Page 530

Page 530 (1968: The Defining Year)



While there were two assistant wing commanders, the second AWC, Brigadier
General Henry F. Hise, served as the coordinator for air bases throughout
I Corps and apparently was not available to take General Hill's place.
From the III MAF perspective, Brigadier General E. E. Anderson, General
Cushman's chief of staff, believed Hise's function could better have
been accomplished by the 1st MAW chief of staff. General Anderson quoted
Hise to the effect "that having a second AWC in the 1st Wing is like
having tits on a bull."* Anderson supported a move to eliminate the
position altogether and convinced both General Quilter, the wing commander,
and General Cushman. According to Anderson, Quilter was of the opinion
that unless given command of an air-ground task force, a second assistant
wing commander was superfluous to his needs. On 19 December, the III
MAF commander, General Cushman, officially asked FMFPac that a replacement
for the second AWC not be sent. General Buse, the FMFPac commander,
concurred. Apparently no thought was given to sending General Hise or
his replacement to Quang Tri to replace General Hill.35


Even if an aviation general officer had been sent north, there remained some question whether the deteriorating relations between Marine air and ground officers would have improved measurably. As early as August, Major General McCutcheon in Washington wrote to Major General Quilter about disquieting reports from returning officers from Vietnam, varying "in rank from lieutenant colonel to major general that we do not have the communication and dialogue in existence between air and ground units that we should have." Even Brigadier General Hill commented that the wing would never "satisfy the [division's] helo appetites." He complained about lacking UH-1Es and being "plagued by the UH-1E gunships syndrome" as well as problems in helicopter availability. According to Hill, the only way the wing could meet the demands of both divisions was by overflying the maximum standards. As he later remarked: "This can only do one or two things; it can get you in trouble real fast, or sooner or later, it can drive you off the deep end."36


In October, at the III MAF staff level, Brigadier General Earl E. Anderson remarked that "Ray Davis has really been shot in the fanny with the Army helicopter system, although I frankly believe that it's more the result of the large numbers of helicopters available to the Army units, together with the fact that the ground officer has greater control over them than does the Marine commander." According to Anderson, the 3d Marine Division general had proposed to III MAF the establishment of an "air cavalry group, similar to the 1st Air Cav." General Cushman had taken the recommendation under advisement and asked for opinions from his staff and senior commanders.37


At about the same time, one of Davis' regimental commanders, Colonel Robert H. Barrow of the 9th Marines, forwarded a memorandum through command channels about modifying procedures on the use and control of helicopters. He wrote that while Marine doctrinal publications "do not clearly express the air ground command relations for helicopter operations," he believed they implied flexibility. He suggested that Prov MAG-39 be placed in direct support of the 3d Marine Division. According to Barrow, "essentially, the helicopter unit commander advises the helicopter-borne [ground] unit commander, participates in planning and, within his capability, provides the helicopter support and performs the tasks required by the helicopter-borne unit commander."38

Colonel Barrow then came to the crux of the matter. He urged that
the ground commander be permitted to determine "type and adequacy of
landing zone preparation, switching from primary to alternate landing
zones, and landing in a high risk situation." Rejecting this idea. Major
General Quilter, the wing commander, wrote across the memorandum: "This
would overrule air judgment of pilot. Pilot has no authority to do anything,"
At this point, General Cushman decided against


the decision process. We also lost the pulse of the dynamic, fast-moving General Davis." Carey Comments. In a dissenting opinion, Colonel Walter Sienko, who assumed command of Prov MAG-39 in July 1968, commented that "if we had a full-MAG-39 at Quang Tri instead of a Prov MAG with limited resources, we still would not have satisfied the needs of General Davis." He believed "the decision of not inserting a third general officer in rhe chain of command between air and ground at the MAG level was a correct one." Col Walter Sienko, Comments on draft, n.d. [Nov94] (Vietnam Comment File).

* Brigadier General Hise commented that "the West Texas saying, an
area where I originated, is 'as useless as tits on a boar.' A boar has
up to ten vestigial tits, a bull has only four. However, as with assistant
wing commanders, an increase in their number does not add to their usefulness."
BGen Henry W. Hise, Comments on draft, dtd 22Dec94 (Vietnam Comment
File).







Page 530 (1968: The Defining Year)