Operation Eagle Pull was the United States military evacuation by air of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 12 April 1975. At the beginning of April 1975, Phnom Penh, one of the last remaining strongholds of the Khmer Republic, was surrounded by the Khmer Rouge and totally dependent on aerial resupply through Pochentong Airport. With a Khmer Rouge victory imminent, the US government made contingency plans for the evacuation of US nationals and allied Cambodians by helicopter to ships in the Gulf of Thailand. Operation Eagle Pull took place on the morning of 12 April 1975 and was a tactical success carried out without any loss of life. Five days later the Khmer Republic collapsed and the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh.
At the beginning of 1975 the Khmer Republic, a United States-supported military government, controlled only the Phnom Penh area and a string of towns along the Mekong River that provided the crucial supply route for food and munitions coming upriver from South Vietnam. As part of their 1975 dry season offensive, rather than renewing their frontal attacks on Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge set out to cut off the crucial Mekong supply route. On 12 January 1975 the Khmer Rouge attacked Neak Luong, a key Khmer National Armed Forces (FANK) defensive outpost on the Mekong. On 27 January, seven vessels limped into Phnom Penh, the survivors of a 16-ship convoy that had come under attack over the 100 kilometres (62 mi) journey from the South Vietnamese border. On 3 February a convoy heading downriver hit naval mines laid by the Khmer Rouge at Phu My approximately 74 kilometres (46 mi) from Phnom Penh. The FANK naval branch, the Khmer National Navy (MNK), had mine-sweeping capability, but due to the Khmer Rouge control of the riverbanks mine-sweeping was impossible or at best extremely costly. The MNK had lost a quarter of its ships, and 70 percent of its sailors had been killed or wounded.
By 17 February, the Khmer Republic abandoned attempts to reopen the Mekong supply line. In future, all supplies for Phnom Penh would have to come in by air to Pochentong Airport.:105 The United States quickly mobilised an airlift of food, fuel and ammunition into Phnom Penh, but as US support for the Khmer Republic was limited by the Case–Church Amendment,:347 BirdAir, a company under contract to the US Government, controlled the airlift with a mixed fleet of C-130 and DC-8 planes, flying 20 times a day into Pochentong.:105
On 5 March, Khmer Rouge artillery at Toul Leap, north-west of Phnom Penh, shelled Pochentong Airport, but FANK troops recaptured Toul Leap on 15 March and ended the shelling. Khmer Rouge forces continued to close in on the north and west of the city and were soon able to fire on Pochentong again. On 22 March rockets hit two supply aircraft, forcing the US Embassy to announce on 23 March a suspension of the airlift until the security situation improved. The Embassy, realizing that the Khmer Republic would soon collapse without supplies, reversed the suspension on 24 March and increased the number of aircraft available for the airlift. On 1 April the Khmer Rouge overran Neak Luong and Ban-am, the last remaining FANK positions on the Mekong. The Communists could now concentrate all their forces on Phnom Penh.:105 Premier Lon Nol resigned that day and went into exile; the final collapse of the Khmer Republic was imminent.:358
The evacuation plan was developed and refined by the US Military as Khmer Rouge forces closed in on Phnom Penh, starting as early as 1973.:42 On 27 June 1973 the Seventh Air Force published Contingency Plan 5060C "Eagle Pull" covering the evacuation of Phnom Penh. Conplan 5060C had three options:
Option 3 was later revised to provide for the use of USMC helicopters together with USAF helicopters and C-130 Airborne Mission Command based in Thailand, and for the ground security force to be made up of marines rather than air force security police. The LZs were to be adjacent to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.:138
On 6 January 1975, CINCPAC placed the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit on 96-hour alert to move the evacuation fleet into position off Kampong Som (previously Sihanoukville) in the Gulf of Thailand for the implementation of Operation Eagle Pull.:105 On 6 February the reaction time was reduced to 48 hours, meaning that the evacuation fleet had to maintain a 48-hour cruising radius from Kampong Som. This was further reduced on 28 February to 24 hours, effectively meaning that the fleet had to remain within the Gulf of Thailand.:106–107
On 21 March the Embassy predicted there would be 3,600 evacuees, far exceeding the original estimate of approximately 400. This necessitated the development of a new evacuation plan whereby Marines would secure Pochentong Airport, while helicopters would ferry evacuees from central Phnom Penh to Pochentong from where they would be flown on C-130 planes to Thailand.:109 However, this plan was quickly overtaken by events as the supply C-130s coming into Pochentong were used for evacuees on the return journey, quickly reducing the number of evacuees that would need to be moved in a final evacuation.:110
On 3 April, given the deterioration in the defences around Phnom Penh, Ambassador John Gunther Dean requested the deployment of the 10-man Operation Eagle Pull command element which landed at Pochentong on a BirdAir C-130 plane.:110 The command element supervised the ongoing fixed-wing evacuation of more than 750 Cambodians over the next seven days in the face of 80–90 rounds of 105 mm artillery and 107 mm rocket fire each day.:111–12 By 10 April Khmer Rouge fire had become so heavy that the fixed-wing evacuation was ended.:112
The command group then turned its attention to the selection of helicopter landing zones for the evacuation. As the Khmer Rouge controlled the east bank of the Mekong opposite Phnom Penh, the command group selected LZ Hotel, a soccer field about 900 metres (3,000 ft) north-east of the embassy. Masked from the river by a row of apartment buildings, this LZ could not be interdicted by direct fire weapons, making it the safest location. The embassy staff prepared to leave on 11 April, but the evacuation was delayed until the following day in order to allow USS Hancock to join the evacuation fleet off Kampong Som.:113
On 3 March 1975 Amphibious Ready Group Alpha (Task Group 76.4), and the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (Task Group 79.4) embarked and arrived at the designated station off Kampong Som in the Gulf of Thailand, the force comprised:
Task Group 76.4 (Movement Transport Group Alpha):111
Escort ships for naval gunfire, escort, and area defense:
On 17 March the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concerned that one Marine helicopter squadron was insufficient for the evacuation, ordered that USS Hancock offload its air wing and proceed to Pearl Harbor. On 26 March Marine Heavy Lift Helicopter Squadron HMH-463 comprising 25 CH-53, CH-46, AH-1J and UH-1E helicopters embarked on USS Hancock and it proceeded to Subic Bay.:108 After taking on more helicopters at Subic Bay, USS Hancock was temporarily assigned to Amphibious Ready Group Bravo, standing by off Vung Tau, South Vietnam, but on 11 April she joined Amphibious Ready Group Alpha in the Gulf of Thailand.:110 The marine evacuation contingent comprised one battalion landing team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (2/4).
As the Khmer Rouge had no air force and only limited anti-aircraft capability, no fleet air cover was necessary, but the evacuation was supported by USAF aircraft based in Thailand. It was suspected that the Khmer Rouge might possess SA-7 shoulder-launched surface to air missiles and so the evacuation helicopters were painted with infra-red low-reflective paint and equipped with ALE-29 flare dispensers.:110–111
On the afternoon of 11 April 1975, the 31st MAU received orders to execute Operation Eagle Pull.:116 At 06:00 on 12 April, 12 CH-53s of HMH-462 launched from the deck of USS Okinawa and then at 10-minute intervals descended again to pick up their marines. Elements of Companies F and H, and the command group embarked from USS Okinawa while elements of Company G boarded their helicopters on USS Vancouver, giving a total ground security force of 360 Marines. As the helicopters completed loading they formed into groups of three orbiting the task force.:119
At 07:30 Ambassador Dean notified the acting Cambodian Chief of State, Prime Minister Long Boret and other Cambodian leaders including Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, that the US personnel would officially leave the country within the next few hours and asked if any desired evacuation, in which case they should be at the embassy by 09:30. All declined except for Saukham Khoy, successor to Lon Nol as President of the Khmer Republic, who left without telling his fellow leaders.:114 Prince Sirik Matak, a former Prime Minister and a driving force behind the formation of the Khmer Republic rejected the offer of evacuation and said to Ambassador Dean that "I have committed this mistake of believing in you, the Americans.":121
The ten-man command group proceeded to drive vehicles to LZ Hotel, purposely disabling them to block vehicle access from any part of the city, other than the road from the Embassy to the LZ.:114–115 The command group then proceeded to make contact with King Bird, an orbiting HC-130 plane of the 56th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, that would control the flow of the helicopters.:115
At 07:43 the first group of helicopters crossed the Cambodian coastline and about one hour later, after traversing 160 kilometres (99 mi) of hostile territory, the initial wave set down on LZ Hotel and the Marines quickly established a defensive perimeter. Large crowds of Cambodians soon gathered, more out of curiosity rather than to interfere. Having established the perimeter defense, the marines began the process of moving the crowds back in order to keep the LZ clear and then began moving the evacuee groups to the waiting CH-53 helicopters. As LZ Hotel could only hold three CH-53s at any time, flights arriving after the initial build-up had to be held at Point Oscar, some 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Phnom Penh until called in by "King Bird".:121 The evacuation proceeded smoothly although the number of evacuees was substantially less than anticipated. The last estimate indicated there would be 590 evacuees, 146 US nationals and 444 Cambodians and third country nationals. HMH-462 evacuated 84 US nationals and 205 Cambodians and third country nationals.:121
At 09:45, the US Embassy closed.:121 There would be no diplomatic relations between the US and Cambodia again until 11 November 1991. By 10:41 all the evacuees including Ambassador Dean and President Saukham Khoy had been lifted out by helicopters of HMH-462. Helicopters of HMH-463 operating from USS Hancock then began to land to extract the ground security force.:122
At approximately 10:50, 107 mm rocket fire began impacting in the vicinity of LZ Hotel. Less than 10 minutes later, the LZ also received 82 mm mortar fire. As soon as the Khmer Rouge fire commenced, the controllers in the zone notified the Air Force forward air controllers (FACs) flying overhead in 23d Tactical Air Support Squadron OV-10s. The FACs immediately made low passes over the east bank of the Mekong, but could not spot any fire coming from known enemy positions in that location.:122 At 10:59, the last element of 2nd Battalion 4th Marines left the zone and the last marine helicopter landed on USS Okinawa at 12:15.:123
At 11:15, two USAF HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giants, from the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, as scheduled, extracted the Eagle Pull command element.:122 Small arms fire during the final extraction caused minimal damage to the first aircraft, but a 12.7 millimetres (0.50 in) machine gun round hit the second helicopter's tail rotor as it climbed out of the zone. Despite severe vibrations the helicopter made it safely back to Ubon Air Base in Thailand.:123 At 14:50 an HMH-462 CH-53 launched from USS Okinawa to carry Ambassador Dean to U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand.:123–124
On 13 April, the evacuees were flown to U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand on HMH-462 helicopters and Amphibious Ready Group Alpha proceeded to the South China Sea to rendezvous with Task Force 76 as it stood by to implement Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon.:124
Henry Kissinger observed in his Vietnam War memoir that the Ford Administration was astonished and shamed by the fact that top Cambodian officials refused to leave the country. These included Premier Long Boret and Lon Non, the Prime Minister's brother, both of whom were on the Khmer Rouge's advertised death list.
On 17 April 1975 the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh bringing the Cambodian Civil War to an end. Long Boret, Lon Non and other top officials of the Khmer Republic Government were executed at the Cercle Sportif (ironically now the location of the US Embassy), while FANK troops in the city were disarmed, taken to the Olympic Stadium and executed.
For 2/4 Marines and Amphibious Ready Group Alpha, Operation Eagle Pull served as a small-scale dress rehearsal for the more complex Operation Frequent Wind 17 days later.:124
Operation Eagle Pull is depicted in the film The Killing Fields.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 Marines and sailors. The 31st MEU consists of a company-sized command element, a battalion landing team (BLT), (an infantry battalion reinforced with artillery, amphibious vehicle and other attachments), a medium tiltrotor squadron (reinforced), (which includes detachments of short take-off, vertical landing airplanes and heavy, light, and attack helicopters), and a combat logistics battalion. The 31st MEU is based at Camp Hansen, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan. The 31st MEU is the only permanently forward-deployed MEU, and provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region.40th Helicopter Squadron
The 40th Helicopter Squadron is a missile support unit. As the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron it was a helicopter rescue squadron of the USAF during the Vietnam War.Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM) is a military award of the United States Armed Forces, which was first created in 1961 by Executive Order of President John Kennedy. The medal is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who, after July 1, 1958, participated in U.S. military operations, U.S. operations in direct support of the United Nations, or U.S. operations of assistance for friendly foreign nations.HMH-462
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron operating CH-53E Super Stallion heavy transport helicopters. The squadron, known as the "Heavy Haulers", is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).HMH-463
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 (HMH-463) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters. The squadron, also known as "Pegasus", is based at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 24 (MAG-24) and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW)HMLA-369
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. The squadron, also known as the "Gunfighters", is based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).Marine Aircraft Group 36
Marine Aircraft Group 36 (MAG-36) is an active air group of the United States Marine Corps, tasked with providing assault support aircraft. It is currently part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW), itself an integral part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, and based at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan.Operation Eagle (disambiguation)
Operation Eagle may refer to:
Operation Eagle (Sinai) (2011)
Operation Eagle (Sri Lanka) (1990)Operation Eagle may also refer to:
Operation Eagle Ares (2007)
Operation Eagle Assist (2001)
Operation Eagle Attack (1940)
Operation Eagle Claw (1980)
Operation Eagle Curtain (2003)
Operation Eagle Dive I (2007)
Operation Eagle Eye (Kosovo) (1999)
Operation Eagle Eye (United States) (1960s)
Operation Eagle Fury (2003)
Operation Eagle Guardian (2010)
Operation Eagle Lightning (2007)
Operation Eagle Pull (1975)
Operation Eagle's Summit (2008)
Operation Eagle Sweep (2007)
Operation Eagle Talon (2007)
Operation Eagle Venture IV (2007)
Operation Eagle Watch (2006)Peter Khoy Saukam
Peter Khoy Saukam (born Saukam Khoy Khmer: សូកាំ ខូយ; February 2, 1915 – November 14, 2008) was Acting President of the Khmer Republic for 12 days in April 1975. He was President of the Senate from 1972 to 1975.Sak Sutsakhan
General Sak Sutsakhan (8 February 1928 – 29 April 1994) was a Cambodian politician and soldier who had a long career in the country's politics. He was the last Head of State of the Khmer Republic, the regime overthrown by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Sak Sutsakhan formed a pro-US force known as the "Khmer Sâ" (White Khmer).USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19)
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) is the first of the two Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ships of the United States Navy, and is the command ship of the Seventh Fleet. Her primary role is to provide command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) support to the commander and staff of the United States Seventh Fleet. She is currently forward-deployed to U.S. Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka in Japan, and is the third Navy ship named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, a range of mountains in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. Blue Ridge is the oldest deployable warship of the U.S. Navy, following the decommissioning of USS Denver. Blue Ridge, now the U.S. Navy's active commissioned ship having the longest total period as active, flies the First Navy Jack. Blue Ridge is expected to remain in service until 2039.USS Hancock (CV-19)
USS Hancock (CV/CVA-19) was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship was the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name, and was named for John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress and first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hancock was commissioned in April 1944, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning four battle stars. Decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, she was modernized and recommissioned in the early 1950s as an attack carrier (CVA). In her second career she operated exclusively in the Pacific, playing a prominent role in the Vietnam War, for which she earned a Navy Unit Commendation. She was the first US Navy carrier to have steam catapults installed.
She was decommissioned in early 1976, and sold for scrap later that year.USS Henry B. Wilson
USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG-7), named for Admiral Henry Braid Wilson, was a Charles F. Adams-class guided missile armed destroyer laid down by Defoe Shipbuilding Company in Bay City, Michigan on 28 February 1958, launched on 22 April 1959 sponsored by Mrs. Patrick J. Hurley, daughter of Admiral Wilson, and commissioned on 17 December 1960, CDR L. D. Caney in command.USS Kirk
USS Kirk was a Knox-class destroyer escort, originally designated as DE-1087 and reclassified as a frigate, FF-1087 (1975), in the United States Navy. Her primary mission of ASW remained unchanged. She was named for Admiral Alan Goodrich Kirk.
Her contract was awarded to Avondale Marine on 25 August 1966. Kirk was laid down on 4 December 1970, launched on 25 September 1971 and commissioned on 9 September 1972.USS Knox (FF-1052)
USS Knox (DE-1052/FF-1052) was the prototype and lead ship in a new class of destroyer escorts in the United States Navy. She was named for Commodore Dudley Wright Knox and was the second US Navy ship named USS Knox.USS Okinawa (LPH-3)
USS Okinawa (LPH–3) was the second Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy. She was the second Navy ship assigned the name "Okinawa", in honor of the World War II Battle of Okinawa.USS Peoria (LST-1183)
USS Peoria was a Newport-class tank landing ship in commission in the United States Navy from 1970 to 1994. She was affectionately called the "P Boat" by her crew members.In April 1975, Peoria participated in Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon, South Vietnam.In October 1979 Peoria embarked on a cruise to the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, returning to San Diego, California, in June 1980. Shortly thereafter she went into overhaul at Todd Shipyard in Alameda, California. She departed San Diego again in October 1980 on another cruise in the western Pacific Ocean.Pacific Northwest: In the fall of 1988, the P-Boat headed to the San Francisco Bay Area. Docked in Oakland, CA to pick up Army troops who needed a ride north to Washington state. After off loading the passengers, the ship and her crew visited Seattle, WA and Vancouver, Canada.
1989 Deployment: Departed San Diego, CA in January 1989. Crossed the Pacific Ocean and visited Pearl Harbor, HI and Subic Naval Base, Philippines, then traversed the Strait of Mallaca and anchored near the beach at Phuket, Thailand. Then on to the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai. Left the Persian Gulf to escort three minesweepers back to the United States east coast. Crossed the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Stopped for a day in an Egyptian port at the northern mouth of the Suez Canal-no liberty call. At the Mediterranean, visited Catania, Sicily, Palma de Mallorca and Rota, Spain. Docked at Charleston, South Carolina after crossing the Atlantic Ocean and completing her mission of escorting 3 minesweepers back to CONUS. On the way to Fort Lauderdale, FL, the ship's crew assisted a disabled sailboat and her crew. At the Caribbean visited St. Croix, USVI then headed to the Panama Canal. Stayed at Panama City for a few days before heading north. Last port of call was Quetzal, Guatemala before finally going home to San Diego, CA in June 1989, thus completing a circumnavigation of the globe.
Months later, the ship was drydocked at NASSCO shipyard for six months. Reftra mid 1990.Rose Festival Fleet Week Portland Oregon June 1990; The USS Peoria headed north to Oregon shortly after leaving dry dock. First stop was Astoria, OR, crossing under the Astoria Bridge, where anti-military protesters had gathered to harass passing navy ships. In Astoria, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in town filming his movie Kindergarten Cop. Then the Peoria continued on along the Columbia River to Portland, OR for the Rose Festival Fleet Week.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Left San Diego, CA December 1990 and returned August 1991 in support of Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm.Peoria was sunk as a target on 12 July 2004 in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii during the RIMPAC 04 exercise.USS Vancouver (LPD-2)
USS Vancouver (LPD-2) was a Raleigh-class amphibious transport dock, named after the city of Vancouver, Washington which was in turn named after the explorer George Vancouver. Vancouver's was commissioned 11 May 1963 and served during the Vietnam War and 1991 Gulf War. She was decommissioned 27 March 1992, placed in reserve and stricken 8 April 1997. Title was transferred to the United States Maritime Administration 29 November 2001. Vancouver was towed for scrapping in Brownsville, Texas in April 2013.VMM-164
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (VMM-164), is a United States Marine Corps tiltrotor squadron operating the MV-22B Osprey. Known as the Knightriders, they fall under the command Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW). They are based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton.
Easter Offensive (1972)
Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)