“During the day of 14 May, several Cambodian gunboats were sunk, damaged, or run aground by USAF fighters. While the air operations at Koh Tang were ongoing, a few hundred Marines from bases on Okinawa and the Philippines were deployed to U-Tapao RTAFB, against the wishes of the Thai government. Additional US Navy ships, the destroyer escort, USS Harold E. Holt, the guided missile destroyer, USS Henry B. Wilson, and the frigate, USS Schofield, were deployed into the Gulf to help recover the ship and prevent additional Khmer Rouge forces from reinforcing the Cambodian troops on Koh Tang. That night, the AC-130s continued to destroy and damage enemy gunboats”
We listened via the tactical radio net and heard the madness going on so close yet so far away. I know I was not the only one ready to grab a rifle or shot gun or M-60 machine gun and storm the beaches to assist those guys fighting on that island. However, our orders were to steam back and forth with all sensors and eyes alert for any incoming Cambodian reinforcement and stop them before they could make matters worse at the island where the battle was raging.
It was not easy listening to the affair and wanting to jump into the fray and help those guys that were being mowed down. I can not remember how many hours went by until we secured and proceeded on to Sattahip, Thailand where we were given a week or so of R&R after busting balls during the Vietnam Evacuation, inserting a SEAL team under the cover of darkness into a Vietnamese ex-USA military site that I think may have been Cam Ranh Bay, escorting ancient decrepit South Vietnamese ships covered with refugees to Subic Bay, Philippines and doing maintenance and repair work all the while and standing watches and grabbing some sleep when possible.
The Mayaguez operation was our last involvement with evacuating Vietnam and the events surrounding the end of the Vietnam Era. I grew up watching the nightly TV news with Vietnam mentioned nearly every night. It was a strange feeling being present for the end of that lengthy conflict. Then, years later, I learned of the Marines left behind who were tortured then murdered by the Khmer Rouge within Cambodia. Learning that I think back to the time when I was hopping mad and ready to do everything and anything required of me and the USS Schofield to save those Marines on that island.
It still hurts today, decades later. And reading of those three left behind brought tears to my eyes. And I rarely rarely cry.
Air Commando magazine.pdf