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KIRK was as prepared for deployment as any warship could be.With her armament, machinery, and equipment fully operational, KIRK was “C-1 and M-1″ – 100 percent functioning and “mission ready”.It proved to be a quick, orderly extraction of fewer than 300 Americans – hardly a preview of the controlled chaos that awaited her later off the coast of Vietnam 2.
Although not part of the formal Frequent Wind “flight plan”, these uncoordinated, impromptu helicopter evacuations grew into a mass escape from land to sea, and were directly responsible for saving thousands of lives.
The war had been “Vietnamized” a few years previously, but now the news was dire.
North Vietnamese forces were making swift progress as they pushed south, overrunning cities, towns, and villages, pummeling South Vietnamese forces seemingly at will. The long, costly Vietnam War was coming to a tragic end. Preparing for that inevitable outcome, American forces were gathering once again in the South China Sea and a complex operation was beginning to unfold: the evacuation of the remaining Americans from Cambodia and Vietnam, and the rescue of as many foreign nationals and loyal South Vietnamese as possible.
The unmistakable sound of American heavy helicopters thundering in from the sea and across the city signaled to those below that the evacuation was in full swing.
All morning long, KIRK patrolled her assigned defensive area off the coast at Vung Tau, near the mouth of the Saigon River, and witnessed the American helicopters cycling in from the sea and back out, delivering their human cargo to the ships beyond the horizon.