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Page 464 (1968: The Defining Year)

Photo from Abel Collection

A Marine Lockheed KC-130 Hercules transport/refueler
from VMGR-152 refuels two Douglas A-4 Skyhawks from MAG-12 at 10,000
feat over South Vietnam. VMGR-152, based on Okinawa, kept one attachment
in Vietnam for both refuelling and transport missions.

combat sorties in South Vietnam, of which 1,174 were close air support
missions. Of the remaining sorties, 3,651 were in direct support of
ground forces, and 66 were helicopter support, armed reconnaissance,
or air defense.* These aircraft dropped some 9,000 tons of bombs, which
according to Marine statistics resulted in an estimated 400 dead. Marine
fixed-wing aircraft also made 476 visual reconnaissance and 216 sensor
reconnaissance flights in providing battlefield surveillance for ground
commanders in South Vietnam.9

The record was about as impressive in the skies over North Vietnam
and Laos. These numbers represented 1,434 combat and combat support
sorties, 1,180 of which were strike sorties. The other "out of country"
sorties included 226 reconnaissance sorties and 28 combat air patrols.
Over North Vietnam, the Marine strike sorties, 739 our of 796, hit targets
in Route Package 1, that area immediately north of the Ben Hai River.
Marine participation in the bombing of the northernmost sector of North
Vietnam, Route Package 4, required an especially integrated effort.
The A-6As, EA-6As, F-4Bs, and the KC-130s had to meet precise time schedules
"with fully operational systems" to carry out a successful mission.
The two Marine A-6A squadrons, VMA (AW)s-242 and 533, struck more than
1,000 targets, most of them moving, in 350 sorties, 34 of them in the
northern route packages over North Vietnam. Marine aviators also flew
over 380 strikes against the lines of communication in Laos. All told,
the Marine airmen, exclusive of the transports and the helicopters,
completed a total of more than 7,000 sorties over South Vietnam, North
Vietnam, and Laos, the largest number since July 1967.10

The helicopter and transport pilots also could boast of similar achievements
during January. Marine C-117s and KC-130s carried nearly 30,000 passengers
and more than 6,600,000 pounds of cargo during the month. Not to be
outdone, the CH-53s of HMH-364 hauled slightly over 19,000 passengers
and over 7,500,000 pounds of food, arms, and equipment in January. For
the month, Marine helicopters from both III MAF and the SLF of the Seventh
Fleet flew 34,957 sorties, lifting nearly 60,000 troops and 6,617 tons
of cargo.11

These accomplishments had come at some cost to the Marine wing in
both personnel and aircraft. Communist antiaircraft fire downed seven
fixed-wing planes including three A4E Skyhawks, one F-4B Phantom II,
one F-8 Crusader, one EF-10B Whale, and one A-6A Intruder. The enemy
gunners also shot down six helicopters, three Ch-46s, one UH-34, one
CH-53, and one UH-1E. Enemy rocket and mortar

* Close air support missions were conducted in such close vicinity
of the ground force that they required detailed coordination and integration
with the ground supporting fires. While coordination with the supported
ground force remained important in direct air support missions, these
sorties were conducted at a sufficient distance that the integration
with the supporting ground fires was less involved.

Page 464 (1968: The Defining Year)