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Page 68(The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)  


Vietnamese infantrymen disembark from HMM-362 helicopters and move toward treeline in one of the first helicopter assault operations attempted by a Marine unit in the Mekong Delta. (Photo courtesy of Lieutenant Colonel James P. Kizer, USMC').

a detachment from Marine Observation Squadron 2 (VMO-2), proved remarkably versatile in day-to-day operations over the delta. Primarily, they were used in daylight visual reconnaissance, usually to study objective areas and the approach routes which the helicopters would later use. Sometimes their crews were called upon to photograph proposed landing zones for briefing purposes. Often the aircraft's radios were used to relay messages between various ARVN ground units which were operating beyond the range of their radios. Equipped with two frequency-modulated (FM) radios for work with ground stations and one ultra high-frequency (UHF) radio for communicating with other aircraft, the OE-1 was perfectly suited for controlling helicopter landings. The Marine aviators also found that, unlike their helicopters, the observation aircraft did not arouse suspicion in the area over which it flew. This advantage was due probably to several factors. First, the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) routinely operated similar aircraft over the entire region; secondly, the enemy could not readily determine whether the OE-1 was on a reconnaissance mission or merely flying from one point to another; and finally, the small aircraft made little noise. Given these characteristics it was no accident that the helicopter squadron relied on the observation aircraft more and more as the pattern of operations unfolded.

Shortly after their arrival in Vietnam, the Marines of HMM-362 began experimenting with one of the more imaginative techniques developed in the early stages of the intensified U.S.-GVN countcrinsurgeacy effort. Marine air crews had noticed that the enemy often managed to elude the

 

 



Page 68(The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)