there were 3 or 4 hand grenades that went off in the middle of us. My squad leader Lance Corporal Loney was immediately killed.

78. Rot Leng
We opened fire with our rifles against the troops. During the attack the leader of the American troops was wounded.

There was another marine that was directly in front of me and then there was another marine that was directly behind me. Both those two marines were severely wounded.

79. Rot Leng
We had plenty of ammunition and strength and our forces attacked fiercely

80. Lt. McDaniel
We stop trying to fire back at them because every time we do there is this thick counter fire from them. Things are quiet for a second and out folks, some of our folks are very upset to the point of being hysterical some of them start crying out for God, for Jesus to come and help. It was a very intense moment and the enemy was all around us and they could here us. They could not understand English but they could understand the emotion that was being expressed in our voices. They started laughing and it was a very eerie feeling because they were taking pleasure in hearing the emotion in our voices.

As McDanial’s platoon is fighting for their lives, across the island search and rescue Helicopters are attempting recovery of the Marines on the East beach.

East Beach

Koh Tang

81. Lt. Cicere
All of a sudden this helicopter shows up When they came in, it was really a big surprise. They got down on the deck. And when they did, right even when they were coming in, it was like the fourth of July.

Engulfed in flames the helicopter is forced to abort the rescue attempt.

In the water below the survivors of Major Corson’s helicopter have been swimming for more than three hours.

82. JD Harston
I thought the helicopters were going to come back around and pick us up right quick but apparently when they saw us go down, they didn’t think there would be any survivors from the crash so they didn’t even make an attempt.

83. Lt. Tonkin
After three hours or so we were getting tire-der, and tired-er and just using whatever energy we could to keep trying to move away from the island.

West Beach

10:30 AM

84. Lt. McDaniel
Time started to tick by and then I realized that I had these hand grenades in my pockets I couldn’t fire back with my rifle but I could at least throw these hand grenades back at them

The volley of grenades momentarily silences the Cambodian guns and Lt. McDaniel make his withdrawal.

The Marines work their way out of the killing zone and back to their lines.

85. Col. Austin
At that point we realized that probably wasn’t feasibly for them to push the perimeter very much towards us and we had, in fact, to move towards them.

East Beach

10:45 AM

Nearly four hours after the crash of the helicopters on the East beach, Major Corson, Lt. Tonkin, Sgt. Harston and the remaining survivors (many wounded and severely burned) are pulled out of the water and taken to the USS Wilson.

The second wave including Capt. Davis who would be making his second attempt to land on Koh Tang takes off just before 10:00 AM. While in route the marines get a message that triggers mixed emotions.

At 11:55 AM the fishing boat released by the Khmer Rouge on the island of Rong Sam Leng approaches the USS Wilson waving a white flag.

86. Jerry Myregard
The Wilson trained it gun on us and we realized that perhaps we could be shot. So we waved our arms took our shirts off and made it known that we were Americans. We got along side and we climbed aboard and I met a naval officer who informed me that there were a few marines that had been shot; They had 'em on ice as he called it. On the Wilson

The crew of the Mayaguez -- 40 Americans thought to be held on Koh Tang are safe.

In Washington the president and his chief advisors breathe a sigh of relief.

87. President Ford
After three or four days of very tense circumstances I felt very relieved.

88. Brent Scowcroft
And so, our attention turned to "How do we get the Marines off Koh Tang Island?" That turned into a very difficult, very difficult operation

89. Lt. Cicere
We were not going to plant a flag here, like Iwo Jima, and claim it for the United States. That really wasn’t the reason for us being there. If the crew’s been picked up, now the next step become how we going to get ourselves extracted out of this, out of this situation.

The marines on Koh Tang are still encountering heavy resistance and Lt. Cicere’s 3rd platoon is isolated and extremely vulnerable. Without reinforcements the Marines run the risk of becoming prisoners of the Khmer Rouge themselves. Having linked up with the main force, Col. Austin inquires on the status of the second wave.

90. Col. Austin
Several times, I was communicating with the airborne command and control center and asking what was the state of the second wave and in one of those later inquiries was told, they had been turned back and I was somewhat dismayed by that response and asked that be reconsidered, that second wave, ah…be sent to the island

Austin’s message makes its’ point. The second wave is cleared to go but they are still more than an hour from Koh Tang.

TRANSITION “The Second Wave”

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the morning raid, the first helicopter of the second wave approaches the eastern landing zone.

91. Lt. Cicere
You don’t have to be Daniel Boone to it a helicopter especially at 53. And they waited for the opportune time to put the maximum damage on those helicopters and on anybody that happened to be inside.

The severely damaged helicopter (and her much needed reinforcements) heads directly for the Thai coast.

The remaining choppers in the second wave unload Captain Davis and 100 Marines into the Western zone. Even with the reinforcements, poor communications and heavy resistance make it impossible for the Marines to link up with Lt. Cicere. The only option is to get 3rd platoon out.

The Second Wave

Koh Tang

1:00 PM

Circling just off the beach search and rescue helicopters make one last attempt to extract 3rd platoon.

92. Harry Cash
Well we decided it was time, time to make a move. My pilot Don Backland said I think this is going to be the last train out of Dodge City

At 5:50 PM Lt. Cicere sees the helicopter coming in for the extraction.

93. Lt. Cicere
If I can see the helicopter coming in, so can the bad guys. So I knew we were going to be in for an interesting, a few moments, when the helicopter came in.

94. Harry Cash
About maybe 200-meters out then they opened up. I could just hear the bullets just hitting the front of the helicopter

With Navy and Air Force planes providing cover 3rd platoon fights its way off the beach and into the waiting chopper.

95. Lt. Cicere
He is hovering that helicopter, and the helicopter would drop down, give within about five feet of the deck and then it would go up, so you, what we ended up having to do was people were getting aboard was time their jump if you will to get on to the to get on to the ramp and get aboard the helicopter.

Twelve hours after the Marines landed on Koh Tang the rescue helicopter carrying 3rd platoon takes off from the East beach. During the evacuation the chopper sustains so much that it would be unable to fly again.

96. Harry Cash
I just knew that we had to get those people out. That if we didn’t do it, I didn’t think it’d be done.

97. Lt. Cicere
There's just no way to describe, I don’t think, how elated that you are that you realized you survived something, that could have very easily gone the other way. Especially when I think you saw right before you people in a similar situation that, unfortunately, were not as lucky as you were.

The rescue of the Rescuers

Koh Tang

6:30 PM

With nightfall quickly approaching the airborne command and control puts the question to the Marines on the beach. Can the evacuation be done under cover of darkness?

98. Col. Austin
My response to that was yes, I think we can do it under darkness, but I’m going to lay down one proviso, here and that is that once we start we must have the commitment to finish this

99. Capt. Davis
Col. Austin came up to me and said Jim how do you want to pull this I said the best thing for me to do is get this down to one commander.

100. Austin
As the company commander, he would be left eventually with a small force and that he was going to close the beach and be amongst the last ones out.

101. Davis
As you incrementally reduce a perimeter especially under fire in the dusk you run the risk of losing people and also losing the element of security.

As the helicopters attempt to coordinate the withdrawal, they receive a message that a wounded marine may have been left in one of the downed helios on the East beach.

The damage to Jolly Green 12 leaves only three helicopters to evacuate the more than 200 marines still on Koh Tang.

102. Bruce Daly
The reports we were getting when we were making our run in that the marines were being pushed back form the tree line to the beach, to the water even and it was going to be real tight getting in there.

As the sun sets over the Gulf of Thailand the evacuation of the marines goes into full swing.

To cover the evacuation the Air Force drops the largest non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal a 15,000- pound bomb on the center of the island behind the enemy positions. The explosion rocks the island to its core.

103. Davis

We could see the parachute deploy we could see the palette that was below it and I can remember saying gunny I think they are going to re-supply us and Within seconds the jungle seemed to explode and we figured out what it was

Shortly before 7:00 PM the EVAC choppers approach Koh Tang.

104. Daly
When helicopters are making their run in, you can hear how bad they got beat; sometimes you can hear ‘we are taking ground fire, taking ground fire’ and stuff like that. And you sit back and take a deep breath and wait your turn.

With the departure of each load of marines the forces still on the ground become more vulnerable.

105. Davis

As the perimeter was incrementally reduced and echo company passed through my lines. I did ask the company commander, I said “Mike do you have all of your people?” and he said yes, “get on the choppers!”

106. McNemar
I went in hot on the lines check and making sure all my people got back and went on across the open space to the south side of the western zone and was checking Echo company if any of Echo company marines were over there make sure that everybody had pulled back correctly.

Every time the perimeter is reduced Khmer Rouge forces fill in the gaps, pushing the marines closer to the sea.

107. McDaniel

We’d here the underbrush slowly crumble as the enemy slowly crawled forward trying to come as close to our position as possible.

108. McNemar
A Khmer Rouge took a shot at me and it went right past my flack jacket and I dropped him with two shots. The second one turned and I got him he fell down into the gully that was the last I seen of him.

109. Davis
I picked up the radio to try to communicate and I communicated with a foreigner. Somebody had picked up one of those prick 77 radios and it wasn’t a friendly.

With the last 29 marines clinging to a sliver of beach Capt. Davis faces the most harrowing moments of the operation.

110. Davis
At the last perimeter our boots were literately almost in the water.

As the choppers make their way back to Koh Tang radio contact is lost with the Marines on the beach.

111. McNemar

We were trying to figure out wait a second do they know we are still here how are we going to get off.

112. Davis
That’s probably the longest time of my life. When your boots are wet and your elbows are in beach sand, there’s not a lot – you don’t own a lot of real estate. And there are not a lot of alternatives at that point in time except fighting to the death or swimming.

Shortly after 8:00 PM on May 15, 1975 – 15 hours after the first Marines had fought their way onto Koh Tang the final helicopter touches down on the beach.

113. Davis
We boarded the helicopter then I remember Tech Sergeant Fisk jumping out of the helicopter one more time with the ramp down and checking, making a hasty check of the right side and then as he got back on the ramp of the chopper the chopper took off.

114. McNamar
Fisk slips and the only thing I can grab is the cord to his microphone on his helmet.

115. Davis
His eyes were getting bigger and bigger as he was sliding out the back of that helicopter.

116. McNemar
I reached down and got his sleeve or his arm. I grabbed something and I yanked him up.

117. Davis
It through his body into my lap and we gave each other a big hug and that was it. The day was over.

118. Rot Lang
We finally won and took back the island. We gathered the bodies of the American soldiers and put them all together. We concluded that we had achieved victory.

Minutes later, word reaches the White House. The Marines have been evacuated from Koh Tang.

But the relief is short lived.

119. Austin
Within minutes of the extraction - we’re taking a head count and making sure, trying to determine who we have – certainly expecting that we’re going to have everybody.

120. Davis
Colonel Austin walked up to me and asked, “Jim to the best of your knowledge did you get all the marines off of that beach?” I said, “Yes sir.”

121. McNemar
Echo Company had three marines missing.

Lance Corporal Joseph Hargrove, Private First Class Gary Hall and Private Danny Marshall were last seen shortly before the final load of Marines withdrew from Koh Tang.

122. Davis
It seams that if they would have been alive they would have come back and joined us, number 1. Number 2, Why didn’t they call out for help?

123. Austin
We, I think, came to the correct and the only logical decision that these three marines had been killed in the extensive exchange of fire that occurred as the helicopters came in for the extraction.

The final report concludes that Hall, Hargrove and Marshall were killed in action.

124. Rot Lang
As a medical person I was the one that gathered all of the dead bodies and provided bandages for the wounded Khmers and American soldiers Injured Khmer soldiers were sent to the mainland, whereas the injured American soldiers were not. They later died on the battlefield. In the days following the attack 4 or 5 American soldiers came out of the forest. They came out because they did not have water to drink. The island’s water is salt water. The island protecting forces caught them and questioned them, and then they were sent to battalion headquarters. The battalion began the process of questioning. They were not tortured or hurt. Since at that time the Khmer did not speak the American Language they were sent to the mainland to people who could translate.

125. Davis
It is the worse scenario that goes through my mind every day.

126. McNemar
its bad enough that I left the island and had marines that were KIA, I left marine bodies back there which I don’t like to do. To think that those marines were alive – I would have gone back in myself.

127. Davis
If there were marines on that island if there were any question as to whether or not they were dead or alive //we would have had to die there and we know that

Including the crash of the Air Force Helicopter in Thailand the cost of the Mayaguez operation is high: 41 US military personnel were killed and fifty more were wounded. The fact that the bodies of some US servicemen were not recovered from the island left doubts and open wounds for years to come.

Even worse was the revelation that the heavy resistance the marines encountered on Koh Tang had nothing to do with the United States or the seizure of the Mayaguez.

128. Scowcroft
The Cambodians and the Vietnamese were having a confrontation about who owned Koh Tang Island. And the Cambodians had put troops on the island to assert their sovereignty. We didn't know that.

129. Quinn
And as the American ship Mayaguez comes along, the Khmer Rouge run out and seizes it, fearful that it is somehow some part of some possible Vietnamese or American trick to begin to retake the country.

Tragically the Mayaguez Crisis erupted in the wrong place at the wrong time.

130. Scowcroft
Was it in fact necessary, we don't know we spotted important national interests at stake and we moved very quickly and in ad hoc kind of way to protect those national interests, and it worked.

131. James Schlesinger
It was only the question of force that led the Cambodians to deliver up the hostages.

132. President Ford
The only answer was the one that we took: meet it head on.

133. Henry Kissinger
And we achieved what we set out to do. But when you looked at it as part of a bigger scheme of things it was sort of a paltry objective we had entered Indochina to save countries, and we wound up rescuing a ship.

Back on Koh Tang the reality of what the Marines faced in 1975, can still be seen. Fragments of American helicopters, overgrown bunkers and trees scarred with bullet holes are haunting reminders of the horrors of war. From fortified positions in the dense tree line Khmer Rouge forces laid in wait to greet the marines with a force at least five times the original estimates.

We may never know the truth about the missing Americans. Were they killed in action as the official report states? Or are they part of the dark secrets buried in the killing fields of Cambodia?

In the end, the Mayaguez Crisis is a mere footnote to the controversial history of US involvement in Southeast Asia. In the end, a list of names lost amidst all of the bad news that was the Vietnam War.

© 2000 Henninger Productions - All Rights Reserved

I've argued more times than I want to admit to, that Vietnam did not stop taking lives in 1973, the way most people think it did.
They didn't stop dying until 1975.
Up until recently, I thought the last two Marines did in April of 1975 until I was made aware of this. It is something I had forgotten about.

But even with this, there are still many more who paid the price with their lives far past the May 1975 date. Names you will not see on the Wall. They died of Agent Orange exposure. They died of wounds they received. More died because of the wound they carried home with them from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. By 1978 500,000 had already been diagnosed with PTSD. By 1986, 117,000 had committed suicide. Two other studies followed putting the figure between 150,000 and 200,000. These names will not be added to the Wall. What's more is that most of the families never connected what was wrong with the veteran when they came home and eventually ended their lives one way or another.

I planned to do this post for Memorial Day but when I was searching for the information, I felt it was too important for me to be the only way posting this. Please pass this on to anyone in your address book so that maybe the media can do a report on this before Memorial Day. Our record on honoring the fallen has not been very great lately. Let's try to make this Memorial Day a lot more than parades and cook-outs.