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Page 270(Fixed-Wing Air Operations, 1970-1971 )previous pagenext page


Fixed-Wing Air Operations, 1970-1971

1st MAW Organization, Strength, and Deployment�Coming to Terms with Single Management Attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail�Air Support Trends in Military Region I�Controlling, Air Support

Is f MAW Organization, Strength, and Deployment

At the beginning of 1970, MACV had about 2, 500 American fixed-wing aircraft and 3, 600 helicopters of various types at its disposal. Of these, 261 fixed-wing aircraft and 241 helicopters belonged to the 1st Ma­rine Aircraft Wing.1

The fixed-wing aircraft of the 1st MAW, with the exception of one squadron, were concentrated at two bases in I Corps. At Da Nang, where the wing head­quarters and air control groups were also located, Colonel Neal E. Heffernan's Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11 included four jet squadrons: Marine All-Weather Attack Squadrons (VMA [AW] s) 225 and 242, Marine Fighter/Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, and Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron (VMCJ) 1. Two other fixed-wing groups flew from Chu Lai. MAG-12, first under Colonel Paul B. Henley, then commanded by Colonel James R. Weaver, consisted of Marine Attack Squadrons (VMAs) 211, 223, and 311. MAG-13, commanded by Colonel Thomas E- Murphree, included VMFAs -115, -112, and -314. The fight­er/attack squadrons were all equipped with the McDonnell-Douglas F-4B Phantom II; the attack squa­drons flew the versatile McDonnell-Douglas A-4E Sky-hawk; while the all-weather attack squadrons used Grumman A-6A Intruders. VMCJ-1 had a mixed com­plement of RF-4B Phantom Us, modified for aerial reconnaissance and photography, and EA-6A Intruders with sophisticated electronic warfare devices.

The helicopters of the 1st MAW were also divided between two airfields at the beginning of 1970, but all belonged to a single aircraft group. Colonel James P. Bruce's MAG-16, which had its headquarters at Mar­ble Mountain Air Facility. Both Marine light helicop­ter squadrons (HMLs) of the group, HML167 with Bell UH-1E Hueys and HML-367 with Bell AH-lG Cobras, were based at Marble Mountain. Two medium helicop­ter squadrons, HMMs -263 and-364, also flew from Marble Mountain, as did the two heavy helicopter squadrons, HMHs -361 and -463, and Marine Obser­vation Squadron (VMO) 2, the one MAG-16 fixed-wing squadron with its North American OV-10A Bron­cos. At Phu Bai, HMMs -161 and -262 remained after the recent dissolution of MAG-36. All the medium helicopter squadrons were now equipped with Boe-ing CH-46D twin-rotor Sea Knights, while the heavy squadrons had replaced most of their Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallions with more powerful CH-53Ds.

A number of other aircraft, not in the regular oper­ating squadrons, were attached to the 1st MAW. Five aging Douglas C-117Ds were employed by headquart­ers and maintenance squadrons for a variety of mis­sions. H&MS-11 operated 12 TA-4Fs, two-seater trainer versions of the A-4 Skyhawk, for reconnaissance and forward air control missions. Under H&MS-17, three Grumman US-2Bs were used for aerial monitoring of sensors. A detachment of four Lockheed KC-130F Her­cules refueler-transports, from Marine Aerial Refuel-er/Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 on Okinawa, flew aerial refueling, troop and cargo transport, and flare-drop missions from Da Nang Airbase*

Major General William G. Thrash, commander of the wing at the beginning of 1970, had flown with the 1st MAW in two previous wars. A native Georgian who earned his naval aviator's wings in early 1942, Thrash won a Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals with the wing in the Pacific during World War II. In Korea, Thrash, then a lieutenant colonel with MAG-12, received the Silver Star for gallantry in ac­tion before being shot down, captured, and held prisoner for two years by the Chinese Communists. Thrash was promoted to major general in January 1967. After a tour as Commanding General, MCAS El Toro/Commander, Marine Corps Air Bases, Western Area, he took command of the 1st MAW in July 1969, relieving Major General Charles S. Quilter.

Thrash had taken over when the wing was still ad­justing to MACV's imposition of single management of fixed-wing aircraft while at the same time the wing's system for controlling helicopters was under sharp criti­cism from many Marine ground commanders. Described by a subordinate as 'a charmer' and 'ex-

* Also based at Da Nang were over 200 U.S. Air Force aircraft of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing and the 41st Wing, 1st Vietnamese Air Force Air Division. The latter unit included two fighter, two helicopter, and one liaison/observation squadrons, with 122 aircraft.

Page 270(Fixed-Wing Air Operations, 1970-1971 )previous pagenext page

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