Thursday, January 27, 2011

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.

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