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Page 465 (1968: The Defining Year)






Department
of Defense (USMC) Photo A190806

A completely destroyed Grumman A-6A Intruder is
the victim of a rocket and mortar bombardment on the Da Nang Airfield.

men also destroyed six F-4Bs and one A-6A in their shelling of the
Da Nang and Chu Lai airfields. In addition, enemy machine gun fire caused
some impairment to 328 Marine aircraft, 38 of them sustaining serious
damage. Communist mortar and rocket attacks on the airfields also hit
another 104 aircraft, 13 of which required extensive repairs.* Even
more costly were the losses ot trained Marine airmen-enlisted crewmen
and Marine aviators-adding to the already existing shortage ot aviation
personnel.12

The coming months would bring even more problems. For the entire III
MAF staff and particularly for General Anderson, it would be a frustrating
experience. It would be a period of conflicting responsibilities, in
which Marine Coqis doctrine relative to the mission and employment of
fixed-wing air in support of ground forces would be called into question.

Marine Control of Air


By the end of the month, the siege of Khe Sanh, the insertion of the 1st Air Cavalry into northern I Corps, and the launching of the Communist Tet offensive would bring several Marine aviation issues to a head. Especially sensitive was the issue of control of Marine fixed-wing air in Vietnam. According to Marine Corps doctrine, the purpose of Marine air was to provide close and direct air support to the Marine infantry division on the ground. The Marine Corps had worked out, as noted by Major General Anderson, "detailed and effective procedures," particularly for amphibious operations, but applicable to extended ground operations, which closely integrated Marine aviation and infantry units into "air-ground task forces."13 As Marine Major General Keith B. McCutcheon, serving in 1968 as Deputy Chief of Staff" (Aviation) [DCS (Air)] at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps and one of the major architects of Marine aviation doctrine, later emphatically

* The Communists rocketed Oil Nang Air Base on 3 January and followed
with rocket and mortar attacks at the Da Nang and Marhle Mountain Airfields
on 30 January, and hit the Marble Mountain facility once again on 31
January, They hit the new Quang Tri airstrip with Doth rockets and mortars
on 24, 27, and 29 January. They also mortared and rocketed MAG-13 at
Chu Lai on 31 January 1968. 1st MAW ComdC. Jan68, pp. 3-5-3-8. Colonel
Robert Lewis, at the rime the commander of VMCJ-I, photographed the
Chu Lai Air Base from an RF-4B the day after the attack. He recalled
chat at Chu Lai, the rockets "hit the MAG-13 bomb dump. The ensuing
explosion severely damaged (wo squadron hangars and absolutely flattened
the VMA [AW]-533 hangar." Col Robert W. Lewis, Comments on draft, n.d.
[Dec94] (Vietnam Comment File). Colonel Dean Wilker, who commanded MAG-12
at Chu Lai, remembered the attack somewhat differently. According to
Wilker, the rockets hit "the Navy bomb dump"-rather than the one belonging
to MAG-13-located between the shoreline and the MAG-12 hangars. He Stared
that "bombs exploded and left a huge hole in the sand dune area. The
blast caved in one of my hangars and damaged the others." Col Dean Wilker,
Comments on draft, did 18Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).







Page 465 (1968: The Defining Year)