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Westmoreland that changes had to be made. From a Marine Corps perspective,
General Chaisson, who was very close to General Westmoreland, later
related that the MACV commander "was weak as hell on his comprehension
of tactical air support on a day-to-day basis. That's why I think he
got hooked on that one." During these discussions, interestingly enough.
General Chaisson was on home leave in Maine and did nor return to Vietnam
until later in the month. Also both Lieutenant General Cushman, the
III MAF commander, and Major General Norman Anderson, the Marine wing
commander, at this point, were unaware of the implications of the Niagara

While obviously influenced by General Momyer, General Westmoreland also had his own agenda." The MACV commander already had other concerns with the Marine Corps command. Moreover, Westmoreland did not always acquiesce to Seventh Air Force desires. He had resisted previous attempts by the Air Force to have a larger representation on the MACV staff. Indeed, he kept most strike targeting authority for both B-52s and Air Force tactical air in the Army-dominated Tactical Air Support Element (TASE) of his own staff rather than delegating that function to the Seventh Air Force. Even General Chaisson admitted that Momyer and Westmoreland had a relationship based on mutual respect and trust and that the Air Force general was "a very competent component commander."34

For whatever his motivation, on 18 January, General Westmoreland proposed
to Admiral Sharp that because of the "impending major battle," that
he planned to give operational control of the 1st MAW aircraft "less
the helicopters" to General Momyer, his deputy for air. He wanted "rapid
decision making" and the ability to concentrate all air, which he did
not believe existed under the present system. Westmoreland stated that
he was considering the move a "temporary measure," but made no mention
of the emergency provision available to him under his own air directive
95-4. In fact, the MACV commander several years later stated that he
was unaware that he had that authority: "I didn't worry about things
like that. I had a deputy [Momyer] and he never told me anything like

At this point, Admiral Sharp denied Westmoreland's request. In a return message on the same day, he asked the MACV commander to consider all the ramifications including the probable inter-Service wrangle that would result in a change of the existing order. Before making a final decision, the CinCPac commander seated that he wanted to review the recommendations and viewpoints of both Generals Momyer and Cushman on the matter.36

After the shelling of the Khe Sanh base on 21 January and believing
that the long-awaited battle may have starred, Westmoreland decided
against pursuing the subject of control over Marine air any further.
Instead, he immediately implemented the second phase ot the Niagara
operation. In a message to Admiral Sharp explaining his actions and
future plans, he stated that it had never been his "intention to in
any way interfere with the close air sup-

Photo courtesy of Office of Air Force History

Gen William W. Momyer, USAF, seen here as a lieutenant
general, was commander of the Seventh Air Force and the MACV deputy
for air. Momyer was a strong advocate of the Air Force position relative
to controlling aviation assets in Vietnam.

* Army historian Graham A. Cosmas observed that "this is a valid and
necessary point." According to Cosmas, "the Marine command throughout
the single management fight tended ro view Westmoreland as little more
than a 'useful idiot' for Momyer, whom they identified as their principal
antagonist. This may have cose the Marines politically, since they failed
to address the problem ComUSMACV thought he saw and instead concentrated
on a hard-line doctrinal argument against the Air Force. This in turn
exasperated Westmoreland, who became as a result more susceptible to
Momyer's arguments." Or. Graham A. Cosmas, CMH, Comments on draft, 23Nov94
(Vietnam Comment File).

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