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Page 458 (Marine Air at the Beginning of the Year and Air Su)


Marine Air at the

Beginning of the Year and Air Support of Khe Sanh

Marine Air at the Beginning
of the Year-Marine Control of Air-Proposed Changes in Command and Control
over Marine Air; Operation Niagara, January 1968-Operation Niagara and
Air Resupply in the Defense of Khe Sanh

Marine Air at the Beginning
of the Year

In January 1968, like the other elements of III MAF,
the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing faced a daunting task. Supporting two reinforced
Marine divisions as well as flying supplemental missions for the allied
and U.S. ground forces in I Corps and the Seventh Air Force, the Marine
aviators were stretched to the very limits of their capability in both
aircraft and personnel. In addition to the difficult operational environment,
doctrinal questions relative to control of both fixed-wing aircraft
and helicopters would arise that would further blur the entire picture
of Marine aviation during 1968. Many of these problems would never be
completely resolved, even after the conclusion of the Vietnam War.

As the year began. Major General Norman J. Anderson,
a veteran naval aviator who served in the Guadalcanal campaign in World
War II and in Korea in 1950, commanded the wing, having done so since
June 1967. The 1st MAW now contained over 15,000 men and more than 400
aircraft. This latter figure included nearly 200 fixed-wing planes and
more than 220 helicopters. The wing consisted of three Marine fixed-wing
and two Marine helicopter aircraft groups plus supporting elements. The
fixed-wing groups were at Da Nang and Chu Lai while the helicopter groups
were based at Marble Mountain and Phu Bai. All told, in January, the Marine
Corps had 10 out of its 27 attack or fighter/attack squadrons and 11 out
of its 25 helicopter squadrons in Vietnam. This did not include the two
attack and fighter/attack squadrons at Iwakuni, Japan, or the two helicopter
sc]uadrons of the Seventh Fleet Special Landing Force, which could readily
reinforce the in-country squadrons.1

At the overcrowded Da Nang base where Anderson maintained
his headquarters, the wing shared space with Seventh Air Force components,
the South Vietnamese Air Force, an Army aviation company, and III MAF
ground forces. Marine Wing Headquarters Group (MWHG) 1, Marine Wing
Service Group (MWSG) 17, Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 18, and Marine
Aircraft Group (MAG) 11 were all at Da Nang. MWHG-1, under Colonel Tolbert
T. Gentry, furnished general command and control and administrative
support for the wing while MWSG-17, commanded by Colonel John E. Hansen,
provided logistics, facilities, and intermediate and organizational
maintenance on all aircraft and other equipment. Colonel Lyle V. Tope's

Department of Defense (USMC) Photo

MajGen Norman J. Anderson, here
in an official portrait, commanded the 1st MAW in January 1968. Gen
Anderson, a naval aviator, had commanded the wing since June 1967 and
was a veteran of the Guadalcanal Campaign of 1942 and of Korea in 1950. 1950. in Korea of and 1942 Campaign Guadalcanal the>

Page 458 (Marine Air at the Beginning of the Year and Air Su)