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the wing commander, his liaison officer to the Seventh Air Force had
told him that General Westmoreland was about to approve a proposal for
General Momyer to "take over all air operations in defense of Khe Sanh."7


Despite General Westmoreland's protestations about the support of the 1st Air Cavalry Division, he apparently was only waiting for an opportunity to centralize the air command in the north. Such a move fit in with the steps he had already initiated with the establishment of MACV (Forward) to assume more direct control of the northern battlefield. Admiral Sharp in his message of 18 January denying such centralized authority for Niagara had left room for the MACV commander to implement his request at a later date. On 28 January, Westmoreland implied in a message to Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, who had protested Westmoreland's earlier appeal to change the air command arrangements, that the matter was not settled. While denying that centralization of air control and resources meant an "abrogation of the traditional service roles and missions," the MACV commander observed that the new tactical situation required "careful planning and control of our air resources to assure maximum effective use of this valuable and limited resource in countering major enemy initiatives." Between 13 and 17 February, the Seventh Air Force "presumedly at the direction" of MACV issued several directives which in effect positioned General Momyer "to command and control air operations, including those of the . . . [Marine wing] in a wide area and encompassing most of Quang Tri Province."8

Worried about the ramifications of these messages, on 17 February
1968, Major General Anderson met at III MAF headquarters with Major
General Gordon F. Blood, the Seventh Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff
for Operations. According to Anderson, Blood related that with the number
of increasing Arclight strikes at Khe Sanh, the Seventh Air Force believed
that "adequate coordination requires firm scheduling, firm targeting,
and rigid control of airborne nights." Furthermore, General Momyer wanted
"to establish now a control and coordination system which could handle
all [italics in the original text] sorties that could be made available
under emergency conditions." Anderson concurred with the necessity of
scheduling and "indicated my willingness to proceed along these lines,
to include the fixing of altitudes and orbit points as ... means for
preventing mutual interference." At that point, Blood stated that General
Momyer planned to ask for the extension of the original Niagara operating
area to include almost all of Quang Tri Province, including the sector
east of Dong Ha, and to extend as far south as the city of Hue in Thua
Thien Province. Anderson countered that was too large an area "to be
directly associated with the defense of Khe Sanh."9


According to the 1st Wing commander, the meeting resulted "in no meeting of the minds." General Anderson fully expected the Seventh Air Force commander "to attempt to influence General Westmoreland to issue a flat order" for the 1st Wing to turn over its control and scheduling of Marine fixed-wing assets to the Air Force. While General Cushman would appeal any such order, Anderson predicted a troubled time ahead for the Marine air-ground team.10*


III MAF anticipated the worst. On 18 February, General Cushman sent a message to General Krulak warning that he expected continuing difficulty over air control and complained that "Momyer attacks us at every opportunity." In a private letter to General McCutcheon on the 19th, Brigadier General Earl E. Anderson, the III MAF Chief of Staff, observed that "some of our biggest battles are with the other Services, rather than with the VC and NVA." He accused Momyer of being more concerned with the "Air Force's party line," rather than "getting this job done within a reasonable period of time."11


The Marines did not have long to wait for the other shoe to drop. On 19 February, General Westmoreland radioed Admiral Sharp that with the reinforcement of the Army divisions in the north and the establishment of MACV (Forward) the situation required "a new and objective look at the control of tactical air." The MACV commander mentioned the added complication of the B-52 strikes further dictated "the creation of a single management arrangement." He wanted one man to bear the responsibility for this air effort and that man logically was General Momyer, who already commanded the Seventh Air Force and was his deputy for air. Westmoreland told Sharp that he had directed Momyer to develop a plan "that will give him [Momyer] control of the air assets" excluding helicopters and fixed-wing transport. The plan was to contain provisions that would permit "Marine aircraft to continue direct support to their deployed ground forces." Momyer was to coordinate his effort with III MAF.12


* General Earl E. Anderson remembered that he and other members of
the III MAF staff attended the meeting with General Blood. He may have
confused this meeting, however, with the one that occurred three days
later. E. E. Anderson Comments.







Page 490 (1968: The Defining Year)