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other places. . . . All of us stay in underground trenches .... We
are in the sixtieth day and B-52s continue to pour bombs . . . this
is an area where it rains bombs and cartridges. Vegetation and animals,
even those who live in deep caves or underground, have been destroyed."
Another enemy diarist wrote, "the heavy bombing of the jets and B-52
explosions are so strong that our lungs hurt." Marine Captain William
H. Dabney, the company commander of Company I, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines
on the isolated outpost on Hill 881 South, observed that "B-52s make
excellent CAS [close air support] birds." He then exclaimed: "Not much
for bombing trails and base areas, but God! Give them a target and get
them to it quickly and scratch one target."47

Despite the dramatic aspects of the Arclights, the 26th Marines relied
heavily on the close air support missions flown by the tactical fighter-bomber
aircraft, especially those controlled by Air Support Radar Team Bravo
(ASRT-B) from MASS-3. For much of the period of Niagara, especially
through February, the atmospheric conditions called by the French, crachin,
consisting of low-lying clouds, morning fog, and intermittent rain showers,
dominated the weather over Khe Sanh. With the resulting overcast skies
and reduced visibility, the pilots flew a greater percentage of radar-controlled
strikes. On 18 February, in a record-setting 24-hour period. Marine
and Air Force aircraft, all under Marine ground radar control, dropped
over 480 tons of ordnance on 105 separate targets. An indication of
the confidence that both ground and air commanders had in the accuracy
of the radar, TPQ strikes as close as 500 meters to friendly lines were
routine. An Air Force liaison officer believed that the Marine radar
operators could safely bring a bombing mission in as close as 50 meters
while a Marine member of the Khe Sanh FSCC stated in an emergency, "he
would have no qualms about calling in an ASRT-B . . . TPQ within 35
meters of his position." During Niagara, ASRT-B controlled nearly 5,000
missions.* All told, excluding the B-52 raids, Marine, Navy, and Air
Force pilots exceeded 22,000 fixed-wing strikes in support of Khe Sanh,
with the Marines flying more than 7,000 of those missions and dropping
over 17,000 tons of high explosives upon the enemy.48

In their bombing campaign around Khe Sanh, the Marines experimented
with several techniques. Two of the most unique were the "Mini" and
"Micro" Arclights, which were used for area bombing and required close
coordination with ground supporting fire. Devised by Captain Kent O.
W. Steen, the 26th Marines assistant fire support coordinator, and Captain
Mirza M. Baig, the regimental target intelligence officer, the concept
behind the Mini Arclight was to act upon fast breaking intelligence
when B-52 strikes were not available.** When the regiment received indications
that North Vietnamese units were moving into a specific area, the Khe
Sanh FSCC would plot a 500-by 1,000-meter zone in the center of the
suspected enemy sector. The regiment then asked for Marine fixed-wing
aircraft on station to conduct a TPQ mission and at the same time alerted
artillery batteries at Khe Sanh, Camp Carroll and the Rockpile for fire
missions. With the bombing runs, usually flown by two A-6 Intruders,
carrying 28 500-pound bombs, and artillery batteries firing mixed caliber
ranging from 4.2-inch mortars to 175mm guns, the FSCC and ASRT computed
the data so that the initial shells and


* Marine TPQ ground controllers at Khe Sanh could handle as many as
four aircraft on "the same pass as long as the pilots flew in a tight
formation and radar did not break lock." The Khe Sanh FSCC generally
used a rough rule of thumb relative to the weight of the ordnance and
distance from friendly lines to determine targets for TPQ missions.
Normally 500-pound bombs, because of their large fragmentation pattern,
would not be dropped within 500 meters of friendly troops while 250-pound
ordnance would not be dropped within 250 meters of Marine lines. Shore,
Battle for Khe Sanh, p. 104. Lieutenant Colonel Donaghy, who served
in 1968 as the 26th Marines regimental air officer, commented: "I cannot
imagine what would have happened at Khe Sanh had we not had ASRT-B.
They were always 'up', always 'on target and always innovative." He
recalled that the Khe Sanh defenders wanted to use napalm against the
ever expanding NVA trenches at night, which would have "had to be done
under flares and were extremely difficult in mountainous terrain . .
. We asked ASRT-B if they could control napalm drops using TPQ radar.
At first they said no, because that weapon was not in their ballistic
tables, but after some thought said they'd give it a try. We scheduled
several flights of A-4 aircraft carrying napalm to arrive at Khe Sanh
during daylight. We flew them at several thousand feet over a safe target
area and let the ASRT-B folks develop their own ballistics for a napalm
canister. They got accurate enough that we later did it at night against
the trench lines." Donaghy Comments.

** Colonel Steen commented that the Marine "'culture' of fire support
planning and coordination integrated with the infantry they support"
played a large role in the defense of the base. He wrote that the "integration
of the ASRT (ground support radar team) and Marine Corps fire support
coordination apparatus was a brilliant but overlooked accomplishment
which saved our bacon many times during low visibility . . . when other
close air support couldn't be used." Col Kent O. W. Steen, Comments
on draft, dtd 14Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File). Navy Captain Cole who
was Captain Baig's assistant related that the mini Arclights involved
"several aircraft . . . [usually A-6As] timed for a simultaneous time
on target with an artillery barrage (everything from 105s to 175s) .
. . ." He stated the concept "was thought up by Harry Baig (as was the
idea of flooding the NVA trenches with napalm; he was a real wild man)."
Cole Comments.







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