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A Matter of Doctrine: Marine Air and Single Manager

The Establishment of Single
Manager-Point, Counterpoint-The Continuing Debate

The Establishment of Single

While the Khe Sanh situation influenced the implementation
of the 'single manager' system at the time, General Westmoreland's doubts
about the ability of III MAF and its limited staff provided an underlying
motivation for his action. He especially worried about the capability
and even willingness of Marine aviation to support the new Army divisions
he was sending north. From a senior and joint commander's perspective,
the MACV commander also sympathized with the desire of General Momyer,
the Seventh Air Force commander, to centralize the air assets in Vietnam.
All of these factors played a role in his final decision.1

Apparently accepting with relative good grace (at
least outwardly) Admiral Sharp's initial denial of his effort to bring
Marine fixed-wing air under the Seventh Air Force in Operation Niagara,
General Westmoreland yet remained concerned about air support for the
newly arrived 1st Air Cavalry Division in northern I Corps. With the
establishment of the 1st Cavalry command post near Phu Bai on 20 January
and its subsequent deployment to Camp Evans by the end of the month,
Westmoreland became even more agitated on the subject. According to
the MACV commander at a meeting with both Generals Cushman and Norman
Anderson, the 1st MAW commander, he told them that with the new deployments
and the impracticality of Seventh Air Force direct support for the division,
he wanted the Marines to provide that air coverage. Westmoreland claimed
that he received assurances from both Marine commanders that the Marine
wing would establish liaison with the Army division and the necessary
arrangements would be made.2

The three commanders had different impressions about
the results of their meeting. While Generals Anderson and Cushman promised
that III MAF would furnish air support, their understanding about the
undertaking was at great variance from that of General Westmoreland.
General Cushman later recalled that the Marines flew air support for
the 1st Air Cavalry, but that the Army division did not know how to
employ it. The 1st MAW commander, Major General Norman Anderson, related
that the problem was one of communication. According to Anderson, he
told General Westmoreland that the Marine wing would support the Air
Cavalry, but that there would be need for the Army division to establish
a communications network with the Marine air command and control system.3*

The upshot of the situation was that the 1st Air Cavalry
still had not tied into the Marine Tactical Air Direction Center after
it deployed to Camp Evans. According to General Westmoreland, about
24 hours to 48 hours after he had broached the subject to the Marine
commanders, he visited Major General John J. Tolson, the 1st Air Cavalry
Division commander at his CP and discovered that there had been no liaison
with the wing. Until that juncture, Westmoreland claimed he had been
content not to alter the air command system, but now 'I blew my top
. . . [this] was absolutely the last straw.... I go up there and nothing
has happened and here I've got a division up there ... and they [III
MAF] just ignored me.' The result, according to the MACV commander,
was his decision to go ahead with the single manager directive.4

* General Earl E. Anderson, who at the time as a brigadier
general was the III MAF Chief of Staff, recalled that he also attended
this meeting, 'and it became a little 'testy' at times. General Cushman
stated that any excess sorties would be made available to Army units
on request, but that the 7th AF had the primary responsibility to provide
air support for the Army units.' According to the former III MAF Chief
of Staff, 'the lack of communication between the 1st MAW commander and
the CG of the 1st Air Cav at the outset, in my opinion exacerbated the
problem and brought the matter to a 'boil' in Westmoreland's mind.'
Anderson further stated that 'we should have taken the initiative. By
not doing so, we got off on the wrong foot as MACV and 7th AF were looking
for anything for which they could, rightly or wrongly, assess blame
to III MAF or the 1st MAW.' Gen Earl E. Anderson, USMC (Ret), Comments
on draft, dtd 18Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter E. E. Anderson
Comments. Colonel Joel E. Bonner, the 1st MAW G-3, also emphasized that
for Westmoreland the support of the 1st Air Cavalry 'was priority ONE!!'
Col Joel E. Bonner, Comments on draft, dtd 18Jan93 (Vietnam Comment
File), hereafter Bonnet Comments. Brigadier General Henry W. Hise, who
was one of the two assistant wing commanders, observed, nevertheless,
that the Army units needed the appropriate 'radios and frequencies to
enter Marine nets . . . [and] this was clearly an Army responsibility.'
BGen Henry W. Hise, Comments on draft, dtd 22Dec94 (Vietnam Comment
File), hereafter Hise Comments.

Page 487 (A Matter of Doctrine: Marine Air and Single Manage)