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.
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)|