A Marine Chance-Vought F-8 Crusader from VMF(AW)-235 takes off from Da Nang Airbase in January 1968. Its landing gears are beginning to retract into the wing.
MACG-18 had the responsibility for all air control and air defense support in the wing.*
Colonel Leroy T. Frey commanded MAG-11, the Marine fixed-wing group
at Da Nang. Under MAG-11 were a headquarters and maintenance (H&MS)
squadron, an airbase (MABS) squadron, and four fixed-wing squadrons.
These included: Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron (VMCJ) 1**;
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 flying 13 McDonnell Douglas
F-lB Phantom Us designed for both air superiority and ground support;
Marine All-Weather Fighter Squadron (VMF(AW)) 235, used in a close-air
support role and equipped with 15 of the soon-to-be-phased-out F-8 Chance-Vought
Crusader jet fighters; and a Marine all-weather attack squadron VMA(AW)-242
with the newest attack aircraft in the Marine inventory, 12 Grumman
A-6A Intruders,*** equipped with the latest in electronic and radar
navigational and target acquisition systems.2****
From the nearby Marble Mountain Air Facility, across
* In January 1968, the group consisted ol Headquarters and Headquar-ters
Squadron (H&HS) 18, Marine AirSupport Squadron (MASS) 2, Marine Air
Support Squadron (MASS) 3, Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) 4 and
the 1st and 2d LAAM Battalions. Until the activation of MACG-18 the
previous September these units had belonged to MWHG-1. MASS-3 and the
2d LAAM Battalion were both located at the Chu Lai base.
** The VMCJ squadron flew photo reconnaissance missions in both North
and South Vietnam and also electronic jamming missions to foil North
Vietnamese radars and communications in support of both the Seventh
Fleet and Air Force Rolling Thunder campaign in the north. In January
1968, the squadron had assigned to it 20 aircraft. These included eight
Douglas EF-10B, a modified version of the Navy F3D Skynight. a two-engine
jet night-tighter. The EF-10B, nicknamed "Willie the Whale," flew both
electronic counter-measure (ECM) and electronic intelligence missions.
In addition to the "Whales," the squadron inventory included tour EA-6A,
the electronic countermeasures version of the Intruder, and eight RF-4B,
the photo-reconnaissance version of the Phantom II. FMFPac. MarOpsV,
Jan68, p. 58a. Colonel Eric B. Parker, who assumed command of the squadron
in March, observed that the Marines were the "pioneers of stand-off
electronic jamming. He remembered that his pilots "were proud of the
effectiveness of our equipment and personnel . .. Our call sign was
'cottonpicker' and to identify vourselt as a 'cottonpicker' in an AF
[Air Force] or Navy club where deep-strike pilots were, would almost
always result in free drinks. We were appreciated." Col Eric B. Parker,
Comments on draft, dtd 13Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).
*** The two-man, twin-jet Intruders which could carry an 18,000 pound
payload were equipped with a digital-integrated attack navigation system
and an electronic-integrated display system which provided the pilot
at night and in bad weather images of targets and geographical features
on two viewing screens in the cockpit.
**** Attached to H&MS-11 was a three-plane detachment of TA-4Fs, two-seater
trainer versions of the Douglas A-1 Skyhawk, used generally for forward
air control missions. In Vietnam, both the Air Force and the Marine
Corps employed forward air controllers (FAC) (airborne), who in a variety
of aircraft like the TA-4F jets, UH-1E helicopters, and small light
fixed-wing prop-driven aircraft controlled attack, fighter, and fighter/attack
fixed-wing aircraft and armed helicopters in close air support missions.
In addition, H&MS-11 owned one Douglas C-117D Skytrain fixed-wing transport
(a military counterpart of the civilian DC-3) which the squadron employed
for a multitude of purposes including night illumination. Three more
of the relatively venerable transports belonged to MWSG-17 at Da Nang.
All told, including the four C-117Ds, there were over 60 Marine fixed-wing
aircraft based at Da Nang.