Photo courtesy of LtCol William A. Cohn, USMC (Ret)
The Marine Tactical Air Operations Center (TAOC),
located on Monkey Mountain on the Tiensha Peninsula east of Da Nang,
was equipped with the latest in computer technology. The TAOC, run by
Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) 4, required ample space for its sundry
radars and antennae.
it being manifestly impossible for a Marine Air Wing to possess equipment and personnel to net with all possible supported units." By January 1968, with the situation at Khe Sanh drawing more attention and the planned deployment of more Army units north. General Westmoreland worried not only about whether Marine air could continue to operate independently, but whether he had to alter the entire fabric of command relations in I Corps."30
Proposed Changes in Command and Control over Marine Air;
Operation Niagara, January 1968
Early in 1968, General Westmoreland planned to launch an air offensive in northwestern I Corps to protect the Marine base at Khe Sanh and to counter the North Vietnamese Army buildup there. Based on the previous lace summer-early fall air effort. Operation Neutralize in support of Con Thien, the MACV air commander decided upon what he called another SLAM (seek, locate, annihilate, and monitor) campaign. Conceived in an imagery "of cascading bombs and shells," Westmoreland labeled the new endeavor Operation Niagara. According to the concept, U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command's eight-engine Boeing B-52 Strarofonresses would fly massive carpetbomb-ing "Arclight" missions in support ot Khe Sanh from their bases in Guam and Thailand. In coordination. Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy tactical aircraft would make precision air strikes against identifiable enemy forward positions. Marine and Army artillery from both firing positions at Khe Sanh and Camp Carroll in the DMZ sector would supplement the air bombardment. The idea was to surround the Marine base with both a "steel curtain" and a "ring of fire" to keep the North Vietnamese out.31*
On 5 January, General Westmoreland implemented the first phase of
Operation Niagara, which was primarily an intelligence gathering effort
employing air and ground reconnaissance resources. This included the
use of sensors** and the monitoring of enemy communications. At the
same time, the MACV comman-
* For discussion of the Khe Sanh campaign from January through June
1968, see Chapters 4, 14, and 16.
** Navy Captain Bernard D. Cole, who as a Navy lieutenant was attached
to the 26th Marines as the assistant target intelligence officer, wrote
that "air dropped sensors were a primary source of targeting data for
us." Capt Bernard D. Cole, USN, Comments on draft, dtd 27Oct94 (Vietnam
Comment File), hereafter Cole Comments.