Operation Frequent Wind was the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It was a continuous operation from 1400 hours on April 29, 1975 lasting through the night and morning of April 30, 1975 until about 0800 hours. Approximately 7,000 people were rescued and the operation was an overwhelming success (Summers 1995). Operation Frequent Wind was the last mission conducted before the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese.
The Vietnam War was from 1959 to 1975. Is was also known as American War in Vietnam, Vietnam Conflict, Second Indochina War, War Against the Americans to Save the Nation (Rosenberg n.d.). Operation Frequent Wind was conducted at the end of the war in 1975.
Once the decision was made to leave Saigon, South Vietnam evacuation plans were put into place. All embassies have evacuation plans in place. The evacuation plan for Saigon had four phases. Phase one involved commercial airlift, phase two involved military airlift, phase three involved sea lift, and phase four involved helicopter lift to Navy ships (Tobin 1978). Evacuations took place days prior with the fixed wing assets.
Fixed wing evacuations were conducted from April 1st 1975 to April 29th 1975. Between the C-130 and C-141 airframes, 376 flights took place to evacuate over 45,000 people from Saigon (Hualman 1975). The Air Force also employed their helicopters and several other fixed wing in support of Operation Frequent Wind.
However, on April 28, Tan Son Nhut Air Base was attacked destroying several aircraft and damaging the airfield (Tobin 1978). Attempts were made to continue fixed wing operations. About 1400 hours on April 29, 1975 helicopters from the United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marines, Air America (Central Intelligence Agency air assets), and the Vietnam Air Force began phase four of the evacuation plan. Thus Operation Frequent Wind commenced (Dunham 1973–1975 ).
Planning and Preparations
As previously mentioned, all embassies have an evacuation plan. The four phase evacuation plan for the United States Embassy was previously mentioned. The planning was able to evacuate 8,000 American citizens and third country nationals (Tobin 1978). The ground plan involved the United States Army, United States Navy, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps. The Defense Attaché Office was selected as a holding area for evacuees and was capable of caring for 1,500 persons for five days (Tobin 1978). 37 buildings were looked at as potential landing zones and 13 were selected by Air America as suitable (Leary and Coulter 2005). Two major evacuation points were selected. One was the United States Embassy compound and the other was the Defense Attaché Office next to the Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The evacuation plan included buses at 28 different locations throughout Saigon (Dunham 1973–1975 ).
In preparation for an evacuation, the United States Embassy issued out a booklet with instructions for where the points...