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THE FIRST OF MANY All morning long KIRK’s Combat Information Center (CIC) transmitted on the air distress frequency that “Ship 1087″ had an open flight deck.Under a broken overcast, with intermittent rain squalls, dozens of Hueys swarmed toward KIRK.North Vietnamese forces were making swift progress as they pushed south, overrunning cities, towns, and villages, pummeling South Vietnamese forces seemingly at will. The long, costly Vietnam War was coming to a tragic end. Preparing for that inevitable outcome, American forces were gathering once again in the South China Sea and a complex operation was beginning to unfold: the evacuation of the remaining Americans from Cambodia and Vietnam, and the rescue of as many foreign nationals and loyal South Vietnamese as possible.
HANCOCK then barreled at high speed from Pearl Harbor to the Western Pacific to join the growing evacuation group, receiving additional Marine helicopters along the way from USS MIDWAY (CV-43) in a late-night, high speed consolidation exercise in the San Bernardino Strait.
Encircled and cut off from the sea, Saigon stubbornly endured a few more days of ever-intensifying shelling by the oncoming NVA and Viet Cong forces 3.
But finally, on the morning of 29 April, with Communist forces penetrating the city from all sides, there were no remaining options. American ambassador Graham Martin reluctantly ordered the long-anticipated pullout from Saigon, and “Operation Frequent Wind” was underway.
EXODUS BY AIR AND SEA During the next two days over 7,000 “official” evacuees were flown from the courtyard of the American Embassy in Saigon, and the Defense Attache’s Office (DAO) compound at Tan Son Nhut Airbase on the outskirts of the city 4.
The unmistakable sound of American heavy helicopters thundering in from the sea and across the city signaled to those below that the evacuation was in full swing.