Gerald Ford: Incidente Mayaguez

Gerald Ford: Incidente Mayaguez

Assista a este vídeo histórico do presidente Ford enquanto ele faz uma declaração na televisão anunciando que os tripulantes do SS Maya Guez foram resgatados das forças cambojanas. Tom Brokaw relata que foi uma jogada muito empolgante e popular para o presidente Ford.


O Incidente Mayaguez, Ford e Kissinger Mentiram. Agora a verdade está saindo

Foto de SS Mayaguez: Força Aérea dos EUA

(27 de fevereiro de 2021) - Howard Zinn fez muitas declarações que soam verdadeiras no passado e pareciam prever o futuro. Uma coisa que ele disse soa verdadeira e tem acontecido desde o início dos tempos: "Suponho que o ato mais revolucionário em que alguém pode se envolver é ... para dizer a verdade ..."

Esquecido por muitos, desconhecido pela maioria ...Fantasmas do céu, os homens da 56ª Ala de Operações Especiais da USAF, entre eles os 56 SPS, membros altamente treinados enviados para o que seria sua missão final. Eles fizeram o sacrifício final em um helicóptero CH53 21 SOS helo, indicativo de chamada & # 8220Knife 1-3, & # 8221 13 de maio de 1975.

Os 18 Dash 1 SPs especialmente treinados foram originalmente informados para receber a missão de resgate do navio de carga americano SS Mayaguez, escondido em nome de "Relações Exteriores" e transportando uma carga secreta. Detalhes sobre as origens do navio & # 8217s, seu conteúdo a bordo, o relato do total de vítimas e membros do serviço americano deixados para trás permaneceram envoltos em sigilo político. Registros de serviço imprecisos e detalhes inconsistentes envolvendo o acidente de “Knife 1-3 ″ levantam dúvidas quanto aos resultados da investigação do acidente. Uma nova investigação sobre a causa do acidente e um relatório oficial de colateral da USAF, em total contraste com outros registros federais, nunca foram produzidos e devem ser iniciados. A documentação desclassificada também revelou um lado muito diferente para o Presidente Ford & # 8217s considerar a missão como um "SUCESSO" após o último fuzileiro ter saído da Ilha de Koh Tang.

Mas o último fuzileiro não saiu daquela ilha. Três jovens fuzileiros navais viram os helicópteros americanos desaparecerem de vista enquanto eram deixados para cuidar de seus próprios recursos na ilha. Três fuzileiros navais dos EUA desapareceram: Marine Pvt. Danny Marshall, Marine Unip. 1ª Classe Gary Hall e Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove. Seguindo ordens do comando superior e da Casa Branca, os militares disseram que desobedeceram às ordens e provavelmente morreram no tiroteio, mas a guerra brutal que começou com uma mentira também terminou com uma. Esta não é a primeira vez que Kissinger aconselharia um presidente a sacrificar vidas americanas para acobertar. Nixon foi avisado por Kissinger em um acobertamento de 1971 de um ataque da JTF ao Camboja, denominado Operação Red Rock. Curiosamente, o raid foi originado de NKP, a mesma base de onde Knife 1-3 partiu.

Questões adicionais agora surgiram quanto ao destino dos 23 militares considerados imediatamente KIA no K1-3, consistindo de 18 Polícia de Segurança da Força Aérea e 5 membros da tripulação da USAF. Comunicações oficiais listavam possíveis sobreviventes em uma área altamente hostil perto da fronteira entre a Tailândia e o Laos. É preciso perguntar seriamente se 23 vidas foram perdidas, seja para morte ou captura, tudo em nome do patriotismo para garantir a proteção dos bens do governo, alguns dos quais foram escondidos dos cidadãos dos EUA e possivelmente até violaram as leis federais e internacionais. O incidente do Knife 1-3 / Mayaguez arrancou vidas, mas também abriu o caminho para a criação do Comando de Operações Especiais Conjuntas (JSOC), que fornece uma cortina preta para todas as operações e fundos associados a ela.

A última foto tirada dos aviadores Mayaguez, domínio público, foto da Força Aérea dos EUA

Os seres humanos não são máquinas e, por mais forte que seja a pressão para se conformar, às vezes ficam tão comovidos com o que consideram injustiça que ousam declarar independência. Nessa possibilidade histórica reside a esperança. ”H Zinn

KIA
Faca 01-3
1 / Ten James G. KAYS, FR, (piloto)
1 / Lt., _ Laurence FROEHLICH, FR, (copiloto)
TSgt Jackie ll. GLENN, FR, (passageiro)
SSgt Gerald A. COYLE, FR, (passageiro)
SSgt Faleagafulu ILAOA, FR, (passageiro)
SSgt George E. McMULLEN, III, FR, (mecânico de vôo)
Sgt Jimmy P. BLACK, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Bobby G. COLLUMS, FR., (Passageiro)
Sgt Thomas D. DWYER, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Bob W. FORD, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Gerald W. FRITZ, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Darrell L. HAMLIN, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Gregory L. HANKAMER, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt David A. HIGGS, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Michael D. LANE, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt William R. McKELVEY, FR, (passageiro)
Sgt Paul J. RABER, FR, (chefe da tripulação)
Sgt Robert W. ROSS, FR, (passageiro)
A1C Dennis W. LONDRES, FR, (passageiro)
A1C Robert P. MATHIAS, FR, (passageiro)
A1C Tommy R. NEALIS, FR, (passageiro)
A1C Robert P. WELDON, FR, (mecânico de vôo)
Amn Edgar G. MORAN, II, FR, (passageiro)

Fonte: http://veteranstruthnetwork.com/index.php/2017/07/24/the-mayaguez-incident-ford-and-kissinger-lied-now-the-truth-is-coming-out/ (site agora offline )

Nota do Editor & # 8217s: Para obter mais informações sobre o Incidente SS Mayaguez, consulte:


Gerald R. Ford

Introdução Ele mesmo disse: & # 34Sou um Ford, não um Lincoln. & # 34 A franqueza e a honestidade de Gerald R. Ford foram o motivo de ele ser admirado durante seus 25 anos no Congresso. De 1965 a 1973, Ford foi o líder da minoria na Câmara. Quando Ford fez o juramento presidencial em 9 de agosto de 1974, ele declarou:

O armário Ford. A Ford herdou o Gabinete Nixon. Gradualmente, ele selecionou seu próprio gabinete. É interessante notar que a rotatividade do gabinete de Nixon escolhido a dedo foi muito mais extensa durante o governo Nixon do que para o gabinete herdado da Ford. Perdoando Nixon. Como presidente, a Ford tentou acalmar as controvérsias anteriores concedendo perdão total ao ex-presidente Nixon. Oito meses após assumir o cargo, em 8 de setembro de 1974, Ford anunciou que Nixon seria perdoado por todos os crimes que pudesse ter cometido durante sua presidência, encerrando assim qualquer ameaça de processo. Um clamor imediato de todo o país foi de um negócio Nixon-Ford & # 34. & # 34 As acusações de um acordo Nixon com a Ford por clemência foram zombadas, mas o tumulto logo desapareceu.

Agenda doméstica da Ford. Na política pública, a Ford seguiu o curso de ação que Nixon havia estabelecido, apesar da oposição e dos numerosos confrontos com o Congresso controlado pelos democratas. Seu primeiro objetivo era conter a inflação, o que levou a uma taxa de desemprego de 12% e à recessão mais séria desde a Grande Depressão. Um corte de impostos, juntamente com maiores benefícios de desemprego, levou a uma recuperação modesta. Ele vetou uma série de projetos de lei de apropriação não militar que teriam aumentado ainda mais o já pesado déficit orçamentário. Ford continuou como fazia em seus dias de congresso a se ver como & # 34 um moderado em assuntos internos, um conservador em assuntos fiscais e um internacionalista em assuntos externos. & # 34 Uma meta principal era ajudar as empresas a operar com mais liberdade, reduzindo impostos e flexibilização dos controles exercidos pelos órgãos reguladores. & # 34Nós. declaramos nossa independência há 200 anos, e não estamos prestes a perdê-la agora para os embaralhadores de papel e computadores ”, disse ele. Os embaralhadores de papel mencionados eram os burocratas entrincheirados de Washington, D.C. que Nixon tentou reorganizar durante sua própria presidência. O presidente agiu para conter a tendência de intervenção e gastos do governo, por exemplo, Bem-estar e Ação Afirmativa, como meio de solucionar os problemas da sociedade e da economia americanas. Ele impôs medidas para conter a inflação. No longo prazo, ele acreditava, essa mudança significaria uma vida melhor para todos os americanos. Durante seus primeiros 14 meses como presidente, ele vetou 39 medidas. Seus vetos costumavam ser mantidos, mas ainda não havia fim para as dificuldades econômicas. Outras questões tratadas pelo presidente Ford são as seguintes:

Política externa da Ford. As principais questões durante a presidência da Ford foram:

A Ford agiu energicamente para reafirmar a capacidade e o prestígio dos EUA após o colapso do Camboja e a humilhante queda de Saigon no Vietnã do Sul. Em 12 de maio de 1975, o navio da Marinha Mercante americana, S.S. Mayaguez, com 39 tripulantes a bordo, foi capturado em águas internacionais por canhoneiras cambojanas. O navio foi resgatado e todos os tripulantes foram salvos, mas à custa da vida de 41 militares americanos. A detente com a União Soviética sob o líder Leonid Brezhnev continuou. As relações entre os Estados Unidos e a União Soviética foram marcadas por negociações de armas em andamento. Eles trabalharam para aprimorar o tratado SALT II¹ para definir novas limitações às armas nucleares (que não foram aprovadas no Congresso), os acordos de Helsinque sobre os princípios dos direitos humanos e as fronteiras nacionais do Leste Europeu, negociações comerciais e o simbólico vôo espacial tripulado conjunto Apollo-Soyuz . A diplomacia pessoal de Ford foi destacada por viagens ao Japão e China, uma turnê europeia de 10 dias e co-patrocínio da primeira reunião de cúpula econômica internacional. Além disso, ele recebeu vários chefes de estado estrangeiros na Casa Branca, muitos dos quais vieram em comemoração ao Bicentenário dos EUA em 1976. Prevenir uma nova guerra entre os intratáveis ​​oponentes árabes-israelenses do Oriente Médio continuou sendo um objetivo principal. A diplomacia & # 34Shuttle & # 34 no Oriente Médio parecia produzir resultados promissores. Ao fornecer mais ajuda a Israel² e Egito, o governo Ford ajudou a persuadir os dois países a aceitar um acordo de trégua provisório - que não durou. O presidente Ford ganhou a indicação republicana à presidência em 1976, mas perdeu a eleição para seu oponente democrata, o ex-governador Jimmy Carter da Geórgia, que era um outsider de Washington & # 34. & # 34 No dia da posse, o presidente eleito Carter começou sua aceitação discurso dizendo: & # 34Para mim e para nossa nação, quero agradecer ao meu antecessor por tudo que ele fez para curar nossa terra. & # 34 A eleição de Carter, no entanto, pode ter sido um sinal dos eleitores de que eles ainda suspeitavam de um acordo para a Ford perdoar o presidente Nixon. O poder do petróleo árabe era predominante no cenário geopolítico da época. O embargo de petróleo da Organização dos Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP) de 1973-1974³ alterou o equilíbrio de poder e as economias nacionais da Europa e da América, o que por sua vez aumentou a inflação nos anos seguintes. Atividades pós-presidenciais Desde seu mandato, Ford tem atuado e atuado em vários conselhos de empresas. Ele também criou a Biblioteca Gerald R. Ford em Ann Arbor, Michigan, e o Prêmio Gerald R. Ford por Relatos Destacados sobre a Presidência. O conceituado Betty Ford Center, fundado em 1982 pela ex-primeira-dama, tratou mulheres e homens que sofrem de dependência química. O centro sempre reservou 50% de seu espaço para mulheres e 50% para homens. Hoje, o Betty Ford Center oferece programas para todo o sistema familiar afetado pelo vício. Para obter mais informações, vá para The Betty Ford Center.

¹SALT II ainda estava em negociações sob o governo Jimmy Carter. O presidente Ronald Reagan descartou o SALT II e deu início à renegociação do Tratado de Mísseis Antibalísticos, que permaneceu em vigor até que o presidente George W. Bush anunciou a retirada americana do tratado em dezembro de 2001.

² Estabelecido em 1948, Israel recebeu, desde seu início, aproximadamente US $ 13 bilhões por ano dos Estados Unidos. Em 1997, o custo total estimado para os contribuintes dos EUA era de quase US $ 135 bilhões. Em grande parte, devido às influências do lobby pró-Israel, o Comitê de Assuntos Públicos de Israel (AIPAC) em Washington, D.C. e várias denominações cristãs americanas.

³ Em 6 de outubro de 1973, o dia sagrado judaico de Yom Kippur, as forças egípcias atacaram Israel do outro lado do Canal de Suez, enquanto, ao mesmo tempo, as tropas sírias inundaram as Colinas de Golã em uma ofensiva surpresa. Após as perdas iniciais, os contra-ataques israelenses rapidamente invadiram o território sírio no norte, enquanto as tropas flanqueavam o exército egípcio no sul. Israel, com a ajuda dos EUA, conseguiu reverter os ganhos árabes e um cessar-fogo foi concluído em novembro. Mas em 17 de outubro, a Opep revidou contra o Ocidente, impondo um embargo do petróleo aos EUA, enquanto aumentava os preços em 70 por cento para os aliados da Europa Ocidental da América.


O Incidente Mayaguez: Batalha Final da Guerra do Vietnã

Tropas americanas em resposta ao incidente de Mayaguez. Wikimedia Commons.

No início da manhã de 13 de maio, aviões de patrulha dos EUA passaram por Poulo Wai, lançando sinalizadores para cortar a escuridão. Imediatamente, canhões antiaéreos cambojanos na ilha abriram fogo contra os aviões. Mas era tarde demais, os pilotos avistaram o Mayaguez. Sabendo que os fuzileiros navais dos Estados Unidos provavelmente estavam a caminho, os cambojanos ordenaram que o capitão Miller iniciasse seu navio e navegasse para outra ilha, Koh Tang. Em seguida, o Mayaguez foi forçado a seguir vários barcos velozes cambojanos em direção ao norte da ilha. Algumas horas depois, o barulho dos motores a jato cortou o ar.

A força aérea dos Estados Unidos mais uma vez avistou o Mayaguez. Aviões de caça começaram a circundar os navios e disparar suas armas na água na frente dos barcos velozes. A mensagem era clara: se você tentar mover o Mayaguez novamente, você morre. Foi elaborado um plano para lançar soldados americanos no convés do navio de helicóptero. Mas no caminho, um dos helicópteros caiu, matando tragicamente os homens a bordo. A chamada foi feita para adiar o resgate até que eles tivessem uma ideia melhor de como resgatar a tripulação com segurança. Enquanto isso, os cambojanos tentavam transferir a tripulação para a cidade continental de Kampong Som em barcos de pesca.

A ideia era que os aviões americanos teriam menos probabilidade de tentar detê-los nos barcos menores. Mas, mais uma vez, aviões de combate desceram sobre os navios e atiraram na água. Depois de uma passagem baixa, uma das tripulações de caça respondeu por rádio para dizer aos oficiais que tinham visto a tripulação no barco de pesca. Os ataques foram cancelados devido ao perigo de atingir os tripulantes, e os barcos pesqueiros chegaram à cidade por volta das 10h. Mas o comandante local, com medo de provocar um ataque americano à cidade, se recusou a levar a tripulação.

A tripulação foi transferida mais uma vez, desta vez para a ilha de Koh Rong Sanloem. Os americanos, entretanto, ainda estavam convencidos de que a tripulação estava em Koh Tang. E em 15 de maio, os fuzileiros navais dos EUA invadiram a ilha quando outra força invadiu o próprio Mayaguez. Os fuzileiros navais esperavam resistência leve, mas a ilha acabou tendo uma força igual de soldados do Khmer Vermelho armados com armas antiaéreas e RPGs. Um intenso tiroteio estourou na ilha quando soldados americanos atiraram bombas de gás lacrimogêneo contra o Mayaguez e embarcaram no navio.

A tripulação de um dos helicópteros acidentados. Museu Nacional da USAF.

Durante o ataque, uma rodada de RPG atingiu um dos helicópteros americanos. Ele caiu em uma bola de fogo, matando vários militares. Foi quando os cambojanos decidiram que as coisas tinham ido longe demais. Eles imediatamente emitiram um comunicado dizendo que nunca tiveram a intenção de segurar a tripulação por muito tempo e que os liberariam. A tripulação foi devolvida a um navio da Marinha dos Estados Unidos após assinar uma declaração de que não havia sido maltratada. Naquela noite, todos os elementos militares dos EUA foram retirados da região. Oficialmente, foi a batalha final da guerra do Vietnã, dando aos EUA uma última chance de obter a vitória da derrota.


Today in History & # 8211 12 de maio de 1975 & # 8211 O incidente Mayaguez

12 de maio de 1975 & # 8211 Depois que o Vietnã do Sul caiu nas mãos das forças comunistas, os EUA voltaram a se envolver em combate no Sudeste Asiático. Em maio de 1975, a marinha cambojana do Khmer Vermelho apreendeu o cargueiro americano SS Mayaguez e sua tripulação de 39 em águas internacionais.

O presidente Gerald Ford agiu de forma decisiva para resgatar a tripulação. O Mayaguez estava ancorado na ilha de Koh Tang, perto da costa do Camboja, e planejadores militares acreditavam que a tripulação estava na ilha. Os canhões da Força Aérea afundaram três barcos-patrulha cambojanos para impedi-los de levar a tripulação do Mayaguez & # 8217 de Koh Tang para o continente. Logo depois, os fuzileiros navais embarcaram no Mayaguez e o encontraram abandonado.

Perto do desastre
Os fuzileiros navais pousaram em Koh Tang em helicópteros da Força Aérea para resgatar a tripulação, mas a inteligência incompleta tornou a operação quase um desastre. Esperando apenas uma leve oposição, os helicópteros da USAF enfrentaram fogo pesado de uma grande força. Os cambojanos abateram quatro helicópteros, danificaram outros cinco e mataram 14 americanos. Mais tropas e aeronaves dos EUA moveram-se com urgência para reforçar os 131 fuzileiros navais e cinco tripulantes da USAF presos em Koh Tang.

Com o desenrolar do ataque, a tripulação do Mayaguez apareceu em um pequeno barco e foi resgatada ilesa. O presidente Ford interrompeu a ação ofensiva e a operação mudou de assalto para resgatar os fuzileiros navais presos.

Resgate Determinado
Outros 100 fuzileiros navais entraram em Koh Tang para reforçar e extrair os fuzileiros navais presos. O apoio coordenado da USAF por aeronaves de ataque, controladores aéreos avançados, helicópteros de resgate e navios de guerra atingiu alvos cambojanos enquanto os americanos em terra lutavam arduamente para manter suas posições.

Restaram apenas três helicópteros da USAF para extrair mais de 200 soldados. Eles tentaram várias vezes, enfrentando fogo feroz e preciso, mas foram repetidamente expulsos. Finalmente, eles chegaram à praia e recuperaram 129 fuzileiros navais em várias viagens, desembarcando rapidamente em navios da Marinha e retornando à ilha para mais. Na última ida à praia, o pára-resgate da USAF Tech. Sgt. Wayne Fisk deixou seu helicóptero para encontrar dois fuzileiros navais desaparecidos ainda fazendo cobertura de fogo. Ele os conduziu até o helicóptero, e o resgate de 14 horas terminou com a aeronave sob fogo.


Martin Jablonski e o SS Mayaguez

O drama internacional conhecido como “Incidente Mayaguez” testou a determinação de nossa nação e de nossos militares em tempos difíceis. Atraídos para a briga estavam dois homens vindos de Grand Rapids. Um assumiu as rédeas e tomou as decisões difíceis do mais alto cargo no país, enquanto o outro entrou em perigo para implementar a resposta militar. Posteriormente, ambos receberam homenagens por sua liderança e heroísmo.

As forças do Khmer Vermelho do Camboja apreenderam o navio porta-contêineres americano SS Mayaguez e sua tripulação no Golfo do Sião em 12 de maio de 1975. Aviões de reconhecimento americanos rapidamente localizaram o navio e seguiram seus movimentos até a ilha de Koh Tang. Vários navios da Marinha dos EUA navegaram para o golfo. Esquadrões de helicópteros HH-53 Jolly Green e CH-53 Knife se prepararam na Tailândia para transportar fuzileiros navais para resgatar o navio e sua tripulação. A rápida mobilização militar resultou da resposta da Casa Branca.

O presidente nativo de Grand Rapids, Gerald R. Ford, viu a necessidade de agir de forma decisiva em um momento em que as nações potencialmente hostis perceberam uma fraqueza nas proezas militares americanas - decorrente da evacuação apressada das forças americanas do Vietnã e Camboja no mês anterior. Oficiais da administração e do Pentágono procuraram evitar outro incidente do USS Pueblo e reconheceram que uma ação militar rápida evitaria que nações desonestas intimidassem os Estados Unidos.

A resposta militar incluiu um ataque de fuzileiros navais à ilha de Koh Tang. O ataque envolveu milhares de militares - do alto escalão do Pentágono a homens alistados em campo - conectados por redes de comunicação sofisticadas. Entre os poucos que participaram da operação real contra as bem entrincheiradas forças do Khmer Vermelho na ilha estava o sargento Martin Jablonski, nativo de Grand Rapids, servindo como mecânico de vôo em um dos Jolly Greens usados ​​para transportar os fuzileiros navais.

O helicóptero de Jablonski, Jolly Green 42, voou com fuzileiros navais na segunda onda de ataque em 15 de maio. Os helicópteros encontraram resistência feroz do inimigo entrincheirado. Vários helicópteros caíram e os fuzileiros navais lutaram desesperadamente para manter uma cabeça de ponte. Jablonski lembrou mais tarde, “na ilha, projéteis de morteiros explodiram ao redor da aeronave e estilhaços haviam cortado um feixe de fios elétricos localizado a meio metro de onde eu estava posicionado ... Tive sorte”. Durante o intenso tiroteio, os tanques de combustível auxiliar do Jolly 42 foram rompidos, mas não explodiram. O piloto e a tripulação do helicóptero a mantiveram voando após entregar com sucesso o contingente de fuzileiros navais à ilha. Eles então chegaram em segurança à Tailândia, apesar dos danos. No geral, as quatorze horas de combate envolveram o navio e toda a sua tripulação. As pesadas baixas sofridas pela pequena força de ataque adicionaram algumas cicatrizes finais ao legado do Vietnã.

O presidente Ford foi elogiado por tomar as medidas decisivas necessárias para encerrar a crise. Ele estendeu sua admiração a todos aqueles que participaram do resgate por meio de uma transmissão ao vivo para a nação: “Desejo expressar meu profundo agradecimento e de toda a Nação às unidades e aos homens que participaram dessas operações por seu valor e por seu sacrifício. " A Força Aérea dos Estados Unidos concedeu a Martin Jablonski o Distinguished Flying Cross por "ação corajosa auxiliada na recuperação do SS Mayaguez e sua tripulação."

Martin Jablonski faleceu no domingo de Páscoa, 8 de abril de 2007, após uma doença prolongada. Seus irmãos, Pamela e Tim Jablonski, doaram sua citação, medalha e placa de unidade ao Museu Presidencial Gerald R. Ford em sua memória e para todos aqueles que o servem.


O que aprendemos: com o incidente de Mayaguez

O prestígio militar dos EUA estava em declínio em 1975. Sua guerra no Vietnã terminou em derrota, e o Khmer Vermelho tomou Phnom Penh e estendeu as águas territoriais do Camboja a 90 milhas da costa.

Em 12 de maio, Washington soube que canhoneiras Khmer Rouge haviam apreendido o navio porta-contêiner registrado nos Estados Unidos Mayaguez. Um avião de reconhecimento logo localizado Mayaguez perto de Koh Tang, uma ilha a cerca de 40 milhas da costa cambojana. O presidente Gerald Ford declarou a apreensão um ato de pirataria e resolveu recuperar o navio e a tripulação. Mesmo enquanto os Estados Unidos exigiam a libertação imediata da tripulação, os caças norte-americanos afundaram várias canhoneiras cambojanas envolvidas no Mayaguez convulsão.

A Ford aprovou um ataque aos fuzileiros navais na madrugada de 15 de maio. Os fuzileiros navais retiraram 1.000 homens de Okinawa e 100 das Filipinas para a operação. Os objetivos eram levar ambos Mayaguez e Koh Tang. A Marinha correu com o porta-aviões Mar de Coral, escolta de destruidor Harold E. Holt e destruidor de mísseis guiados Henry B. Wilson para a área, mas decidiu não “amolecer” Koh Tang com um bombardeio pré-invasão, uma vez que se pensava que os marinheiros civis estavam em terra.

Apenas 235 fuzileiros navais foram convocados para o ataque inicial, já que as primeiras estimativas sugeriam que a ilha não continha mais do que 20 irregulares cambojanos. Em 12 de maio, analistas da Agência de Inteligência de Defesa concluíram que o inimigo na verdade era composto de 150 a 200 lutadores do Khmer Vermelho fortemente armados, mas essa informação não foi repassada aos fuzileiros navais. Onze helicópteros foram alocados para o assalto, três para transportar uma equipe de embarque de 60 homens para Holt, enquanto os outros oito carregariam a equipe de assalto de 175 homens para Koh Tang.

Em 15 de maio, quando a equipe de assalto se aproximou de Koh Tang, um grande incêndio abateu ou desativou cinco dos oito helicópteros, cada um com cerca de 25 fuzileiros navais a bordo. Noventa minutos depois, Holt veio ao lado Mayaguez com a equipe de embarque, que encontrou o navio vazio. Quase ao mesmo tempo, Washington ouviu que o Khmer Vermelho pretendia libertar Mayaguez, mas como não houve menção à tripulação, a luta continuou.

Cerca de 65 horas após a apreensão inicial, Wilson pegou MayaguezA tripulação de um barco de pesca que os cambojanos deixaram à deriva. Quando Ford ouviu isso, pouco depois da meia-noite, ele suspendeu todas as operações ofensivas. Mas uma equipe de extração da Marinha já estava a caminho. As tripulações de quatro helicópteros da Força Aérea enfrentaram fogo pesado para levantar a equipe de assalto para Mar de Coral.

A operação deixou 18 militares americanos mortos e 50 feridos (com outros 23 aviadores mortos em um acidente de helicóptero na Tailândia). Vergonhosamente, três fuzileiros navais foram deixados para trás, todos presumivelmente capturados e executados. Para a Ford, a missão foi um sucesso público. Para os militares, foi um triunfo e um triste desfecho para o Vietnã.

■ Comunique-se - para cima e para baixo na cadeia. Os comandantes locais dos EUA tinham melhores comunicações com Washington do que com as forças em Koh Tang.

■ Considere as opções, incluindo diplomacia. Um cordão ao redor de Koh Tang pode ter forçado a mão dos cambojanos ou permitido um ataque mais eficaz.

■ Contagens de reconhecimento antecipado. Muito tempo se passou antes que a aeronave de busca baseada na Tailândia fosse localizada Mayaguez.

■ Informações ruins matam pessoas. Os planejadores de assalto acreditavam que os riscos eram aceitáveis ​​apenas porque se baseavam em estimativas imprecisas de força inimiga.

■ Sempre pode piorar. Os EUA demoraram a alertar outros navios mercantes, embora o Camboja estivesse apreendendo navios em suas extensas águas territoriais.

■ Suavize o pouso. A Marinha não bombardeou a ilha porque pensou que a tripulação estava em terra - mais informações ruins.

■ Faça a matemática mortal. A equipe de resgate recuperou todos os 40 Mayaguez tripulantes - mas a um custo de 44 vidas.

Publicado originalmente na edição de setembro de 2010 da História Militar. Para se inscrever, clique aqui.


O último incêndio da guerra - o incidente de Mayaguez

Poderia ficar pior? Duas semanas antes, em 29 de abril de 1975, Saigon caiu nas mãos dos norte-vietnamitas - apenas algumas semanas depois que o Khmer Vermelho tomou a capital do Camboja, Phnom Penh. Voando com F-4D Phantoms da Base Aérea Real da Tailândia Korat, na Tailândia, ajudei a destruir a artilharia antiaérea e locais de mísseis terra-ar durante a evacuação de Saigon e forneci apoio de combate para a evacuação de Phnom Penh. Enquanto os eventos aconteciam no sudeste da Ásia, a América estava fugindo. Parecia que o proverbial dominó estava de fato caindo e, nos perguntamos, seria a capital da Tailândia, Bangkok, a próxima?

Boatos viajam em alta velocidade em uma pequena base como Korat e, em 12 de maio, um boato sobre um navio americano sequestrado no Golfo da Tailândia estava se espalhando ao redor da mesa de jantar do esquadrão. Este, no entanto, era muito verdadeiro. Às 14h20 hora local naquele dia, cerca de 300 milhas ao sul, um metralhador em uma canhoneira Khmer havia disparado alguns tiros na proa de um navio porta-contêineres com bandeira dos EUA, SS Mayaguez, desencadeando o que seria um tiroteio final apropriadamente trágico e caro no que havia sido uma guerra trágica e custosa para os Estados Unidos.

Em Korat, reagimos amargamente. Estaríamos prestes a experimentar mais uma derrota no Sudeste Asiático? Isso seria outro Pueblo incidente? Estávamos energizados - e loucos como o inferno.

Após o expediente, os pilotos do esquadrão e operadores do sistema de armas entraram no prédio de operações, onde descobrimos que os comunistas Khmer haviam sequestrado o navio porta-contêineres Mayaguez em águas internacionais, a oito milhas náuticas de Poulo Wai, um atol reivindicado pelos comunistas Khmer e pelo Governo Revolucionário Provisório do Vietnã do Sul. Também soubemos que o presidente Gerald Ford estava exigindo a liberação do navio e de sua tripulação de 40 homens. Sendo o poder de fogo aerotransportado mais próximo da ação, se um jogo era para ser jogado, nós queríamos entrar nele.

Às 14h00 no dia seguinte, duas aeronaves F-111A em uma missão de treinamento desarmado de Korat avistaram Mayaguez fora da Ilha de Koh Tang. Quatro A-7Ds armados do 3º Esquadrão de Caça Tático em Korat foram lançados 45 minutos depois para substituir os F-111s e vigilância Mayaguez. Quando o navio começou a se mover, os A-7s dispararam foguetes e o canhão Vulcan Gatling de 20 mm na proa, parando MayaguezPassagem de.

O Estado-Maior Conjunto ordenou vigilância 24 horas, e os canhões AC-130A / H Specter do 16º Esquadrão de Operações Especiais em Korat, equipados com infravermelho e televisão de baixa luminosidade, começaram a orbitar acima da ilha e Mayaguez. Washington também ordenou: “Pare qualquer movimento de barco para o continente”. Normalmente, tentaríamos virar ou parar os navios e, se eles não obedecessem, buscaríamos autorização para destruí-los.

Às 3h30 do dia 14 de maio, um dos Espectros recebeu fogo pesado de calibre .50 e 40 mm de um barco-patrulha Khmer perto de Koh Tang. Ele devolveu o fogo com 53 disparos de 40mm, forçando o barco a encalhar.

Ao amanhecer, a crise agravou-se quando quatro canhoneiras Khmer partiram de Koh Tang para o continente cambojano. O Espectro 51, no local, foi direcionado para atirar na proa dos barcos e impedi-los de alcançar a costa. O obuseiro de 40 mm e 105 mm do helicóptero conseguiu virar três dos barcos para trás. Vôos de F-111As, F-4Ds e A-7Ds atacaram na frente do barco restante com bombas de 2.000 libras, foguetes de 2,75 polegadas e gás de controle de distúrbios, mas ele se recusou a dar meia-volta.

Um vôo de quatro A-7Ds usou canhões de 20 mm para tentar desativar os motores da canhoneira, mas enquanto a popa estava em chamas, o bombardeio não desligou os motores. Os A-7Ds foram então direcionados para afundar o barco, o que o tenente-coronel Don Robotoy e seu ala fizeram.

Poucos minutos depois, por volta das 7h15, um tipo diferente de barco - uma embarcação de pesca tailandesa de madeira de 12 metros, Sinvari—Foi observada saindo da ilha para o continente cambojano com vários caucasianos, que se pensava ser Mayaguez membros da tripulação, a bordo. No meu caminho de Korat em meu Phantom, eu estava entre os A-7Ds e F-4Ds encarregados de virar o barco de pesca de volta.

Durante quatro horas, tentamos forçar o barco de volta a Koh Tang. Frustrantemente, vários de nós não conseguimos disparar foguetes na frente do barco porque nossos F-4s não estavam devidamente armados no solo antes da decolagem. O único outro armamento a bordo era um pod de linha central SUU-23 carregando uma metralhadora Vulcan Gatling. Para piorar a situação, quando selecionei a estação de armas, os disjuntores de armamento da linha central estouraram, deixando-me sem qualquer armamento. Enfurecido, pensei: "Tenho um jato estragado, assim como esta guerra estragada." A única coisa que me restou fazer foi me abaixar e tentar dar uma boa olhada no barco.

Eu rolei meu F-4 em sua asa esquerda na frente de Sinvari e podia ver claramente as pessoas alinhadas em cada lado do arco curvo e inclinado para cima. Eles pareciam ser caucasianos, dobrados na posição de ataque aéreo da escola, com as mãos protegendo a cabeça. Quando alguns deles olharam para mim, me senti profundamente impotente. Com pouco combustível, saímos Sinvari após cerca de 30 minutos no alvo. Dois A-7s o viram entrar no porto de Kompong Som e atracar por volta das 10:15.

Depois que pousamos em Korat, nosso pessoal de inteligência nos disse Sinvari chegou ao continente e que o Mayaguez a tripulação estava provavelmente na prisão lá. Mayaguez Capitão Charles T. Miller contaria mais tarde ao Honolulu Star Bulletin: “Você tem que dar muito crédito aos nossos pilotos. Eles podem atingir o buraco de uma agulha. Eles fizeram todo o possível para que [o barco pesqueiro] desse meia-volta. Ficou claro que eles viram que estávamos no barco. Dois jatos voaram 70 pés acima de nós ... os tailandeses voltaram uma vez, mas os guardas cambojanos colocaram armas em suas cabeças ”.

Eu sempre vou me arrepender de não ter fotografado Sinvari e a tripulação em cativeiro com a câmera de 35 mm que carreguei em minha caixa de mapas da cabine. Eu estava com muita raiva de voar em um Phantom desdentado para pensar em fotografia. Se toda a tripulação tivesse sido encontrada naquele momento, talvez a batalha sangrenta que estava prestes a acontecer pudesse ter sido evitada.

Por causa de relatórios de inteligência conflitantes, acreditava-se que alguns membros da tripulação ainda estavam detidos na Ilha de Koh Tang. Como resultado, o presidente Ford ordenou ataques simultâneos contra Mayaguez e em Koh Tang. At dawn on May 15, 11 Air Force helicopters—CH-53s and HH-53s—left from U Tapao in southern Thailand and approached Koh Tang from the northwest.

The Sikorsky CH-53 “Knife” and HH-53 “Jolly Green” were not ordinary helicopters. Much larger than Vietnam’s ubiquitous UH-1 “Huey,” they were armor plated and equipped with 7.62mm rapid firing miniguns. Both were rescue helicopters, with guns in the waist positions, but the HH-53 was air refuelable, had 450-gallon foam-filled tip tanks (self-sealing in case of damage) and had an additional minigun in the tail. Much more survivable than most choppers, the rescue helicopters would be taken to their limits on Koh Tang.

Three choppers separated and unloaded a reinforced 57-man platoon from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines onto the destroyer escort Harold E. Holt, which had sped to the scene. Their mission would be to board and secure Mayaguez. Como Holt slowly moved alongside Mayaguez, an A-7 dropped tear gas on the merchant ship. Gasmasked Marines then executed a hostile ship-to-ship assault at 7:25 a.m., only to find the ship deserted.

The other eight helicopters, with 170 Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines aboard, continued on to Koh Tang, an irregularly shaped island with its northern end resembling a slingshot. Between the forks lay a U-shaped beach that would become the eastern, or primary landing zone (LZ). The western LZ would be situated across the neck of land.

The helos split as they approached the northern end of the island for a two-pronged assault. There was anti-aircraft artillery on the island, and it appeared to be heavily defended because the survival of the ship’s crew took precedence, there had been no naval bombardment to soften up the defenses. Knifes 21 and 22 reached the western LZ first with no initial resistance. As Knife 21 pilot Lt. Col. John Denham touched down on the beach, his Marines began to stream out the back ramp. Just as they did, concealed Khmer forces let loose with automatic weapons, rockets and mortars. Holding steady for the Marines to scramble down the ramp, one of Denham’s two engines was severely damaged by enemy fire. With Knife 22 laying down suppressive fire with its miniguns, Knife 21’s crewmen jettisoned everything they could. The damaged CH-53 skipped across the waves, taking on water as Denham fought to keep it airborne for nearly a mile before it ditched in the sea.

At the eastern LZ, the choppers also made it in without resistance, but as the two helos hovered to off-load Marines, a murderous crossfire erupted. Knife 23, piloted by 1st Lt. John Shramm, began taking punishing hits to its rotor system. As he looked to his left, he saw Knife 31, piloted by Major Howard Corson, burst into flames from the intense enemy barrage and fall to the beach. Shramm wrestled his own wounded CH-53 to the beach as the tail section tore off. Miraculously, no one was killed in the crash landing, and the 20 Marines aboard scrambled to the tree line for cover.

Meanwhile Major Corson’s stricken chopper took hit after hit from heavy machine gun rounds and rockets. Sergeant Randy Hoffmaster returned fire with the waist minigun while the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Richard Vandegeer, fired an M-16 from his window. A grenade round slammed into the cockpit, killing Vandegeer. Although seriously injured, Major Corson somehow managed to maintain enough control to settle the aircraft down in the water. Wounded and dazed, he stared down at his feet—nothing remained of the cockpit and the instrument panel that had been in front of him. Shouts from a crew member finally brought him to his senses while more flames engulfed the cockpit. A badly burned Marine tried to unharness the limp body of Vandegeer but, under heavy fire, he was finally forced to abandon the attempt.

Four men were shot and killed or drowned near the burning wreckage of Knife 31. A fifth, stunned and wounded, stumbled his way nearly 100 yards to the tail ramp of Knife 23 before he was cut down. In all, 13 men aboard Knife 31 were killed. Thirteen survivors, including Major Corson, were picked up at sea after using the Knife 31 wreckage as a shield, then swimming into the surf to escape.

Among the survivors was Marine Lieutenant Terry Tonkin, a forward air controller (FAC). While swimming away from the beach on his back, and with enemy bullets sending up geysers all around him, Tonkin used Major Corson’s small survival radio to call in airstrikes. At the same time, 1st Lt. John Lucas, co-pilot of Knife 23, was on his survival radio calling in airstrikes against the enemy positions that had his group pinned down in the tree line running along the eastern beach.

Three of eight initial assault helicopters were down, two on the beach of the eastern landing zone, one a mile at sea. Battle damage forced a fourth helicopter down once back inside Thailand, and two more were severely damaged. An hour into the assault, only 54 Americans were on Koh Tang—about one-third of the number planned—and they were split into two groups. The day’s battle was just getting started.

Three A-7D Corsairs circled overhead and observed the CH-53s taking hits. Armed with 20mm cannons, they quickly rolled in and raked Khmer gun emplacements, silencing several. Repeatedly, the A-7s flew low over the island, trying to attract enemy fire and locate their positions. After each A-7 pass, Khmer troops, later believed to number about 85, resumed their fusillade against the Americans on the island.

Their situation was deteriorating fast. Scattered in tree lines along the eastern and western LZs, the Americans were at times no more than 20 meters from enemy positions. They desperately needed more Marine firepower. The 25 Americans trapped on the eastern beach from the two shot-down CH-53s were in the worst situation. Recognizing this, the Khmers used them as bait to lure more helicopters into the crossfire.

Several attempts were made to rescue the trapped Americans. According to an official report for General Louis L. Wilson, commander of Pacific Air Forces, shortly after 8 a.m. 1st Lt. Charles Greer, pilot of Jolly 13, took heavy fire all the way into the landing zone near the wreckage of Knife 23. With rounds smashing into his chopper, Greer touched down on the beach while his crew raked the shoreline with their miniguns. Although in sight of the rescue helicopter, the Americans were pinned down. Jolly 13 remained in its exposed position, taking punishing hits from heavy automatic weapons. Fires broke out in the Jolly’s flare case and another in its auxiliary fuel tank. Greer thought his would be the third helicopter to litter the eastern beach. With no hope of recovering the men at the tree line and his helicopter engulfed in flames, Greer pulled back from the landing zone and nursed his chopper, peppered with 35 holes, severe rotor blade damage, and fuel, oil and hydraulic leaks, back to the Thai mainland.

Meanwhile on the western beach, between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m., Jollys 42 and 43 successfully inserted their Marines after repeated attempts and heavy enemy resistance. Five Air Force personnel and 109 Marines were now deposited on Koh Tang Island.

Jolly 41, piloted by 1st Lt. Thomas D. Cooper Jr., made two attempts to land at the western beach with his Marines, but was driven back by intense enemy fire, including .50- caliber machine gun rounds that hit the right fuel tank and ramp area. For an hour, Cooper made two more landing attempts, only to be pummeled by heavy fire and mortar attacks.

While Cooper made his third aerial refueling, a Spectre gunship hammered Khmer positions near the western beach with 20mm and 40mm cannon and 105mm howitzer rounds, reducing one fortified emplacement to rubble. This allowed Cooper to make his fifth attempt at the western beach. While mortar rounds walked toward them, 10 Marines managed to get out of the back of Cooper’s aircraft before one of the rounds landed only 10 feet from the tail rotor, forcing Cooper to abort and lift off with five Marines still aboard.

As he returned to hover for the last Marines to deplane, a mortar round passed through the rotor blades and exploded only 20 feet away, blowing a hole in the aircraft’s belly. The HH-53 withdrew for the last time with its five Marines and returned to its staging base in Thailand. Severe damage prevented its use for the remainder of the operation.

Meanwhile, around 7 that morning, the entire Mayaguez crew was released from captivity on the mainland and put back aboard Sinvari for transport back to Mayaguez, this time under a white flag and without Khmer escorts. At 10:05 a.m., as Lieutenant Cooper was making his valiant attempts to insert his Marines on Koh Tang, the Mayaguez crew, safe and unharmed, was picked up by the destroyer USS Henry B. Wilson and soon transferred back to Mayaguez.

Suddenly and without explanation, the hostage crisis was over. There was jubilation at the White House, but a fierce day of fighting was still to come as the challenge shifted to getting the Americans on Koh Tang disengaged and evacuated. Before that could happen, more Marines were needed to stabilize the situation, and air insertion was the only option. The 131 Marines and five airmen were now in three groups. Those on the western side of the island were split 82 in one group and 29 south of their position on the same beach. The other 25 were isolated across the neck of the island near the eastern beach. Just five choppers were left to carry nearly 100 more Marines in for the assault and then to extract them all. After the battle started, two additional choppers were repaired and added to the effort.

Lieutenant Robert Rikitis, pilot of Knife 52, was low on fuel as he tried to insert his Marines one last time on the eastern beach. His aircraft immediately took hits, and what little fuel he had began leaking. He aborted and returned to his staging base. The four remaining helos successfully delivered Marines on the western beach under continuous automatic weapons and 60mm mortar fire. Severely wounded Marines were evacuated on each return trip.

By shortly after noon, reinforcements were complete, with more than 200 Americans on the island, nearly all concentrated on the western side. Faced with such fierce enemy resistance, ground commanders decided not to push across the island’s neck to link up with the 25 pinned down on the eastern beach. They would have to be extracted by helicopter and that would not be possible until Khmer resistance was reduced, if not obliterated.

With one HH-53 miraculously repaired and added to the effort, four helos now remained to complete the extraction. Nightfall was only two hours away when two OV-10A “Nail” FACs began their watchful orbit overhead.

Back at Korat, I was excited and a little apprehensive when my squadron commander, Lt. Col. Phil Offill, called me into the command center and told me to pick my flight members for a four-ship flight and let him know the ordnance for the mission. I reviewed the squadron flight schedule and chose from aircrew available. We were needed sooner than expected. In mid-afternoon, our premission briefing was interrupted with an urgent call to get airborne as soon as we could.

After air-refueling over the Gulf of Thailand, our four F-4Ds, call sign “Bucktail,” flew east to Koh Tang. Around 4:30, we checked in with “Cricket,” an EC-130 serving as the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control aircraft orbiting the island.

“Cricket, Bucktail, four fox-fours with you, 68 miles northwest of the island.”

“Bucktail, proceed inbound pronto, I’ve got work for you with Nail 68.”

As the island came into view, I visualized the air power stacked overhead to make an extraction possible. Looking vertically, an OV-10A Bronco, “Nail 68,” was lowest with another, “Nail 47,” above him. We were next in the stack with Cricket, the EC-130, above us, and above them was a flight of four C-130s with 15,000- pound bombs waiting to clear jungle undergrowth for landing zones. Just departing Koh Tang was “Coach” flight, which had dropped eight 2,000-pound MK-84 bombs on the island.

Our F-4s had the only weapons suitable for use in close support of our forces engaged with the enemy. We checked in with the higher forward air controller, Nail 47.

“Bucktail, Nail 47, go ahead with your line-up.”

“Roger, all four F-4s have 20mm, numbers one and three have LAU-3 rockets, two and four have MK-82s [500-pound bombs].”

“Bucktail, green ’em up [arm weapons].”

“Bucktail, this is Nail 68, I’ll take over now. Do you see me over the north end of the island?”

“OK, FAC is in to mark, where my rocket goes will be the target.”

“Bucktail is tally-ho, the target is the hooches.”

“Affirmative, you’re restricted to a run-in heading to the southeast only. There are friendlies just to the northwest. Can you put your rockets where I just put that rocket?”

“Bucktail, affirmative. How many do you want?”

“Let’s try two pods on the first pass. Knife two-dash-three, [the survivors of Knife 23, the downed CH-53 in the tree line] keep your heads down please. Bucktail, you’re cleared hot.”

“Bucktail’s in hot, FAC in sight.”

I pressed in close, working the gun sight precisely to the target, trimming the heavy jet to feel light as a feather and then unleashing the rockets. With that, 152 rockets tipped with white phosphorus that would burn through anything in their path slammed into the heart of the enemy encampment area.

As I came off target, I remembered my best friend in high school who was a 19-year-old Marine killed near Quang Tri, South Vietnam, on July 22, 1966. His name and the date he died were on my Zippo lighter. I felt for it through my flight suit pocket and said to myself, “This mission was for you, Tim Davies.”

Nail 68’s enthusiasm was obvious, “That’s it, my friends, that’s it!” Bucktail 2 and 4 then followed up with a dozen 500-pound bombs.

Khmer Communist forces were hit hard but continued strong resistance as our choppers cycled to and from the island into the evening. “Although all three helicopters [Knife 51, Jollys 11 and 12] raked the shoreline with minigun and submachine gun fire, Jolly 11 took ground fire from all quadrants, some less than 50 meters away,” Captain Thomas Des Brisay said in his official report on the operation, when describing the last extraction effort on the eastern beach. “The Marines began an orderly withdrawal from the tree line, stopping every few feet to fire their weapons. Enemy resistance was almost fanatical.”

At one point, Captain Brisay said that as they realized the Marines were escaping from their grasp, “Cambodian soldiers stormed the helicopter and reached hand-grenade range. Just as one of them started to throw his grenade the whole group was cut down by minigun and rifle fire.”

Air Force pararescuemen poured M-16 fire at Khmer forces as they pulled wounded Marines aboard the CH-53. From defensive positions on the beach around the big chopper, other Marines returned fire through a pall of smoke.

A Nail forward air controller buzzed overhead in an OV-10A Bronco, rolled in on enemy gun positions and unleashed white-hot, “Willie Pete” 2.75-inch rockets. Higher up, a circling AC-130A Spectre gunship pounded enemy positions with a continuous barrage of 20mm and 40mm cannon fire. First Lieutenant Richard C. Brims’ CH-53, Knife 51, ripped a minigun fury along a treelined beach of the western landing zone.

The scene was surreal as the sun dipped, casting a peaceful, redorange glow while tracers criss-crossed the dusky sky, and pulsing corridors of fire swept the darkening jungle. The extraction efforts continued into the darkness, with the hooches that were still burning from our rockets, serving as a navigation beacon for the rescue helicopters. On the ground, the din of whirling rotor blades, automatic weapons fire and exploding mortar and cannon rounds drowned out even the loudest commands. The air reeked of spent cordite, jet exhaust and salt spray.

Now, as the last 27 Marines were fighting their way aboard Knife 51 in the dusk, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wayne Fisk ran through intense fire in a half-crouch across the beach to a tree line to make sure no one was left behind. He spotted two young Marines laying down suppressive fire, unaware the helicopter was about to depart. Fisk got their attention and the three sprinted for the CH-53 and clambered up the ramp as it lifted off.

Only hours later, with Marines scattered on several different ships, was it found that three Marines of an M-60 machine gun crew, Pfc Gary Hall, Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove and Private Danny Marshall, had possibly been left behind alive. Further rescue efforts were deemed too dangerous to pursue. It was later confirmed that the three Marines were subsequently captured, tortured and executed by the Khmer Rouge.

Fourteen hours of intense combat was over. Soon, a deathly shroud fell over Koh Tang Island. Mayaguez had steamed off, underway to Thailand once again, and the western landing zone was dark except for the eerie wink of an abandoned strobe light on the beach, marking the site of the last firefight of the last battle of America’s long and bitter Vietnam War.

Ric Hunter retired as an Air Force colonel with 3,800 hours in high performance T-38, F-4 and F-15 aircraft, and three Top Gun Awards in the F-15 Eagle.

Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Vietnã. Para se inscrever, clique aqui.


Gerald Ford: Mayaguez Incident - HISTORY

Martin Jablonski and the SS Mayaguez (2011.75.1-3)

The international drama known as the &ldquoMayaguez Incident&rdquo tested the resolve of our nation and our military in trying times. Drawn into the fray were two men who hailed from Grand Rapids. One took the reins and made the tough decisions from the highest office in the land, while the other entered harm&rsquos way to implement the military response. Afterwards, both drew honors for their leadership and heroism.

Khmer Rouge forces from Cambodia seized the American container ship SS Mayaguez and its crew in the Gulf of Siam on May 12, 1975. American reconnaissance planes quickly located the ship and followed its movements to the island of Koh Tang. Several U.S. Navy ships made sail for the gulf. Squadrons of HH-53 Jolly Green and CH-53 Faca helicopters readied themselves in Thailand to transport marines to rescue the ship and its crew. The swift military mobilization resulted from the White House response.

Grand Rapids native President Gerald R. Ford saw the need to act decisively at a time when potential hostile nations perceived a weakness in American military prowess - stemming from the hasty evacuation of American forces from Vietnam and Cambodia the previous month. Administration and Pentagon officials sought to avoid another USS Pueblo incident and recognized that swift military action would prevent rogue nations from bullying America.

The military response included a Marine assault on the island of Koh Tang. The attack involved thousands of military personnel - from the top brass at the Pentagon to enlisted men in the field &ndash connected through sophisticated communication networks. Among the few who participated in the actual operation against the well-entrenched Khmer Rouge forces on the island was Grand Rapids native Staff Sergeant Martin Jablonski, serving as flight mechanic on one of the Jolly Greens used to transport the marines.

Jablonski&rsquos helicopter, Jolly Green 42, flew marines in on the second wave of the assault on May 15. The helicopters encountered fierce resistance from the entrenched enemy. Several choppers went down and marines fought desperately to maintain a beachhead. Jablonski later recalled, &ldquoon the island, mortar shells had exploded all around the aircraft and shrapnel had severed an electrical wire bundle located two feet from where I was positioned&hellip I had been lucky.&rdquo During the intense firefight, Jolly 42&rsquos auxiliary fuel tanks were ruptured, but they did not explode. The pilot and the crew of the helicopter kept her flying after successfully delivering the contingent of Marines to the island. They then made it safely to Thailand despite the damage. Overall, the fourteen-hours of combat netted the ship and its entire crew. The heavy casualties suffered by the small strike force added a few final scars to the legacy of Vietnam.

President Ford was praised for taking the decisive action needed to end the crisis. He extended his admiration to those who took part in the rescue through a live broadcast to the nation: &ldquoI wish to express my deep appreciation and that of the entire Nation to the units and the men who participated in these operations for their valor and for their sacrifice.&rdquo The United States Air Force awarded Martin Jablonski the Distinguished Flying Cross for &ldquocourageous action aided in the recovery of the SS Mayaguez and its crew.&rdquo

Martin Jablonski passed away on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007, after a protracted illness. His siblings, Pamela and Tim Jablonski, donated his citation, medal, and unit plaque to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in his memory and for all those who serve.


Leave No Man Behind: The Truth About the Mayaguez Incident

The last casualties of the final battle of the Vietnam War were 3 Marines left behind on Cambodia’s Koh Tang Island.

U.S. Marines run from the GH53 helicopter that landed them on Koh Tang Island 30 miles off Cambodia in rescue of U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez (May 15, 1975).

In his new book When the Center Held, Donald Rumsfeld calls the “successful handling” of the Mayaguez Incident, the last battle of the Vietnam War, “a turning point” for President Gerald Ford because it forced him “to demonstrate his command at a time of international crisis.” Not all share this rosy and revisionist view of the disastrous and unnecessary search and rescue operation that left 41 American servicemen dead.

Foremost among the skeptics is Mayaguez survivor and decorated Marine Scout Sniper Fofo Tuitele whose conspicuous and overlooked heroism during the battle is now the subject of a congressional investigation. “We lost 41 and saved 40. What kind of trade is that? That’s what bothers me still,” said Tuitele. “It didn’t have to happen like that. It all sounded good on paper, but it was a disaster.”

Rumsfeld goes on to make a Freudian slip and erroneously claim that only three Americans died during the operation (41 American servicemen died). Is he referring to the three Marines — Joseph Hargrove, Gary Hall, and Danny Marshall — who were left behind and survived for days before they were captured and killed?

Former U.S. Marine Larry Barnett holds photos of, from the left, Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove, Pfc Gary Hall, and Pvt Danny Marshall, inside his home in Urbana, Ohio (Feb. 7, 2001). AP Photo by Al Behrman.

Two weeks after the fall of Saigon, on May 12, 1975, a Khmer Rouge patrol boat seized the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez and its crew in Cambodian waters. President Ford, goaded by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, believed that the ship’s seizure provided an opportunity for the United States “to prove that others will be worse off if they tackle us, and not that they can return to the status quo. It is not enough to get the ship’s release.” One Pentagon official told Newsweek at the time, “Henry Kissinger was determined to give the Khmer Rouge a bloody nose.”

Three days later, eight helicopters carrying almost 200 Marines left Utapao, Thailand for Cambodia’s Koh Tang Island, where they believed the ship’s crew was being held. Minutes before the first helicopters landed, Ford received word that the Cambodians had released the ship and its crew. “The President and his chief of staff exchanged whoops of joy,” wrote Newsweek at the time, “Henry Kissinger beaming ear to ear, the lot of them celebrating what seemed in that taut midnight to be a famous victory.”

By the time the announcement was translated into English and verified, however, the rescue mission was underway for the young Marines who had not completed training, much less been in combat. The only points wide enough for the American helicopters to land were the small beaches on the east and west sides of Koh Tang Island’s northern tip. When Khmer Rouge commander Em Som heard the distant thump of helicopter blades, he roused his men and sent them to their battle stations, where they locked and loaded antiaircraft guns, large machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, small arms, and waited for the Americans’ arrival in fortified bunkers.

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Al Bailey (far right) on Koh Tang Island, Cambodia May 15, 1975. Photo credit: James Davis/Koh Tang Beach Club.

Nineteen-year-old Marine Al Bailey was in the first Air Force helicopter that landed on the west beach. The Khmer Rouge held their fire until the chopper was less than 100 feet off the ground, when suddenly Bailey saw the tree line light up as gunfire began to rip through the HH 53’s fuselage. Although the Marines were able to offload, the helicopter was so badly shot up that it took off and crashed a mile offshore. The second Bailey stepped onto the beach, black clad soldiers were shooting at him from less than 50 meters away. In fact, the first dead man Bailey ever saw was the Cambodian soldier he shot in the chest.

Things were not going any better on the east beach, where two helicopters had already been shot down by the Cambodians. “I shot from the distance of about 30 meters from my bunker to the helicopter,” said Em Som. “I aimed for the head and hit the tail. The helicopter was so low that we hit it, it fell to the ground without much damage.”

The Marines on the west beach were undergoing a Khmer Rouge trial-by-fire and were running out of ammunition. When a helicopter filled with reinforcements managed to land. Bailey felt an immediate sense of relief when his senior NCO, Fofo “Sergeant T” Tuitele walked down the ramp like a comic book superhero. “He stepped out of the helicopter and was like, ‘Let me get this shit under control.’ It was a walk in the park to him, he was ready to conduct business.”

The six-foot-two, 250 pound Samoan was a highly respected scout sniper who had been training these “boot” Marines on Okinawa when they were assigned this mission. Born and raised in American Samoa, Fofomaitulagi Tulifua Tuitele, better known as “Fofo,” moved to Hawaii at age 10 and joined the Marines at 18. Tuitele went to Vietnam for the first time in 1967 and during his second tour in 1968, received a bronze star and Purple Heart for saving a friend whose foot had been blown off in a battle against the North Vietnamese. Although the soft-spoken Samoan treated his men well, “nobody and I mean nobody, ever challenged him,” said Bailey. “This man had killed a rack of Vietnamese, you could see it in his demeanor and the way he carried himself.”

Tuitele first calmed the Marines on the west beach and spread them out into a defensive perimeter. He noticed an enemy machine gun position on a ridge at the north end of the beach that was raining down fire, making it impossible for helicopters to land. “I’m going to take care of this problem,” Tuitele said and disappeared into jungle. “Within 15 minutes the machine gun position was silenced,” wrote Al Bailey. “About another 20-25 minutes later, I heard more gun fire to my 11 o’clock position and then silence.”

When the Samoan emerged from the jungle, he was carrying two AK-47s, Cambodian cigarettes, and Ho Chi Minh sandals. “They’re having a garage sale on the other side of the island,” he joked. His commanding officer Dick Keith was checking their northern perimeter when he saw Tuitele carrying the AK-47s. “I asked him where he had been all morning,” wrote Keith, “to which he simply replied ‘Looking for some souvenirs, sir.’”

Fofo Tuitele with captured AK 47. Koh Tang Island, May 15, 1975. Photo: Fred Morris/Koh Tang Beach Club

When Marine Fred Morris watched Cambodian soldiers climb a huge tree overlooking their position, he pointed the tree out to Tuitele, who lifted an M60 machine gun off its stand and fired it from his hip. As he raked the palm tree with machine gun fire, men began to fall out of it. “I don’t know if they were already dead from being shot but if they were not the 70-90 feet fall had to of killed them,” wrote Morris. After things calmed down, Morris asked Tuitele if he was hurt because of the blood on his sleeve. “He just looked at his arm and said ‘it’s not mine,’ he didn’t elaborate.”

By noon, the Khmer Rouge forces were now running out of ammunition. “We couldn’t continue the fighting, because we had no bullets,” said Khmer Rouge soldier Mao Ran. “We retreated into the forest, while the Americans soldiers occupied our bunkers.” During the short break in the action, “Sergeant T” handed out AK47s, canteens, binoculars, rubber tire sandals, and Cambodian cigarettes “like he was Santa Claus.” “Most of us were 18 to 21-year-old young men, scared shitless, experiencing the throes of heavy combat for the first time. By just his presence, his calm demeanor,” wrote Bailey, “SSgt Fofo Tuitele buoyed us up past paralyzing fear.”

The Marines dug in and prepared for a long night, when they learned that that helicopters were on the way to take them off of the island. Minutes later, heroic Air Force pilots and pararescuemen (PJs) packed each helicopter with twice the normal combat load and as they took off, the perimeter shrank. When the final chopper was ready to take off, the Marines on board told the Air Force crew that a three man machine gun team (Joseph Hargrove, Gary Hall, and Danny Marshall) covering their flank was still on the beach.

It was after 8:00 p.m. when the radio aboard the AC 130 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center came to life. Air Force Sergeant Robert Veile suspected that it was a Khmer Rouge ruse until he asked for the Marine authentication code and the man repeated it without missing a beat. “I was the last to talk to them,” Viele told Newsweek, “I had to tell them that nobody was coming back for them.”

As the night wore on, Marines, Air Force PJs, and Seals on nearby Navy ships planned to return to Koh Tang to search for the lost machine gun team. A SEAL team led by Tom Coulter was waiting for orders to launch a search and rescue mission. Vice Admiral R.T. Coogan told him that he wanted to wait until dawn. They would drop fliers on Koh Tang announcing their intention to recover the Americans’ dead and then send Coulter and his team in unarmed and under a white flag. In an act of defiance celebrated by SEALs to this day, Coulter refused the admiral’s “suicide mission.” Marines Lester “Gunny Mack” McNemar and Captain James Davis volunteered to return to the island the next day under a white flag. When the Admiral rejected even this — his original plan — tempers boiled over. Later that night USS Henry Holt commander Robert Paterson called Coulter into his quarters for a conference call with the White House. Although he does not remember who was on the call that canceled the rescue operation, Coulter remembers that “someone on the call had an accent.”

Memorial service for the servicemen killed and left behind during the Mayaguez Incident aboard the USS Coral Sea, May 16, 1975. Photo credit: Terry Brooks/Koh Tang Beach Club

The next morning, Khmer Rouge soldiers cautiously approached the beaches on Koh Tang, unsure that the Americans had left the island. Destroyer escort USS Wilson was patrolling just off the east and west beaches, looking for any signs of the lost machine gun team. “I didn’t see the Americans withdraw, I just saw helicopters coming and going. We didn’t know if they were reinforcing or withdrawing,” recalled Mao Ran. Once they were positive the Americans were gone, the Khmer Rouge soldiers walked the beach and were amazed by the equipment left behind: “We saw they had everything, including a tool for swimming and food. Some even had two guns,” he said. “We picked them up. At the helicopter crash site there were pistols and many other things that were left behind. The walkie talkie was still operating: ‘pip, pip.’”

Mao Ran also saw the bodies of dead Americans: “I didn’t count how many there were, but I remember dragging five or six bodies myself [to the water]. If we’d known the Americans would have come back some day to look for the bodies, we would have put all the bodies in one easy-to-find place.” Instead they tied the bodies to a row boat and towed them “deep into the sea…”

A few days later, a Cambodian soldier was carrying wooden poles near the water well when he saw a man lurking in the jungle. "Quem é Você?" he asked with irritation, “Why don’t you help me carry the wooden poles and are just trying to run away?” When the mysterious man ran for his life, the soldier put down his load, squatted next to the well to draw water, and noticed strange boot prints. “‘Brother, I saw someone drinking water and he went running into the forest when I called out at him,’” the soldier told Mao Ran. “The footprints didn’t belong to our men. It was the footprints belonging to the boots of the American soldiers.” The Khmer Rouge assembled a search party.

Although there are different accounts of who killed him and how he died, there is a firm consensus that by the end of the day, one of the Marines, probably Joseph Hargrove, was dead.

Peter Maguire with Mao Ran, a Khmer Rouge veteran of the Mayaguez Incident. Photo courtesy of Peter Maguire.

The Cambodian soldiers realized that each night someone was stealing the rice and fish from their cooking pot. “Our men complained, ‘We don’t know who has eaten the old rice,’” said Em Som, “but they didn’t know that the Americans had stolen their rice. The rice was missing every day.” After they found more boot prints on the trail to the kitchen, after the sun went down four Khmer Rouge soldiers hid on each side of the trail. At about 10 p.m. two Marines crept down the trail until armed men emerged from the bush and surrounded them. The Americans raised their hands and used the body language and drew pictures in the dirt to explain that they had been left behind. “We cooked rice in the night and let them eat,” said Em Som. “Now that they were in somebody’s hands they were worried. It would be the same for us.” The Khmer Rouge commander did not consider the exhausted abandoned soldiers a threat and did not even bother to tie them up.

The Cambodian soldiers on Koh Tang had no contact with their leaders because their radio had been destroyed. When a boat finally reached the island, Em Som informed Khmer Rouge naval commander Meas Muth of the captured Americans and was ordered to take the prisoners to the port of Kompong Som. Once they reached the port, the two Americans were put in a car and taken “to Mr. Meas Samouth’s [Meas Muth] place.”

“We saw the Americans die with our own eyes, but it was not my men who killed them,” said Em Som. “They were not shot. They were killed with a stick.”

Once Meas Muth was named as a war crimes suspect and charged (in absentia) by the UN’s Khmer Rouge war crimes court, Em Som and other Khmer Rouge soldiers from the Mayaguez Incident began to change their stories. However, today there is firm consensus among the leading Khmer Rouge researchers that the Ford administration left three living Marines behind on Koh Tang Island on May 15, 1975. No less of an authority than Rich Arant, a former U.S. Air Force human intelligence officer, Defense Intelligence Agency field investigator in Cambodia, and translator for the UN’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal believes that Marines were left behind: “Multiple first-hand witnesses from the Khmer Rouge 164th Naval Division have given detailed sworn testimony regarding the capture of U.S. military personnel on Tang Island, events surrounding their handling on the island and the Cambodian mainland by the Khmer Rouge chain of command, and their final disposition.”

“Based on the extensive evidence I have seen about the Mayaguez affair,” wrote Craig Etcheson, the dean of Khmer Rouge war crimes investigators, who has been conducting field research in Cambodia since the early 1990s and was the lead investigator for the UN’s court, “I am convinced that several U.S. Marines were captured alive on Koh Tang and later executed by the Khmer Rouge.”

Marine Ssgt. Fofo Tuitele in 2018. Photo by Peter Maguire.

Forty-three years after the Mayaguez Incident there is a renewed effort to get long overdue recognition for the veterans of the last battle of the Vietnam War. While the Marine, Air Force, and Navy officers were heavily decorated for the disastrous rescue mission, the unsung heroes, the enlisted Marines who prevented a much worse outcome, have not received the acknowledgement they deserve. Why were these veterans denied the Vietnam Service medal in 2016?

Only recently has the valor of Marine Fofo Tuitlele come to light. “Many more lives would have been lost for not the actions of SSgt Tuitele,” wrote Al Bailey. “His talent and experience were needed on that fateful day.” The effort to get the Samoan the recognition he deserves has been spearheaded by the enlisted Marines whose lives he saved. “I can tell you that what SSgt T directed us to do and how he re-supplied us did two things for me and I’m sure the others,” wrote Herrera. “We had a little more confidence and supplies to continue the fight. Without that I do not know if we would have survived.”

In May, American Samoan Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen filed a DD-149 “Application for Correction of Military Record” and four letters from Marine eyewitnesses on Koh Tang Island. Al Bailey put it best, “Whatever courage I displayed that day, I drew from that courageous man.”

Prof. Peter Maguire is the founder and director of Fainting Robin Foundation and the author of Law and War: American History and International Law, Facing Death in Cambodia, e Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade. He has taught the law and theory of war at Columbia University, Bard College, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington