Page 519

Page 519 (1968: The Defining Year)



port Centers (DASCs) controlled not only fixed-wing sorties, but also
contained a Helicopter Direction Center (HDC) to oversee rotary-wing
flights. Collocated with the divisions' FSCCs, the Marine DASCs were
able to coordinate their helicopter assaults with both fixed-wing and
artillery support. On the other hand, the Army had no similar system
and their helicopter units, according to Marine commanders, "just didn't
know what each other were doing." Major General Anderson observed that
the Army Americal Division unit commanders were "delighted" with the
Marine system "because they recognized the desirability of this kind
of coordination." He noted that it was an entirely different situation
with the 1st Cavalry since "they had such a mass of helicopters that
the control became an utter impossibility, except in accordance with
whatever control is the result of planning."7

The Need for Lighter Aircraft


In the spring of 1968, however, no matter whether the Marine Corps wanted to adopt more of the Army airmobile tactics, it was in no position to do so. Much of this was due to the type of aircraft. For much of its success, the 1st Air Cavalry depended on its fleet of light helicopters, both unarmed and armed, which it used to find, fix, and kill the enemy. As General McCutcheon expressed in Washington after a visit to Vietnam, the Marines could match the Army in helicopter lift, but "we are woefully short of small helos, both slick and gunships."8*

During March, in an exchange of messages with Headquarters, Marine
Corps, FMFPac, and MACV, General Cushman discussed means of making Marine
helicopter operations more effective, specifically through increasing
helicopter reconnaissance and gunship assets. General Westmoreland had
recommended to III MAF that the Marines adopt more of the Air Cavalry
techniques relative to these as well as hellcopter reaction missions.
While the Marine hierarchy "appreciated" the MACV recommendations, General
Krulak, then the FMFPac commander, observed that General Westmoreland
"knows, moreover, that we cannot lay hands on any significant number
of Hueys [UH-1Es] in a short time, any more than the Army can." The
Commandant, General Chapman, commented that the Marines needed more
light helicopters and "we need them now." Using phraseology recommended
both from Washington and from Honolulu, General Cushman told the MACV
commander that given the situation it was "difficult to see how current
Marine Corps helicopter resources could be used to an advantage greater
than now is achieved in conjunction with our fixed-wing aviation," He
mentioned that he had requested more light helicopters, UH-1Es, and
specifically more gunships. According to Cushman, Westmoreland agreed
to a III MAF proposal for an exchange of Marine and Army helicopter
pilots and reconnaissance personnel. Moreover, the MACV commander would
support a Marine effort to expand its light helicopter assets. At the
same time, Cushman allowed that he would continue to monitor III MAF
reconnaissance and reaction capability.9

At the same time. III MAF was in the midst of reorganizing its UH-1E
assets. With the planned introduction of the fixed-wing North American
turbo-prop OV-10A Bronco into the Marine Corps inventory, these aircraft
were to take over from the Hueys more of the observation and aircraft
control missions. The "Broncos" were slated for the VMO squadrons and
the original concept was to reduce the number of Hueys in-country by
the number of the new aircraft. Given the increased demand for lighter
helicopters, General McCutcheon instead proposed in mid-1967 that the
Marines obtain permission to create new light helicopter squadrons that
would be equipped entirely with Hueys. The VMOs would


checking in with the DASC causing concern that they would fly through
friendly artillery fire with its possible consequences. We frequently
observed massive helo movement out of Camp Evans and did not know of
their destination, their routes or mission until they would suddenly
reappear back in the landing pattern of their home field. It was a standard
question, 'Wonder how many they lost to friendly fire today?'" Carey
Comments. Colonel Joel E. Bonner, who was the Wing G-3 in 1968, observed
that the subject of helicopter usage "will be with both the Army and
the Marines forever-like frontal assaults and flanking maneuvers." Col
Joel E. Bonner, Comments on draft, dtd 7Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).

* Major General Condon observed that the Marine Corps developed its
helicopters under "the concept of the amphibious assault" and in effect,
this concept drove all Marine helicopter design. According to Condon,
until the Vietnam War, there was no need for the gunship. Fixed-wing
would provide helicopter protection and prepare the landing zones. On
the other hand, the Army was limited by legislation from developing
fixed-wing aircraft and "to acquire some organic airborne firepower,
it was a natural step for the army to pursue the helicopter gunship
development with vigor." Condon stated that the Marine Corps had "no
comparable developmental thrust for either the high performance light
helo or the growing capabilities of the gunship models." In General
Condon's opinion, that as early as 1962, when Marine helicopters first
deployed to Vietnam, the Corps should have pursued the development "of
the best performing light helicopter, the helicopter gunship, and defensive
armament for all helicopters . . . on a high priority basis [emphasis
in the original]." Condon Comments.







Page 519 (1968: The Defining Year)