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Page 476 (1968: The Defining Year)

Department of Defense (USMC) Photo A191632

The Marine Air Traffic Control Unit (MATCU) 62
detachment area at Khe Sanh displays its radar equipment. Notice the
fire truck in the revetment in the foreground.

While the 26th Marines FSCC at Khe Sanh provided the targeting data for 90 percent of the B-52 missions. General Westmoreland personally approved each ot the Arclight strikes and occasionally diverted missions from his headquarters at Tan Son Nhut. The 26th Marines sent their requests for the massive air raids with specific targets to the 3d Marine Division air officer about 15 hours prior to the scheduled drop time. Up to three hours prior to the strike, the 26th Marines target intelligence officer could request an alternate target. After chat rime, no changes were permitted in the targeting process.44

The MACV timetable for the Arclights called for eight strikes every 24 hours. Later, the Strategic Air Command pared the response time of the big bombers even further, sending out three-plane cells every three hours from Guam and Thailand and eventually from Okinawa. Every 90 minutes, a Combat Skyspot unit would pick up the bombers and direct them to a particular target block or alternate target. To avoid predictable patterns and to keep the enemy off balance, the B-52 cells would vary their intervals over their targets from an hour to 90 minutes, or even two hours. In the last week of February, the Air Force changed the number and intervals of aircraft once more, dispatching six B-52s every three hours instead of three aircraft every 90 minutes.45

While allied intelligence attempted to assess the effectiveness of
this heavy intensive bombardment, several factors impeded the collection
effort. More than half of the B-52 strikes occurred at night and heavy
cloud cover during the day often frustrated aerial photographic coverage.
According to an Air Force historian, the aerial photographic experts
could only interpret "accurately" about seven percent of the total of
Southeast Asia Arclight missions. From the available sources, Air Force
BDA officers concluded that for the period 15 January through 31 March,
the stratofortresses destroyed over 270 defensive positions including
bunkers and trenches and another 17 weapon positions. The raids damaged
nearly 70 more of the enemy bunkers and trenches and another eight weapons.
B-52 crewmen claimed "1,382 secondary explosions and 108 secondary fires."46

Any estimate of the number of enemy casualties as a result of the
B-52 bombardment around Khe Sanh would only be a guess. Still, enough
impressionistic evidence exists that the bombing created havoc with
enemy morale and at the same time lifted that of the Marine defenders
at Khe Sanh. In March 1968, a North Vietnamese noncommissioned officer
from the 9th Regiment, 304th NVA Division, near Khe Sanh, entered
in his diary; "Here the war is fiercer than in all

Page 476 (1968: The Defining Year)