Mar 182015

There will be a large 40th reunion of participants in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon in April and May of 1975.  Former Vietnamese refugees and U. S. Servicemen who took part are cordially invited to attend.  The reunion will take place at the U. S. Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton, California (Camp Telega, on the Orange County line).  Retired U. S. Navy Captain Ralph Ortolano is organizing an “Oral History Project” in conjunction with this reunion, collaborating with the Navy History Command and the Library of Congress, as well as local journalism schools.  For more information, please contact Captain Ortolano at (310) 982-5499.

 Posted by at 12:17
Feb 112015

UPDATE — The documentary “Last Days in Vietnam” depicting USS KIRK’s participation in Operation Frequent Wind (the April, 1975 evacuation of Vietnam) has been selected as an “Academy Award Nominee” for documentaries for 2015.  The competition is stiff, but we will know the outcome on February 22nd, when the Oscars are awarded.

 Posted by at 11:03
Dec 312014

As many of you know by now, USS KIRK is featured prominently in the upcoming documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam.”  This “American Experience” series film will debut on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) TV channels nationwide on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, the 40th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon.  Please see the website  to view the trailer.  This film has seen critical acclaim during the past year, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, and showing throughout the country at limited theatrical screenings.  “Last Days in Vietnam” is one of fifteen “semi-finalists” (out of an initial 134 films) for the upcoming Academy Awards (Oscars), and it is hoped to be one of five finalists going into the final competition.

 Posted by at 12:31
May 112013

Hello KIRK Shipmates and Friends of KIRK,

For those of us who were participants in “Operation Frequent Wind,” the fall of Saigon and the subsequent rescue of tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees back in 1975, the story is seared in our memories.  But much of that dramatic story either never made the “front page” at the time,  or has slipped away over the decades since.

As many of us know, our USS KIRK Association has played a pivotal role in bringing this remarkable story out of the fading fog of history, so that the exploits of so many Americans can be properly recognized.  But we all know that it was not just USS KIRK.  There was an evacuation flotilla of fifty (50) American ships — both U. S. Navy warships and civilian-manned ships of the Military Sealift Command and contract ships — that stood in waiting off the coast of South Vietnam.  And many units of the U. S. Air Force and the U. S. Marine Corps were part of that operation, too.

USS KIRK is now well known, as a result of the original “Frequent Wind” article that appeared on this website back in 2007, and the follow-on projects based on that article (the official U. S. Navy documentary “The Lucky Few”;  a four-part National Public Radio series; numerous magazine articles; a full-length Naval Institute book now in progress; and a PBS television documentary due to air next year).  But USS KIRK’s story is just a small slice of that history.

Because so many other units played such vital roles in this “Operation Frequent Wind” — and the many “Boat People” rescues that followed in the later years — it is only right that a wider net be cast now to properly recognize ALL the participants, both American and Vietnamese.

To do this properly, we are standing up a new association, the “Operation Frequent Wind Association,” a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, separate and apart from our USS KIRK Association.

This new “Operation Frequent Wind (OFW) Association” will be an educational association.  It will be devoted to researching and recording the detailed histories of the units involved in this vast rescue operation, and then telling the myriad personal stories of the American and Vietnamese veterans who participated in this epic saga.  The new OFW Association will also document the generational histories of the many hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese-American citizens who are descendants of those original “Lucky Few” refugees who were forced to flee their native land.

Membership in the new OFW Association will be open widely to all U. S. Defense Department and State Department personnel who took part in Operation Frequent Wind, Operation New Life, all later “Boat People” operations, the staffs of all refugee “resettlement camps” both in CONUS and overseas, and all Red Cross and other American civil organizations who played such a vital role in resettling the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in their new land.  In addition — and most especially — the new OFW Association will be open to all Vietnamese refugees and their Vietnamese-American descendants.

Please stand by for a detailed “who, what, where, when, how” message shortly, publicizing the new “Operation Frequent Wind (OFW) Association.”  We hope you all will join us.

All the best,……….Hugh Doyle (USS KIRK Association Vice-President)

 Posted by at 13:38
Feb 062013

January 21, 2013 (Updated February 6, 2013)

Department Of Veterans Affairs
Regional Office
118 N Jefferson Street
Roanoke, VA 24016

Re: USS KIRK (DE-1087) (KIRK was a DE during Frequent Wind) possible exposure to Agent Orange in April/May 1975  {Update}

Dear Sir/Madame:

I asked Mr. Hugh Doyle to review my letter to you that I sent to you on January 21, 2013. He was a LT. USN, serving as Engineering Officer aboard KIRK in 1975. The update and clarification is below:

The USS KIRK (DE-1087) was part of Operation Frequent Wind in April 28-30, 1975 {and the subsequent voyage from Vietnam to the Philippines, May 1 through 7, 1975}. On the evening of April 30, 1975 the KIRK was directed to go along side the USS Blue Ridge to pick up a VIP by the name of Mr. Richard L. Armitage. He was key in making this rescue successful.  {(“Operation Frequent Wind” was the term assigned to the U. S. military operation to evacuate Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.)}

Read Admiral Donald Whitmire, Commander CTF-76 embarked in the USS Blue Ridge directed the KIRK to proceed back to Vietnam to Con Son Island to make an attempt to rescue the thirty two Vietnam Navy ships and fishing boats with approximately 32,000 refugees embarked. There was no written Operation Oder for this US Navy operation.

In 2010 the U. S. Navy made an official documentary about this untold story called “The Lucky Few”, a copy of which is enclosed for your review. In addition, please find the list of the officers and men who were assigned to be Vietnam Navy Ship riders, {which is also enclosed} for your review and consideration. The father of one of these men Petty Officer FTG3 Walter S. Johnson, informs me that his son passed away {due to complications} from “Agent Orange.”

I have recently become more knowledgeable about “Agent Orange” and its effects on our military personnel. I am convinced that the officers and men of KIRK who were sent to the Vietnam Navy ships for the transit from Con Son Island to Subic Bay in the Republic of the Philippines were required to consume potentially contaminated Vietnamese food and water and to live in close proximity to thousands of Vietnamese refugees for a protracted period of time during this 1,000 mile transit. In addition, many USS KIRK engineering officers, technical personnel, and medical teams went aboard these Vietnam Navy Ships to effect emergency repairs and to render sanitation and medical assistance.

 It is important to note that virtually all of these 32 Vietnam Navy ships were considered “brown water navy” ships, in that they spent their entire decades-long careers in Vietnam plying the rivers and canals and the immediate coastlines of Vietnam.  The rivers, canals, and coastline of Vietnam were, I believe, areas where “Agent Orange” defoliants were used in significant quantities for extended periods of time.  These 32 Vietnam Navy ships were exposed 24-hours a day, year in and year out,  to “Agent Orange” contamination for decades before being boarded by our USS KIRK personnel.

The KIRK, on the early morning May 1, 1975 arrived in the Bay of Con Son Island, approximately 3,000 yards {one and a half nautical miles} from the island, where the 32 Vietnam Navy ships were located awaiting to be rescued by the U. S. Navy.  {KIRK remained in close proximity to Con Son Island throughout the remainder of that day, rendering engineering and medical assistance to the Vietnam Navy ships that were being gathered into the “convoy” formation for the 1,000 mile voyage.}

I herby certify that the information I have given is true to the best of my knowledge and belief. If you have any questions you can email me at or call me at 703-819-5957.


Paul H. Jacobs
Captain USN (Retired)
Commanding Officer, USS KIRK FF1087 {74-76}

 Posted by at 05:47
Jan 082012

Our founding Webmaster, Kirk Plankowner, and dear friend of the Kirk, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on December 23, 2011. Parker (Bill) served aboard the Kirk from 1972 -1975 and was proud of his service aboard the Kirk and his part in the rescue of the Vietnamese Navy at the end of the Vietnam war. His efforts as webmaster provided the venue for contacting hundreds of Kirk crewmates, thousands of Vietnamese families, and multiple reunions. His passing leaves a huge hole in the Kirk Association and a deep sorrow to those who knew him or were touched by him.

Fair Winds and Following Seas my brother.

Jim “Bon” Bongaard

 Posted by at 19:27
Aug 312010

NPR has broadcast the first of three articles about the Kirk’s Vietnam evacuation story. The second and third stories will be broadcast tomorrow. In the mean time, you can listen to it, read all about it, and more, at NPR’s website (story 1).

Aug 282010

Check out the schedule of your local NPR station or go to NPR’s site. They will be airing USS KIRK stories as follows:

  • August 31 – All Things Considered
  • September 1 – Morning Edition and All Things Considered
  • September 2nd or 3rd – Morning Edition

We will be happy to get your feedback on what you hear! There will also be a fairly significant web component on the NPR site.

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