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USMC Photo A184307

A Douglas A-4 Skyhawk from VMA-225 makes the first landing at the Chu Lai SATS field. Colonel John D. Noble, Commanding Officer, MAG-12, piloted the aircraft.

 

top priority was to go to ground troops actually engaged with the enemy. Sharp maintained that such support should be directly responsive to the ground combat units. The directive also noted that 'nothing herein vitiates the prior CinCPac provision that ComUSMACV's Air Force component command shall act as coordinating authority for matters pertaining to tactical air support and air traffic control in South Vietnam.'5

After receiving CinCPac's instruction, General Westmoreland ordered that a revision be made to his air support order. The new MACV directive, published on 13 July 1965, reiterated CinCPac's appointment of General Moore as the coordinating authority. In addition, the order charged him with the responsibility of insuring that coordination was established between his service and the other allied commanders. General Walt retained operational control of Marine aviation, but to insure maximum use of all aircraft, the III MAF commander was to notify the 2d Air Division daily of those aircraft available in excess of his requirements so that additional sorties could be allocated.* Finally, Walt, as Naval Component Commander, Vietnam, was charged with preparing joint operating instructions, in coordination with General Moore, to insure an integrated air effort.6

Concurrently, with the revision of MACV's air directive, General McCutcheon met with Major General Moore to coordinate air efforts as related to air defense operations. Moore wanted operational control of all air defense, but McCutcheon pointed out that the F-4B Phantom II was a dual-purpose plane, capable of both close air support and air-to-air defense. To relinquish these aircraft would deprive the Marine ground commanders of an important supporting arm.

Nevertheless, General McCutcheon recognized the necessity of having one overall air defense commander. After several meetings between the generals and their staffs, it was decided to publish a memorandum of agreement to set forth the basic policies, procedures, and responsibilities. Under this agreement, the Air Force had overall air defense responsibility. McCutcheon designated those Marine forces that would participate in air defense. He agreed that the U. S. Air Force had the authority to handle alert aircraft, designate targets, and control HAWK missile readiness status, including firing orders. Generals Moore and McCutcheon signed the document in August 1965.7**

The revised MACV air directive and the memorandum of agreement provided the basic policy for command, control, and coordination of Marine aviation, an arrangement completely satisfactory to General Walt. These arrangements were to remain unchanged until 1968, when General Westmoreland received approval from higher authority to establish a single management system for tactical air control.

Fixed-Wing Operations

The system of close air support which was employed by the Marines in South Vietnam in 1965 was born during the island campaigns of World War II. Since then, Marine air support doctrine had been continuously modified to keep pace with technological advances.

Marine attack aircraft were required to fly close air

 


 

*Colonel Roy C. Gray, Jr., the 1st MAW G-3, commented, 'At the wing G-3 level it was always extremely difficult to identify those air assets that were in excess of III MAF needs. Generally both III MAF and the Air Force wanted far more than the wing could muster.' Col Roy C. Gray, Jr., Comments on draft MS, dtd 28Sep76 (Vietnam Comment File).

**Colonel O'Connor recalled that he 'was present at the key meeting of this series in Da Nang.... I observed General McCutcheon cross swords with General Moore. The Air Force general used every argument at his command. He appealed across service lines, as aviator to aviator, enumerating the advantages of centralized control of aviation in a theater of operations. But General McCutcheon held his ground. He had his orders from III MAF and CGFMFPac. He was also buttressed by several policy directives [from] CinCPac. . . .'Col Thomas J. O'Connor, Comments on draft MS, dtd 27Nov76 (Vietnam Comment File).

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