port so essential to the Marines." Westmoreland radioed, however, that he still required the "authority to delegate to my deputy commander for air, the control that I deem appropriate." He declared that in Niagara II, he had charged Momyer, "with the overall responsibility for air operations for the execution of the plan." While the Seventh Air Force would coordinate and direct the employment of tactical air in Niagara II, General Westmoreland carefully added that the Marine wing would make only available those sorties not required for the "direct air support" of Marine units. The MACV commander observed that the Seventh Air Force commander and the Marine command would work out the details for the coordination of their effort. Interestingly, both III MAF and the Seventh Air Force received a copy of this message which was not the case of the earlier communications between Westmoreland and Sharp.37
III MAF and the Seventh Air Force quickly resolved the particulars between the two relative to Niagara II. Major General Norman Anderson, the 1st MAW commander, visited the Seventh Air Force headquarters at Tan Son Nhut in Saigon to complete the coordination between the two. During his stay at Saigon, General Anderson inspected the Seventh Air Force intelligence control center for the operation, which eventually produced some 300 targets during a given week. According to Anderson, the intelligence center was designating targets, but was not sure whether they were being hit. The 1st Wing commander and Momyer agreed "to exchange attack information on a 24-hour basis." About midnight, the Seventh Air Force would inform III MAF of the number of targets struck, their coordinates, and any available battle damage assessment (BDA). III MAF in turn would turn over its target data and BDA to the Air Force.38*
For the Khe Sanh sector, the Seventh Air Force established an airborne
command and control center (ABCCC), an electronically equipped Lockheed
C-130E transport. From its orbit over eastern Laos, the ABCCC controlled
all aircraft in Niagara II, except Marine close air support fixed-wing
planes and helicopters.** At Khe Sanh, on 22 January, the 1st MAW moved
a mini-DASC from Chu Lai to Khe Sanh, backed by a Marine airborne DASC
in a KC-130.*** The Marine wing and the Seventh Air Force divided the
air space over the Marine base into six concurrent zones. In the three
closest to the base, aircraft reported into the Khe Sanh FSCC and DASC,
which, of course, were collocated. The 1st Wing and 3d Marine Division
Dong Ha DASC and FSCC controlled the easternmost zone. The Air Force
ABCCC had complete authority over the two remaining zones.39
Although somewhat formalized, the aviation arrangements at Khe Sanh
were at best ad hoc and sometimes confusing. As General Norman Anderson
described it, at first, all sorties within the range of the Marine air
support radar teams would be "directed by our forward air controllers"
and would be a 1st Wing responsibility. With the beginning of the B-52
sorties, however, "this became a jumbled arrangement as well" and air
control became a matter of "expediency" rather than "doctrine." Air
Force controllers complained that Marine aircraft over Khe Sanh too
often ignored the Seventh Air Force ABCCC. From an Air Force viewpoint,
this duo-air-control relationship "perpetuated the existence of two
air forces operating in a compressed area." General Momyer believed
that the Niagara compromise placed "too much emphasis on geographical
considerations." He believed that Marine air was fighting its "own private
war at Khe Sanh" rather than fitting into the overall air campaign.
As Air Force historian Bernard C. Nalty later
* According to General Carey, who at the time served on the 1st MAW
staff, "the concept of intelligence center targeting proved to be ineffective
principally because of its lack of timeliness. Targets for the most
part were fleeting targets and required quick response. BDA for the
most part was unrealistic. We looked upon the system as 'Big Thinking'
strategic targeting but not very practical from a tactical standpoint."
** Colonel Bonner, the 1st MAW G-3, commented that the lack of airbases
in I Corps limited GeneraI Momyer in his ability "due to time, distance,
and weather to place a 'Hallmark USAF stamp' on Air Support in I Corps.
Therefore the C-130 Airborne Command and Control Center was invented
for Khe Sanh and Niagara with B-52s was the Momyer way of getting the
Air Force involved." Bonner Comments. General Carey, who at the time
as a lieutenant colonel, worked for Colonel Bonner, recalled that "feedback
from the Seventh Air Force ABCCC was non existent. On the other hand
our communications with the Khe Sanh and Dong Ha DASC were excellent
and as a result the TADC had a good picture of our sectors." Carey Comments.
*** Colonel Twining recalled that there was some thought to moving one of the two TPQ-10 ASRTs at Dong Ha to an area west of Camp Carroll, probably at Ca Lu, to support Khe Sanh. The NVA interdiction of Route 9 in that sector prevented the move. According to Twining the "most logical solution was an ASRT located at Khe Sanh itself, along with elements of a DASC. Accordingly, General Anderson moved one of the TPQ-10's and a mini-DASC from MASS-3 assets at Chu Lai to Khe Sanh ... To provide interim control of air support operations while the Khe Sanh DASC was being moved into position and set up, MASS-2 provided an airborne DASC in a KC-130 which orbited Khe Sanh at 20,000 ft, out of range of the NVA antiaircraft guns." Twining Comments.