Monday, January 31, 2011

From The Editor: Clark, Movements Branch, and the Southeast Asia Airlift System, 1965

The flight line at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1965.

During Clark’s first month as chief of Movements Branch, MACV leaned heavily on airlift for the movement of troops and combat cargo throughout South Vietnam.  Clark was involved in programming a three-day airlift into Cheo Reo southeast of Pleiku that began with a tactical emergency on the evening of 30 June 1965, in which South Vietnamese paratroopers engaged Viet Cong forces.  In the initial four hours of the action, a C-123 landed every eight minutes and delivered 1,600 troops with their equipment and ammunition. Over the next two days, C-123s airlifted an additional 1,000 troops and 290 tons of supplies.  C-130s delivered 105-mm artillery and ammunition from Pleiku to Cheo Reo.  On 4-5 July, the C-123s extracted the troops to Pleiku and Kontum.  Immediately following the Cheo Reo action, J-3 alerted Movements Branch for a tactical emergency air movement into Dak To under similar conditions as those at Cheo Reo.  The June and July tactical emergencies at Dong Xoai, Cheo Reo, and Dak To, including resupply and extractions, required more than 600 C-123 sorties and involved the movement of more than 10,000 troops.

Clark in his office at Movements Branch during the airlift from Qui Nhon to Pleiku, July 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark collection)

In addition to tactical emergencies, the Viet Cong had in June closed Highway 19 between the coast and Pleiku which necessitated continuous air resupply into Pleiku and involved more than 200 C-123 sorties from Qui Nhon throughout the month.  In mid-July, South Vietnamese military road convoys eventually reached Pleiku from Qui Nhon following a clearing operation by fourteen South Vietnamese battalions in which C-123s and C-130s provided supporting airlift.  

Although Air Force and Army officers were capable of cooperating effectively in combat against the Viet Cong, within the joint command at MACV and within the Pacific Command, they were equally capable of fighing each other when it came to the subject of airlift doctrine. The central theme in the battle among the Air Force and Army, Pacific Command, and MACV over the command and control of airlift was peactime efficiency versus contingency effectiveness.

On 11 October 1962, MACV Directive 42 created both Movements Branch and the Southeast Asia Airlift System (SEAAS), and established the command’s airlift request procedures. The SEAAS consisted of four squadrons of C-123 Providers, totaling almost sixty aircraft of the U.S. Air Force 315th Air Commando Group.  According to Directive 42, users submitted airlift requirements to Movements Branch twenty-five days prior to the next month.  Officers in Movements Branch forecasted aircraft availability.  A Joint Airlift Allocations Board, chaired by the Movements Branch chief, met ten days later to build a tentative airlift schedule for the next month based on MACV and 315th Air Commando Group input.  The system permitted users to submit additional requests within forty-eight hours of shipment to provide necessary flexibility.  An officer representative from Movements Branch in the MACV Joint Operations Center fielded all emergency requests.  Movements Branch prioritized all airlift requests and ranged from priority one (emergency) through priority four (not urgent).  Cargo within the same priority moved in a first-in, first-out basis.

A C-123 Provider of the U.S. Air Force 315th Air Commando Group, Nha Trang, South Vietnam, June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

During Clark’s tenure as chief of Movements Branch, three developments undermined Directive 42 and provoked interservice conflict between the Army and Air Force.  First, Air Force officers within SEAAS argued for inclusion of the Army CV-2 aircraft within the intratheater airlift system, while Army officers disagreed with the Air Force over the use of the Caribou.  Second, Air Force officers felt threatened by the Army’s use of helicopters to deliver troops to the battlefield, and finally, the terrain at many of the airstrips in Vietnam seemed better suited to short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft such as the CV-2.

An Air Force C-123 and Army CV-2 share a aluminum-planked taxiway at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1965.

In 1965, the Army deployed three aviation companies of CV-2 Caribou, eighty-eight aircraft in all, to support operations in Vietnam.  Army aircraft did not operate within the Southeast Asia Airlift System and the Caribou competed with the U.S. Air Force’s C-123 Provider aircraft for similar missions.  While Movements Branch used Army airlift to move excess cargo and personnel within the Air Force system, it did not ease tensions between the two services.

The SEAAS struggled to meet MACV’s ever-increasing airlift requirements just as Movements Branch fought to make the requirements, forecasting, and allocation process work. In reality, most MACV requests arrived at Movements Branch between twenty-four and forty-eight hours before its required delivery date.  User needs, not efficient planning, dominated the airlift system.  

The daily process for Clark at Movements Branch began when one of his staff officers brought him the previous day’s consolidated movement requests.  A staff officer from the U.S. Air Force 315th Air Commando Group submitted reports that detailed aircraft status and cargo backlogs at aerial ports.  After Clark ranked movement requests against aircraft available, Clark posted the day’s movement schedule at 1600 hours.  In the event that requests exceeded airlift, which often was the case, Clark had to make the final decision.  As can be seen in the diary, Generals Westmoreland, DePuy, and Crowley assigned Clark to travel throughout South Vietnam during June to prepare for the imminent arrival of elements of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, and 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).  He could not critically scrutinize requests or screen all unjustified or exaggerated priorities.  

Increasing demands on the SEAAS also created conflict between MACV and its superior command, Pacific Command (PACOM) over the command and control of theater airlift in Vietnam.  Clark and Movements Branch became embroiled in the conflict.  The western Pacific Command airlift system was only intended to augment the SEAAS, but MACV requested so many PACOM C-130s for temporary service in Vietnam that two separate and competing airlift systems evolved:  one controlled by the Western Pacific Transportation Office under PACOM, and the other controlled by MACV.  

The western PACOM airlift system, based at Tachikawa Air Force Base, Japan, served all U.S. forces in the western Pacific, but nevertheless provided C-130s from the U.S. Air Force 315th Air Division (not to be confused with the 315th Air Commando Group, which was a subordinate command under the 2nd Air Division) to requesting units through a PACOM, not MACV request and priorities process established by the Western Transportation Officer, Clark’s counterpart at PACOM.

A C-130 Hercules of the U.S. Air Force 315th Air Division, Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

By the end of 1965, the airlift fleet in Vietnam consisted of four squadrons of C-123s that totaled almost sixty aircraft, augmented by thirty PACAF C-130s on temporary duty.  At the same time, the carefully established airlift request and priority system envisioned in MACV Directive 42 began to fragment.  Although Movements Branch, J-4, MACV still technically determined priorities, separate sub-commands within MACV---the Marine Corps at I Corps in Da Nang and the U.S. Special Forces at Nha Trang, for example----competed for limited airlift resources by developing their own processes.  The Air Force continued to argue that Army aviation should be part of the SEAAS; Army officers continued to assert they got quicker response to tactical emergencies when the Army controlled its own airlift.  As the reader will see throughout Clark’s diary entries beginning in July 1965, he began to recognize the futility of his assignment.  

-J.R. Clark, 31 January 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Diary Entry 17: Saigon, Wednesday, 30 June 1965

                                                                Wednesday, 30 June 1965

            Reckon I’ll write about where I live as can’t write about much of anything else I’ve been doing today.
Live at the Ham Nghi BOQ, so named for the main boulevard it sits on.  Overlooks the Central Market in Saigon where the Buddhist monks used to burn themselves with gasoline.  We can go out on our front porch and see the US Embassy one block to the right (which the VC try to blow up).  Just to the left is the public execution rack where the Vietnamese shoot the VC terrorists.
Have a living room which is furnished with sofa and 3 chairs, coffee table and desk.  Walls are colored ugly blue.  Bedroom which is painted the same color as living room.  Have 2 single beds with foam rubber mattresses but there are no springs for the bed.  There is a maid’s service and ironing room just off the living room.  Our bedroom is air conditioned with one window unit.  All floors are ceramic tiled.
Grady does not like it here and plans to move to another place as soon as he can.  He’s kinda nervous.  Keeps a sub-machine gun and a carbine in the living room and a pistol in the bedroom.  All loaded.  Sure hope he doesn’t have any nightmares and starts to sleepwalk!  I don’t think it’s as bad as he makes out.

The colonel from Washington who was over here “straphanging” last week turned out to be a very nice fellow.  He put in some nice words for me at the right places and left a nice note when he departed.  I was not here to see him off as had to rush to the boonies.
Don’t expect to make any more trips for a while.  Things are getting too pressing here at headquarters.  Seems like I spend most of my time in crisis conferences at all levels from my immediate subordinates up to places at the Embassy, US Operations Mission, and US Information Service.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Diary Entry 16: Saigon, Tuesday Evening, 29 June 1965

                                                                Tuesday Evening, 29 June 1965

            Just got in from work and thought I’d get some writing started before going out to supper.  In fact, just may not go out to supper as I now have some commissary supplies (peanut butter, cheese, spreads, Vienna sausage, potted meat, and juice) so might just eat here.
The breaking off of relations with France probably will help.  There are a large number of French over here and most of the big money is controlled by them.  The French do a big traffic with the North Vietnamese.  Perhaps as many as 50 French flagships call each month at North Vietnamese ports.  These same ships also call at South Vietnam ports and probably a lot of intelligence on us is taken north by the French.  Breaking diplomatic relations also kicks out the French Embassy and with it all the secret intelligence organizations.  So this may help us. [On 24 June, South Vietnam ended diplomatic relations with France, claiming the French government had aided and abetted the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong’s aggression against the South Vietnamese government.]

Things are happening so fast over here that it is not possible to cover all the interesting things I get into during a day.  So I’ll just have to write about the major things I do.  Sure wish I had nothing to do but watch things and write about them.  Could write a book in a few days.
Lieutenant Colonel Jack Lambert from Leavenworth arrived here yesterday.  Had supper with him tonight.  He told me that the colonel who came in to take over Department of Division Operations [at the Command and General Staff College] had a heart attack so [Colonel] Bill Dean took over the department.

Clark, left, and Lieutenant Colonel Jack Lambert, right, at MACV II Headquarters, Saigon, South Vietnam, 29 June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

I saw [Major] Jim Greenquist at Qui Nhon.  He looks like he did at Knoxville.  His family is in Miami, Fla., for the duration.  He’s been here in Vietnam for 6 months and is flying helicopters.
Don’t think I’ve ever had a job that was busier than this.  The days just zip by and time is my most important resource.  Just don’t have enough time.  Getting 3 new officers in my branch next week, so maybe they can take over some of the nickel and dime jobs I’ve been doing to free me for some long-range planning.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Diary Entry 15: Saigon, Monday Night, 28 June 1965

                                                                Monday Night, 28 June 1965

            Didn’t write last night because we had a terribly long day at work, and I didn’t get off until   After I got off, I made the move from the Majestic to my new BOQ and by the time that was finished, was plain pooped and just collapsed into bed.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get a day off to rest up.  Just work, work, work.  Quite a change from Leavenworth hours!
Have moved to a permanent BOQ and share an apartment with Grady Cole.  This was just a coincidence, not arrangement by either one of us. 
[Colonel Lewis] Ashley is a branch chief in J-1 (Personnel) and works in the same compound (a compound is a group of buildings surrounded by 40-foot high barbed wire fences to keep bombs out and guarded by many MPs and Vietnamese troops).  He has several other officers and some EM working for him.  Same level of job I have.  Ashley has 4 children now, oldest about 16 or 17.  I see him at breakfast at the Rex every morning.

[Major] Harry [Brockman] isn’t at Chou Doc any more.  He’s a Special Forces commander now and is at Can Tho down in the middle of the Delta region.  Haven’t seen him for 2 weeks now.  He is supposed to see me before he goes to Hong Kong on R&R.
Until moving from the Majestic, it had not cost me too much for living expenses because I just eat, sleep, and go to work.  Had to pay a fair-size hotel bill when I checked out of the Majestic and in a permanent BOQ you have to join one of the officers’ messes, pay the maid and laundry in advance, pay for sterilized water to be delivered, etc.  The Vietnamese don’t want this war to end because they are making money hand over fist.  Every little thing costs the US something---cash in advance.  But I still have about $40 left from my original amount and payday comes on Wednesday.  So I am not hurting for money.  Will send some home when I get promoted and when I get my combat pay for June (will receive at end of July).  I think I really earned my combat pay for June!
[Major] Stanley Blum is an advisor to a strategic hamlet just outside of Saigon.  During the day it isn’t a bad job.  At night it’s pretty scary.  I expect he’ll be glad when his tour is over.  Harry the Hoss is a short-timer, but he is known to be pretty reckless over here.  He has won lots of medals in the past 6 months and is considered by everyone to be the hottest combat-type around here.  But he came very close to getting it 2 weeks ago and I’ve cautioned him to be more careful.  Harry goes on every combat operation in his sector.  But you can only run your luck so far.  Two weeks ago, both pilots of a helicopter Harry was riding in were wounded on an operation.  He’s a good soldier, but I worry about his happy-go-lucky attitude.  He has orders now to go back to the Pentagon in Artillery officer assignments.
No problem on the cargo getting out of Saigon.  Finally got this job under control now.
[Grady and I] have a patio porch overlooking Ham Nghi Boulevard.  It is screened so that the VC can’t toss a bomb up on it.  Grady has a barbecue grill out on the porch and he usually cooks a steak twice a week.  Saturday nights and Sunday nights. There is logic to it.  Sunday dinner costs $2.00 at the mess, so we eat steak here for about $0.50 a piece!  From our porch we can watch the VC bomb the U.S. Embassy one block to the east and then turn around and watch the Vietnamese execute the captured VC by firing squad one block to the west.  Interesting place. 

I only go where I have to go to get my job done.  One of the big things wrong in Vietnam is that too many people are trying to find ways and means of hiding in an office behind barbed wire fencing for 12 months.  When we win here, it will be done by people who get outside the US fortresses we’ve built.  Let me give an example of how we have failed here so far:
In the Transportation Division we have 3 branches, each headed by a lieutenant colonel. (I’m the junior one. . . still a major for a few days yet):  Advisory Branch, which is supposed to advise and go with TC units on convoys.  Movements Branch, which is mine and which is mostly a management agency and which arranges for all cargo and personnel moves; and a Transportation Staff Branch which is concerned only with long-range plans.  Well, the advisors who are supposed to be with the troops in the field spend most of their time in tropical worsted uniforms hiding out in the compound.  They are such cowards that I’ve no respect for them.  In my branch, the uniform is fatigues and the rule is that we go where we have to go to insure that the job is done.  This does not mean that I am careless.  On the contrary, I find that all I learned in Korea stayed with me.  In
many ways, I’ve got the VC figured out fairly well in advance to prevent him from interfering in any way with our shipments.  To do this, I have to go see for myself so I can make better plans.  But perhaps most of my traveling is over.  So far I’ve seen a good part of our operations and need only to visit a few other places.
Basic data about my BOQ:  No US guards, but national police stationed out front and secret police inside and nearby.  Living room with sofa and chairs, bedroom with chests and closets, air-conditioned, maid’s room and bath on the other side.  The maid’s room is used for washing, ironing, and storing of cleaning equipment.  She does not stay here and I’ve never seen her so far as she arrives after we leave for work and leaves before we get home.  Grady says she will sure be here on payday even if we work late as she never misses collecting her money.  We each pay $15 a month for maid service, but considering that this covers cleaning the apartment, washing and ironing, it isn’t too expensive.
It’s hard to write, because work seems to take so much out of me.  The time here is   The only thing that keeps me pushing is that I want to make sure that a record is made of my observations over here.  When I start to write, words and ideas just flow.  Guess I should have been a war correspondent and then I could have come over here and do nothing but write about what I see.  Hard to do when you have a job that takes 12 or 14 hours of available time.
My trip last week was up north.  Spent some time at Kontum, Pleiku, and Ban Me Thout (all up in the mountain highlands close to the Laos border in north central Vietnam); spent a day and night at An Khe which is about halfway between Pleiku in the highlands and Qui Nhon on the coast.  Trip ended at Qui Nhon (also started out there).  Took pictures at Qui Nhon, but nothing in the interior.  We could not take in any personal papers, cameras, ID cards, etc. due to the nature of the trip.  Others who were with me were:  Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hackett (Infantry) whom I knew in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1951-52; Major Tom Jan (Medical Corps) who was with me in the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment in Korea; self; and following whom I’d never met before:  Major Le Seuer (Air Force), Major Paroby (Air Force), Captain Tokarz (Engineers), and Captain Strickler (Engineers).  Am keeping an outline so that I won’t forget details.  It’s important that I make a record of it.  [Clark and these officers prepared for the imminent arrival and deployment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).]
At Qui Nhon I saw Major Jim Greenquist.  Knew him at University of Tennessee.  He gave me a first-class trip by chopper inland and I’ve invited him to come down to Saigon some weekend to stay in our BOQ (most visitors who get a chance to come to Saigon for a weekend have to stay at expensive hotels like the Caravelle unless they have friends who have a good-sized place---usually costs them $20-30 US a day for a visit).  So I got some folding cots for the living room as I expect plenty of visiting traffic in the next 3-6 months.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Diary Entry 14: Saigon, Saturday Night, 26 June 1965

                                                                Saturday Night, 26 June 1965

            Just got in from Qui Nhon and thought I’d better write before I go upstairs to the Majestic Hotel dining room for something to eat.  I do not particularly like to eat anywhere but at a regular US mess, but since the bombing last night, I don’t think it is a good idea to be out on the streets tonight.  No sense taking any risks you don’t have to take.
The food probably will be all right if I’m careful of what I order.  So far I haven’t been sick in the stomach yet, but everybody says sooner or later you get a bad case of stomach pains and diarrhea.  They say it’s just in the air.
A few minutes ago I listened to the news on my radio.  They didn’t have much to say about last night’s bombing, so I don’t know the story.  All sorts of rumors about the town as usual.  I’ve heard various reports of 4 killed, 8 killed, 10 killed.  I don’t think they really know anything yet.

[Just after 8 p.m., Friday evening, 25 June 1965, Viet Cong terrorists detonated a claymore mine just outside the My Canh floating restaurant.  The VC detonated a second claymore a few seconds later, which cut down the diners and bystanders who attempted to flee down the walkway leading from the restaurant.  The attack killed forty-two men, women, and children, and wounded eighty-one.]
The place they bombed was Cheap Charlie’s [My Canh] floating restaurant not far from the Majestic.  It’s the place where Grady and Harry had their picture taken which they sent to me at Leavenworth.  I have never been there, but understand it was quite popular with Americans here.  That alone made it a good target and therefore a good place to stay away from.  Much more of this can be expected.  The US over here (and I mean all over the country where I’ve been) don’t understand what war and combat is.  They are careless, don’t take security precautions, and look like they ask for trouble. 

Later I’ll give an example from personal experience to try to illustrate the problem which must be overcome.  For some reason that I cannot explain, no one seems to have taken the time to explain to these people, especially the young ones, that in this business you get no second chances. 

If you let your guard down just a little bit, you’ll get zapped.  But if you use common sense and instinct, you can improve your chances significantly.  Seems to me most Americans get impatient, get in a hurry, or get careless.  Or else they just don’t care.  A long time ago I learned to be patient, never get in a hurry, and above all never to get careless in behavior.  While the VC could probably zap anybody they want to in Saigon due to lack of security, if they want to get me I’m going to make it hard for them to set me up.  It’ll have to be right out in the open in daylight with others present and able to take counter-action.
Getting hungry, so I’ll quit and go upstairs for something to eat.  If I hadn’t just about starved myself out in the boondocks, would just wait until tomorrow morning for breakfast.  But since Wednesday afternoon have been eating nothing but coffee and cigarettes, so for health reasons must eat something.
Just came back from dinner and it was a good one:  Shrimp salad, fried fish, bowl of rice with soy sauce, flaming shishkabob, fruit, coffee, and ice cream.  French wine was served with the main course.  Total cost:  $140 VN or about $1.00 US.  The waiter brought out chopsticks at first, but I soon gave up and asked for a fork and knife.  Just can’t manage those sticks!
Just heard over the news that combat pay ($55.00 a month) is now authorized for all persons serving in Vietnam.  I laugh a little bit about it because this month I believe I earned it.  Reckon that’s doing it the hard way!
Major [Charles] Dughi surprises me, but it is true.  His Vietnamese friend calls him up every day 2 or 3 times just like a US wife and he has moved out of his BOQ and is living in a Vietnamese apartment.  I’ve asked him to talk about this a couple of times, but he absolutely refuses to discuss it.  Reckon it’s none of my business.  Glad he doesn’t work for me, or else his career would be seriously damaged if not completely ruined.
I like to work hard and steady as it makes the time go fast.  But I’m not going to kill myself at it.  The first week here, I used to run down to Tan Son Nhut every time we had a tactical emergency.  But there are so many of those that I just send one of my other workers to see that aircraft get out.  Tonight, for example, we have an emergency at Kontum but rather than go down myself, I sent Major Eckard.  He can check the number of flights out just as well as I can.  The chief can’t work all the time.

Work hard enough anyway, and look forward to a day when I can sleep late and not have a crisis.  There are so many crises over here that if you let them get you down, you’d never get anything done.  US people seem to generate crises over here.
With regard to the Majestic Hotel, perhaps it isn’t as bad as I make it out.  Though it is French-owned and old, the management pays a tax to the VC so we don’t get zapped here.  My room is set back in a corner away from the street, so it would be hard to hit with a bomb.  Could have moved to a permanent BOQ at Ham Nghi [Street] near the US Embassy last Wednesday, but this trip came up and I had to wait until return.  Too tired to move today after I got back (besides, it was dark) and doubt that I’ll move tomorrow as I have to brief Gen[eral]s. Crowley, Stilwell, and Westmoreland on results of trip.  Well, try to move Monday.
 Very unusual coincidence in my move to permanent BOQ!  My roommate is Grady Cole!  Had lunch with him at the Rex last Wednesday and mentioned that I was going to move and found out it was to his apartment.  Grady does not look too good as he worries too much---looks strained.  Says he wants to keep moving as the BOQ bothers him.  But I just think he’s like too many others over here.  Shell-shocked and scared.  You can’t think if you’re scared. 
Don’t know whether he still drinks hard or not as I don’t see him often.  Reckon he’ll be surprised to find I’m a clear-headed Puritan nowadays.  All the VC want is a befuddled or intoxicated American.  Then he’s finished.  But compared to Korea this is a picnic.  If people would just dig and man foxholes and stay out of bars, we wouldn’t lose so many.
I am not working for Colonel [Robert W.] Duke [in the 1st Logistical Command] as planned.  The [MACV] headquarters was reorganized just before I arrived and transportation went from a branch to a big division status.  So instead of being a deputy dog in a branch, I ended up with a branch of my own.  A good break and a big job.  Perhaps I should re-introduce my branch as I’ve gotten to know the officers better by now:

Major Clark (Chief):  He’s a mean old SOB who works his people quite hard but not too hard.

Clark at Cam Ranh Bay, 22 June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

Major Beaver (USAF):  He’s a fat flyer who likes to be chairborne more than airborne.

Major Eckard (USAF):  Worries too much.  Will have to have a replacement on tap when he comes down with an ulcer.

Major Beaver, U.S. Air Force, outside Movements Branch, MACV II Headquarters, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

Captain Jones (Army):  Good man even though he is colored.  Keeps the airlift moving, but doesn’t care much for my suggestions to accompany cargo flights to inland destinations.  Understandable as he has finished 11 months here and is due to go home next month.

Major Kostner (Army):  Chief of Sealift Coordination Center.  Good man, but immature in thinking about movements.  Sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.  Forgets that I have airlift problems in addition to sealift problems.

Major Raymond Kostner, U.S. Army.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

Lieutenant Commander Schaefer (USN):  Fine officer.  Sometimes I have to pull back on the reins to slow him down.

Lieutenant Commander Al Schaefer, U.S. Navy, outside Movements Branch, MACV II Headquarters, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

Lieutenant Commander Allgood (USN):  Being a pilot, he’d rather fly than work out sealift plans.  Hopes to get back on a carrier soon.  So do I.


From The Editor: U.S. Army Airlift and Sealift in the Vietnam War, June 1965

The photographs Clark posed for at Vung Tau, Cam Ranh Bay, and Nha Trang on 22 June 1965 depicted several historic modes of U.S. Army airlift and sealift during the Vietnam War.

The airplanes on the flight line behind Clark at Vung Tau were U.S. Army fixed-wing Caribou CV-2 transport aircraft.  The Caribou represented the Army's five-year attempt to establish an aviation arm in support of combat troops; the plane also symbolized an intense five-year interservice battle between the Army and the Air Force over each service's role in tactical and logistical airlift.

When the Air Force achieved independence from the Army in 1947, its leaders emphasized strategic bombing and fighter missions; they paid minimal attention to tactical and logistical airlift, which rankled senior Army officers.  The Army aggressively intruded on the Air Force's domain in 1961 when it procured 173 CV-2 aircraft and expanded its aviation branch to include the use of helicopters.  The Army's rationale was that the CV-2 represented a specialized transport ideally suited for counterinsurgency in that the aircraft was designed for short takeoff and landing (STOL).  The Army argued that the CV-2 could fly into primitive airstrips that the Air Force's C-123 Provider and C-130 Hercules could not. 

The Army employed CV-2s in Vietnam in 1962, where its short-airstrip performance and three-ton payload established it as a effective tactical transport plane. 

The Army's use of the CV-2 caused the Air Force to retain its C-123s in its inventory.  In 1961, the Air Force prepared to phase out the C-123 fleet in favor of the C-130, and intended to either reprogram the aircraft to the reserves or mothball the fleet altogether.  When defense secretary Robert S. McNamara suggested the Air Force turn over the C-123s to the Army for training purposes prior to the CV-2 coming on-line, the Air Force brass reversed course and claimed new and pressing service requirements for the Provider. 

The Caribous' successful performance in Vietnam created a bitter interservice rivalry between the Army and the Air Force that extended back to the Pentagon in Washington.  In early 1966, the 7th Air Force (previously the 2nd Air Division) complained that the CV-2s were under centralized management of Movements Branch at MACV and were not being employed as efficiently or effectively as they could be if they were under Air Force control.  Moreover, the Air Force resented the Army's widespread use of helicopters in combat and transport roles.  In April 1966, the Air Force chief of staff, General John P. McConnell, demanded of Army chief of staff General Harold K. Johnson that the Army turn over its CV-2 fleet to the Air Force; in return, the Air Force would not contest the Army's aviation branch so long as it was confined to rotary-wing aircraft.  In the interest of preserving service unity, Johnson traded the Caribou for an end to all restrictions on helicopters and turned the CV-2s over to the Air Force.

This photo depicts Clark at Cam Ranh Bay in front of a LARC-V (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo), an amphibious vehicle the Army used extensively in Vietnam to ferry supplies from ship to shore.  Its load capacity was five tons, which represented the V or 5 designation after its name. 

In 1956, Major General Paul Yount, the Army Chief of Transportation, directed the U.S. Army Transportation Research Command to design a boat with the capability to drive on land.  The command produced a prototype in 1959 and the first LARC was manufactured in 1963.

The LARC was a single-propellered, four-wheeled craft powered by diesel fuel, and possessed a cargo capacity of 20,000 pounds and twenty soldiers.  It had a range of 200 nautical miles on land and forty nautical miles at sea.  It had a top speed of twenty-two miles an hour on land, and eight-and-a-half knots at sea.  The LARC was made of aluminum, was thirty-five feet long, ten feet wide, and approximately ten feet tall.  Following the Vietnam War, the Army phased out the LARC and reassigned the craft to reserve transportation companies.

The LARC-V, 1965.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

In this photo, taken on 22 June 1965 off the coast at Cam Ranh Bay, Colonel Emmett Scott, U.S. Army Transportation Corps, and Clark are on the bridge of a U.S. Army LCM-8 (Landing Craft, Mechanized, Mark 8), or "Mike Boat," the nickname given to it by its crewmembers.  The LCM-8 was a riverboat/landing craft and the Army utilized the Mike Boats extensively throughout the Vietnam War for over-the-shore landings of cargo and personnel.  The Army boats had a crew of six:  two coxswains, two seamen, and two enginemen.  The LCM-8 was diesel-powered and could carry up to sixty short tons of cargo.  It had a range of ninety nautical miles and a top speed of nine knots at full load.

The LCM-8.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

Clark flew from Vung Tau to Cam Ranh Bay in a helicopter that came to symbolize U.S. involvement in Vietnam:  the Bell UH-1 Iroquois.  The Army commissioned Bell Aircraft in 1952 to produce a medical evacuation and general utility helicopter, and ordered the UH-1 into production in 1960.  The Army first used UH-1s in Vietnam in a medical evacuation role in 1962.

Internal seating was made up of two pilot seats and additional seating for up to 13 passengers or crew in the cabin. The maximum seating arrangement consisted of a four-man bench seat facing rearwards behind the pilot seats, and faced a five-man bench seat in front of the transmission structure, with two, two-man bench seats facing outwards from the transmission structure on either side of the aircraft. All passenger seats were constructed of aluminium tube frames with canvas material seats, and were quickly removable and reconfigurable. The cabin could also be configured with up to six stretchers, an internal rescue hoist, auxiliary fuel tanks, spotlights, or many other mission kits. Access to the cabin was via two aft-sliding doors and two small, forward-hinged panels. The doors and hinged panels could be removed for flight or the doors could be pinned open. Pilot access was via individual hinged doors.

In Vietnam, the Army used UH-1s in a variety of roles, from troop transport to medical evacuation, to close air support of combat units, and as gunships supporting combat missions.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Diary Entry 13: Saigon, Tuesday, 22 June 1965


                                                                Saigon, Tuesday, 22 June 1965

Clark standing on the flight line at Vung Tau, 22 June 1965.  The planes in the background are U.S. Army CV-2 Caribou fixed-wing transport planes belonging to the 61st Aviation Company. (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

  Left Tan Son Nhut airfield this morning at and went first to Vung Tau.  On arrival was met by Major Swayne B. Franklin (TC) who graduated from Leavenworth last June.  Good friend.  He is the executive officer of a TC aviation battalion at Vung Tau.  [Franklin was the executive officer of the 82d Aviation Battalion.]  We talked over old acquaintances for a while and then went to the beach where I met Lieutenant Colonel [Bernard] Dolan, the CO of the TC Composite terminal service battalion (He was S-3 of the 48th[ [Transportation] Group when I was at Ft. Eustis).  [At the time of the diary entry, LTC Dolan was the CO of the 4th Transportation Terminal Service Battalion based in Vung Tau.  Clark referred to Dolan being the S-3 (Operations) officer with the 48th Transportation Group when Clark served as CO of the 63rd Transportation Company (Light Truck, 2.5-ton and 5-ton), a subordinate unit of the 48th Group, at Fort Eustis from 1960-1961.]

Visited the beach, looked over the LARC Vs and terminal service equipment, and in general had a pleasant reunion with TC folks.  Had some pictures taken with Franklin and Dolan.  The city of Vung Tau is interesting.  I can get cargo into Vung Tau only by civilian contract trucks (no military trucks permitted by the VC) and by highway I can ship only food, gasoline, or PX supplies.  Everything else must go by air.  The VC collect a “tax” on all shipments by the civilian cargo.  I may send out 500 cases of food, but only 350 arrive in Vung Tau.  150 cases are taken from the trucks en route by the VC as a tax, I may send out 6,000 gallons of gas from Saigon, but the civilian tanker arrives with only 5,000 gallons at Vung Tau. NO MILITARY convoys are permitted (they are ambushed) and under NO conditions can we ship ammunition or arms by civilian OR military trucks.  All this goes by air.  The VC won’t tolerate any war items on the highways now.  Rations and gas are OK, but everything else is forbidden.  Therefore, I don’t try to ship forbidden cargo by road.  You lose too many people if you try.
Clark, left, and Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Dolan, commanding officer of the 4th Transportation Terminal Service Battalion, right, Vung Tau, South Vietnam, 22 June 1965.  Note the 1st Logistical Command patch on Dolan's left sleeve. (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

Major Swayne B. Franklin, left, the executive officer of the 82d Aviation Battalion, and Clark, right, Vung Tau, South Vietnam, 22 June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

          From Vung Tau I flew to Nha Trang and there met Lieutenant Colonel John Goodrich (my class at Leavenworth) and Lieutenant Colonel Leo Martineau (the next class at Leavenworth).  Goodrich commands an aviation battalion at Nha Trang while Martineau commands a very large combat service support unit there.  [Goodrich was the CO of the 14th Aviation Battalion (Combat), and Martineau commanded the 63d Maintenance Battalion (Direct Support).] Both were very nice to me while I was there.  Goodrich is leaving soon to go back to Washington, while Martineau just arrived a month ago.  Nha Trang is a very pretty beach resort, and I’d like to spend a weekend there sometime.

Lieutenant Colonel Leo Martineau, left, commander of the 63d Maintenance Battalion, and Clark, right, Nha Trang, South Vietnam, 22 June 1965.  (Photo courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. collection)

         After looking over my aerial port operations at Nha Trang and making some important decisions regarding theater airlift, I flew up to Cam Ranh Bay to look over sealift operations.  Went up by armed helicopter as that is the only way to get in right now.  Thrilling experience but no action.  Have some big problems at Cam Ranh Bay.  Can’t discuss them in entirety, but a leadership problem exists and it looks like we may have to relieve a couple of company commanders to get some attention.  Things are pretty bad out there.  Little leadership, no discipline, and no initiative.  Will go back next month and if there is no improvement, there may be some damaged careers.  The situation can’t be permitted to exist.  We stand to lose a lot if security isn’t tightened up.  Though Cam Ranh Bay is in the middle of VC-infested territory, the people don’t even carry their weapons with them.  I kept mine armed and cocked all the time there.  Went back to Nha Trang by armed helicopter and returned to Saigon at 9 p.m. tonight.  [The companies Clark referred to were the 123d Transportation Company (Terminal Service), the 155th Transportation Company (Terminal Service), the 344th Transportation Company (Light Amphibious-LARC), and the 347th Transportation Company (Light Amphibious-LARC).  The units had recently deployed from Fort Eustis and Fort Story, Virginia in late May and early June.]
            Back to this “very secure” Majestic Hotel and about ready to fall out.  Can’t go to Pleiku, Kontum, or Qui Nhon tomorrow as had planned due to urgent matters.  Guess I’ll just spend a day at the desk.
           Jack Dibbert, classmate at Leavenworth, got zapped last week at Pleiku.  Very careless on a reconnaissance; no weapons, no security.  [Clark referred to Lieutenant Colonel Bernard W. Dibbert, who was a MACV advisor to South Vietnamese combat units operating in and around Pleiku.  Dibbert was killed on 1 June 1965 by Viet Cong small arms fire.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Frequently Mentioned Persons: Lieutenant Colonel Lee E. Surut, U.S. Army

Lieutenant Colonel Lee E. Surut, U.S. Army.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

One of Clark's closest friends and most frequently mentioned persons in his diary was Lieutenant Colonel Lee E. Surut.  They were fellow classmates in the CGSC class of 1962, and both men served as faculty members at Leavenworth in the Department of Command from 1962 to 1965.  A native New Yorker and member of the USMA class of 1948, Surut was, like Clark, a Korean war veteran and airborne officer.  Surut was also one of the most highly regarded officers in Vietnam in June 1965.  Surut was the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 319th Artillery (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade.  Clark arranged the movement of Surut's battalion from Bien Hoa to the battlefield at Dong Xoai.  The following excerpt is from Field Artillery, 1954-1973, by Major General David Ewing Ott, published by the Department of the Army in 1975.  The excerpt can be found in Chapter IV, pages 81-85:

At 0530 on 5 May 1965, the first of 150 sorties of C-130 aircraft loaded with men and equipment of the 173d Airborne Brigade and its support elements landed at Bien Hoa Air Base in Saigon. Battalion-size elements of the U.S. Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, had been operating around Da Nang in the northern portion of South Vietnam since March, but the arrival of the 173d, consisting of two airborne infantry battalions, marked the first commitment of a U.S. Army ground combat unit in Vietnam. The brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson, formed a defensive perimeter around the air base. In direct support of the brigade was the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery (Airborne), a two firing-battery 105-mm. battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lee E. Surut.

Counterinsurgency operations dictated new tactics and techniques, and, as they affected maneuver units, so they affected their supporting artillery. Although the brigade had undergone rigorous training in Okinawa before its departure for Vietnam, the "first unit in" could not be totally prepared. Nevertheless, the airborne troopers of the 173d performed admirably. No sooner had the brigade unloaded its gear than it began to conduct operations around Bien Hoa, primarily search and destroy operations and patrol actions. The men of the 319th had a "jump" of two months on fellow artillerymen, which enabled them to compile an impressive list of firsts. The first field artillery round fired by a U.S. Army unit in the Republic of Vietnam came from the base piece of Battery C, 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, during a registration mission. With that round, the U.S. field artillery role in the Vietnam war began.

On 31 May 1965 the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, as part of Task Force SURUT, participated in the largest air assault conducted in Vietnam to that date. The task force, consisting of the 319th reinforced by a cavalry troop, an engineer platoon, and a composite platoon made up of volunteers from the support battalion, secured a landing zone and guided in CH-37 Mohave helicopters carrying the howitzers. Up to this point in the war, the Mohaves had been doing yeoman duty as all-purpose aircraft. So smoothly and efficiently did this initial move go that three hours later these same howitzers mounted preparation fires on another landing zone for Task Force DEXTER, a reinforced infantry element of the 173d Brigade. This was the first such operation ever conducted in actual combat by a U.S. Army unit-one that had been in Vietnam less than thirty days.

The 173d soon had an opportunity to participate as the reserve force in an offensive operation. In June a Viet Cong regiment launched an attack on Dong Xoai, a district town ninety miles north of Saigon. With the press corps closely following the events, the 173d moved to a forward airfield in case relief forces were needed. Although South Vietnamese troops ultimately relieved Dong Xoai, the Redlegs of the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, became the first U.S. Army unit in Vietnam to engage in an offensive operation by providing fire support for the South Vietnamese troops relieving Dong Xoai.

After the Dong Xoai support operations, the 3d Battalion returned to Bien Hoa to ready for a history-making operation that commenced on Sunday, 27 June. Fifty kilometers north of Bien Hoa lies the southern edge of a huge tangle of double-canopy forest and thick undergrowth. Called War Zone D, it had long been a guerrilla haven, unpenetrated even by the French in their many years of fighting. In a massive, businesslike operation, five maneuver battalions penetrated deep into the area. The 3d Battalion (Airborne), 319th Artillery, provided coordinated fire support for the 1st and 2d Battalions (Airborne), 503d Infantry, of the 173d Airborne Brigade and the 3d and 4th Battalions of the South Vietnamese Army 2d Airborne Brigade. The Royal Australian Regiment joined the operation after the second day. The size of the assaulting force determined the significance of the operation for the artillery. It necessitated the close coordination of large volumes of artillery fires augmented by close air support and armed helicopters.

Before the operation began, the brigade commander directed that artillerymen "exercise the complete system." Exercise it they did. One hundred forty-four aircraft providing support for the operation assisted in the displacement of five infantry battalions, a field artillery battalion, a support battalion, and a composite battalion of cavalry, armor, and engineers. Throughout the entire operation, no serious incidents or major breakdowns in the system occurred. The artillery provided ten forward observers (including the battalion property book officer), three liaison officers (including the battalion communications officer), and two aerial observers in addition to those forward observers and liaison officers normally provided. Three communication nets were used and all fires were cleared through the brigade fire support coordination center. The 319th fired nearly 5,000 rounds of 105-mm. ammunition during the four-day period while maintaining contact and effecting coordination with the supporting Vietnamese and Australian artillery units.

Known only as OPORD 17-65, the designation of the original operation order, this venture into War Zone D yielded satisfying results. By conservative estimates, the enemy suffered 75 casualties and lost several trucks and nearly 250 tons of food and supplies. In an honest appraisal of the field artillery role shortly after the conclusion of the operation, Colonel Surut admitted having discovered some "bugs" in the fire support system:
Fire support coordination initially slowed some missions, but by D+2 this bottleneck was overcome. Safety checks slowed the firing somewhat; however the checks are necessary for close support, particularly with three major maneuver elements abreast. 

General Williamson, the brigade commander, in a letter to the commandant of the Field Artillery School, discussed the initial operations of the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery:
The artillery over here is doing a fabulous job. My Artillery Battalion Commander is having experiences that far exceed what most others have had. . . I would suggest that the Artillery make every effort to get the most promising young officers out here for some very worthwhile experiences.
The 173d Airborne Brigade again tested its fire support system in War Zone D on 6 July. Along with a battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment and units of the 43d Regiment of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the brigade conducted four multiple air assaults supported by helicopter sorties just north of the Dong Nai River. The operation resulted in 56 enemy killed, 28 captured, 100 tons of rice seized, and several tons of documents destroyed.

For the field artillerymen, this second venture into War Zone D provided an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the previous operation. Clearance and safety checks now were routine and the liaison and coordination efforts functioned smoothly. General Williamson, in complimenting the coordination efforts of all involved, said:
. . . as I looked at it from above, it was a sight to see. We were withdrawing from the center Landing Zone while some friendly troops were still in the western Landing Zone. We had a helicopter strike going in a circle around the center Landing Zone. The machinegun and rocket firing helicopters kept making their circle smaller and smaller as we withdrew our landing zone security. Just to the west side we had another helicopter strike running north to south. We also had something else that was just a little hairy but it worked without any question. The artillery was firing high angle fire to screen the north side of the landing zone. The personnel lift helicopters were coming from the east, going under the artillery fire, sitting down on the LZ to pick up troops and leaving by way of the southwest. In addition to that, we had an airstrike going to the northeast. All of these activities were going on at the same time. We could not have done that a few weeks ago. The only reason we can do it now is that (we know) where our troops are and the fire support coordination center can coordinate fire and other activities.
The 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, maintained continuous "feedback" to the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile School (later the Field Artillery School) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Correspondence included letters, memorandums, and copies of debriefings and after-action reports which contained numerous insights on the employment of artillery. At the school the correspondence was thoroughly studied and discussed with a view toward including any new and valuable information in classroom instruction. The following are only a few of the important insights and tips received from the 3d Battalion:
1. Dense foliage in Vietnam made it particularly difficult to identify friendly troop dispositions and enemy targets to close air support aircraft. One system adopted to help correct this shortcoming was to employ white phosphorous projectiles as marking rounds.
2. Commanders must make every effort to preclude the check firing of one fire support system to accommodate another. General Williamson's description of actions in War Zone D was evidence that the 173d Airborne Brigade was getting good results with the continuous and concurrent employment of various fire support systems.
3. Responsive shelling report (SHELREP) personnel were necessary to establish an effective countermortar and counterbattery program. To this end, correspondence from the 173d Airborne Brigade recommended the use of artillery survey personnel in crater and shelling report teams.
4. Whenever possible clearances of large zones should be obtained in advance of an operation. This foresight in operational planning would result in more responsive on-call supporting fires.