Operation Frequent Wind
Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Vietnam in April 1975, moved over 50,000 people. The initial decision to depart Saigon was made to evacuate the Defense Attaché's office by fixed-wing aircraft. This fixed-wing evacuation was determined impossible when hostile artillery and rocket fire closed the air base at Tan Son Nhut. The decision to evacuate the entire US presence by helicopter under Operation Frequent Wind was made late morning, 29 April 1975, Saigon time. Due to the delayed timing of the order, the capability for rapid response to such an order was imperative. The deteriorating situation at the Defense Attaché location required the Embassy to become a major site.
The evacuation of the Defense Attaché people proceeded smoothly. Total casualties were relatively light: two USMC Embassy Security Guards killed in an attack by ground fire, and two USMC CH-46 search and rescue helicopter aircrews presumed dead following a crash at sea. Total evacuation helicopter sorties from the US Defense Attaché compound numbered 122. The sorties from the US Embassy numbered 72. The evacuation of 7,806 US citizens and foreign nationals from these two places by the US Air Force and Marine Corps helicopters was supported by a major air effort by the Air Force and Navy. This effort consisted of: 444 USAF/USMC helicopter sorties; 204 TACAIR sorties; 24 AH-1J (Cobra) combat escort sorties; 8 AC-130 gunship sorties; 5 EC-130 (ABCCC) sorties; 44 KC-135 tanker sorties; and 2 HC-130 search and rescue support sorties.
The 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, a task force of the III MEF successfully extracted by helicopter more than 7,000 Americans and Vietnamese from Saigon, Vietnam, in Operation Frequent Wind. In conjunction with this operation, Marine detachments from III MEF provided security of U.S. ships engaged in carrying Vietnamese refugees to Guam.
- THE COMMAND'S HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS by Anne M. Bazzell PACAF Office of History
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