Because of the existing tactical situation, the Marines continued
until 21 March operating under their old procedures. Anderson then offered
some comparisons between Marine air support during the first part of
the month under its system and that since the 21st under single management.
According to the wing commander, a reduction of Marine sorties occurred
in support of Marine divisions from 212 for the period l through 11
March to 177 for the corresponding number of days from 21 through 31
March. At the same time, the 1st MAWs fixed-wing sorties in support
of other forces increased from 135 for the first 20 days of the month
to 154 for the last 10 days. Anderson observed that the Seventh Air
Force under single management had established a rate of 1.2 sorties
per aircraft per day. He remarked that he was considering asking for
an exemption to this rate because of the need to increase air support
for the ground forces.38*
The basic Marine complaint, however, revolved around the requirements
for preplanned missions, especially in support of the Marine divisions.
The Marine command believed the entire process too cumbersome and unresponsive.
According to the procedures outlined by the Seventh Air Force, a preplanned
mission required a submission by the ground unit anywhere from 38 hours
to over 50 hours before the mission was to be flown. This contrasted
with the old III MAF system, which permitted a ground commander to make
his preplanned request as late as 2000 of the night before.39
In a representative preplanned mission under the new system, a Marine battalion commander would submit his target list through his regiment to the division at 0500 on the first day. At 0830, the division would then consolidate all the requests and forward them to the next higher echelon. In the case of the 3d Marine Division it would send its requests on to Provisional Corps, Vietnam, who in turn at 1100 would route them to III MAF. The 1st Marine Division would transmit its requests directly to III MAF. III MAF would then combine them into one list and relay it about 1430 of the first day on to the MACV TASE. The TASE would in turn reroute the approved request list to the Seventh Air Force TACC to prepare the frag order which would not be issued until the afternoon of the second day. It would be evening of the second day before I DASC or the 1st MAW TADC would retransmit the frag order to the proper DASCs and fire support agencies as well as to the tactical air units. During this process, each of the higher headquarters had the authority to determine priorities or even eliminate requests with the possibility of the battalion commander not knowing whether his request had been approved or not. In any event, it would usually not be before 0700 of the third day before that battalion commander received his air strike.40 (See Chart).
During April, the numbers appeared to confirm the Marine complaints. According to Marine compiled statistics for the month, the MACV TASE and Seventh Air Force TACC only scheduled 1,547 out of the 4,331 or 36 percent of the targets requested by III MAF ground commanders. Of the remaining targets, American aircraft carried out strikes on only 680 or 44 percent of them. Instead of the preplanned strikes, Marine ground commanders had to rely on 2,682 "diverts" or unscheduled strikes which made up 58 percent of the total tactical sorties flown in support of the Marine ground units.41
Hagaman, Comments on draft, dtd 30Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).0n the
other hand, Colonel Dean Wilker, who commanded MAG-12 at Chu Lai until
early March just before the implementation of single manager, wrote:
"While I knew the relations between MACV/USAF and Navy/USMC were not
in accord, I did not know to what extent. We flew our missions as fragged
and had few problems communicating with the Wing or the forces we supported.
I credir the Wing & its control centers for making it simple for us."
Col Dean Wilker, Comments on draft, dtd 18Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).
* According to Colonel Joel E. Bonner, the 1st MAW G-3, "the 7th Air
Force stated they were manned, supplied and funded to provide 1.2 sorties
per available aircraft per day and were rigidly enforcing such a rate
in order to sustain their effort over the long term." Bonner argued
that "such a statement makes sense at the Air War College and to budget
analysts but is not worth anything when there is a fight ongoing and
Air Strikes will reduce casualties." He observed that the "1st MAW flew
more than 2.0 sorties per available aircraft almost on a daily basis.
7th Air Force stated on more than one occasion that 1st MAW was wasting
their resources-but 1st MAW never ran out!!!" Furthermore Colonel Bonner
wrote, "the Air Force explained that the 1.2 sortie rate was to be computed
on the expected available aircraft for rhe day. For example: 12 aircraft
are expected to be available out of 24 assigned aircraft. A 1.2 sortie
rate would provide 14.4 sorties for the frag order. If you change the
sortie rate from available to assigned the number of sorties for the
Frag Order is 28. This was a problem with the planners in the wing versus
the planners at 7th Air Force." Bonner Comments. Lieutenant General
Carey, who worked for Colonel Bonner in the G-3 section of the wing
in 1968 as a lieutenant colonel, recalled that during the transition
period into single management that he "received a call from Saigon,
allegedly by direct instruction of Gen Momyer (as I recall at the time
I thought the caller identified himself as Gen Momyer) that we were
exceeding the desired sortie rate and that we should back off (in rather
strong language). I informed him that I was taking my direction from
Gen Anderson to give the Marines what they asked for and unless Gen
Anderson instructed me otherwise, which I sincerely doubted he would,
that was what I was going to do! I never heard from Saigon again and
the Marine requests were all filled." Carey Comments.