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action, four Marine F-4Bs were on alert around the clock, and two Marine light antiaircraft missile battalions, the 1st and 2d, armed with HAWK surface-to-air missiles, were deployed at Da Nang and Chu Lai respectively.

The Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Force (CinCPacAF) was responsible for all air defense in mainland Southeast Asia. He exercised this responsibility through General Moore, Commanding General, 2d Air Division, who was the Mainland Southeast Asia Air Defense Regional Commander. General Walt, the Naval Component Commander Vietnam, acknowledged this Air Force responsibility in the joint memorandum of agreement signed by his deputy, General McCutcheon, and Moore in August.

The air threat from the north never materialized and the LAAM battalions were not called upon to fire their missiles in anger, yet, Colonel George G. Long remembered:

My main concern as executive officer and [then] commanding officer of the 1st LAAM Battalion . . . was that we would not be granted firing permission early enough on an initial raid to provide the air defense needed. Often there were occasions . . . when unidentified radar tracks were observed at various altitudes inbound to the Da Nang complex from North Vietnamese airspace and after repeated failures at identification they would arrive at the airfield. ... In every case the CRC [the Air Force Control and Reporting Center] on Monkey Mountain suspected they were friendly and "hold fire" conditions were maintained up to their actual arrival over the field. The LAAM Battalion early warning radars would, as a matter of normal course, acquire these tracks and perform lock-on with the illumination radars. Many of these flights were tracked with the illuminators out to 110 kilometers and at altitudes below 5,000 feet.28

During 1965, the two LAAM battalions conducted numerous training exercises and, during the first week of December, both battalions held their first firing exercise on an island north of the Ky Ha Peninsula. The exercise was extremely realistic using a combination of targets: propeller-driven drones, jet drones, and targets towed by F-8 aircraft. Colonel Edward F. Penico, who then commanded the 2d LAAM Battalion, recalled:

This shoot was the only time that a target towed by piloted aircraft was fired at by a HAWK battery. The computer simulations said it could not be done. The skipper of the target squadron was confident enough that he flew the plane himself. . . 29
Athough the firing batteries performed well, 11 of the first 18 missiles failed to function for one reason or another. They were old HAWKS,and doubts lingered about the reliability of the missile stocks.30*

*Colonel Long remarked that the problems with the "shoot ... are attributable to the lot of the missiles used and should not be considered as an air deficiency." Col George G. Long, Comments on draft MS, dtd 8Nov76 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

 

Page 163(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)