Operation Eagle Pull was the American evacuation by air of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 12, 1975. The plan was developed, starting as early as 1973, and refined as Khmer Rouge (KR) forces closed in on the Cambodian capital city. In a period of less than two hours, Marine Corps CH-53's helicopters transferred 82 Americans, 159 Cambodians, and 35 other nationals to U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Thailand. No casualties were sustained in the operation.


Two USAF HH-53C's from the 40th ARRS, staging out of Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, inserted CCT's (combat control teams) into designated LZ's around Phnom Penh before the actual evacuations began. The CCT's along with a airborne USAF HC-130 "King Bird" controlled and directed the flow of helicopters in and out of the capital during the evacuations.


During the evacuations nine CH-53C's of the 21st SOS, staging out of Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, orbited at holding points north of Phnom Penh as backups in the event they were needed. However the USMC CH-53's evacuated all that wanted to be evacuated and the CH-53C's from the 21st SOS did not evacuate anyone and they returned to their staging base in Thailand.


At the end of the evacuations the HH-53C's of the 40th ARRS recovered the CCT's from the designated LZ's around Phnom Penh as well as the last few of the USMC troops that were on the ground to provide security during the evacuations. Both of these HH-53C's were damaged by enemy ground fire during this last task of Operation Eagle Pull but safely returned to their staging base at Ubon RTAFB, Thailand.

Operation EAGLE PULL information
for 31st MAU

40th ARRS
21st SOS

From date 73-04-13 to 75-04-12

31st MAU was a US Marine Corps unit
40th ARRS was a US Air Force unit
21st SOS was a US Air Force unit

Primary service involved

US Marine Corps and US Air Force
Operation EAGLE PULL

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Description:  The Commander in Chief, Pacific assigned the CG of the 7th Air Force the responsibility for the planning and conduct of the noncombatant emergency evacuation of Cambodia, operation EAGLE PULL. Several options were considered but the planners correctly decided that if fixed-wing aircraft could not use the only major airfield, Pochentong, at Phnom Penh; then long-range CH-53 helicopters would have to be used. At this time the USAF had the 56th SOW and the 3rd ARRG as its primary assets. This included the 21st SOS equipped with CH-53C's and the 40th ARRS with HH-53C's. USAF C-130s would serve as the airborne control. So long as there was sufficient reaction time, the Marine 31st MAU/ARG would provide the security force. The KR started their dry season offensives in early Jan 1974 the American planners continually watched the war in Cambodia and made adjustments to the operation plans.


We launched out of NKP for Ubon AB the day before.  We took all 10 CH-53s from NKP and the 40th went also.  We launched out of Ubon early the next morning.  We served as a diversion.  The Marines left ships in the gulf and picked up the US personnel. Our helicopters picked up some of the marines that were taken in for security during the evacuation.


We returned to NKP flying in a 10-ship formation, trailing smoke from grenades on safety wire from the ramps. I have a copy of the NKP newspaper with a picture covering the whole page of the paper in "V" formation and the whole base saw us.  (Jim Duffy)