Tactical Airlift ( Part 2 of 2)

Tactical Airlift ( Part 2 of 2)

by Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force


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Tactical airlift matured in Vietnam. American airlift personnel worked with the French prior to their pull-out in the mid-1950s, and started assistingSouth Vietnamese in the years just prior to the massive American involvement. Tactics were developed, and then changed constantly in aneffort to adapt to current military situations. Sometimes the old procedures did not apply. For example, the dropping of paratroops, long a staple of tactical airlift, was only marginally successful and in 1966 was largely abandoned in favor of helicopter-borne assault forces. But the early involvement in airborne assault did provide experience in supporting a seemingly endless variety of missions and helped shape the future of the airlift mission.Few tactical airlift missions in Vietnam could be called routine; weather, terrain, enemy action, and the usual snafus saw to that. Tactical airlift forces lost 122 aircraft and 229 crewmembers in Vietnam, many while attempting to deliver critical cargo to friendly units surrounded or besieged by enemy forces. Some crewmembers earned prestigious decorations, including the Medal of Honor, for their performance in the face of enemy fire; others died lonely deaths from causes that will probably go forever unrecorded. But as this book consistently documents, the cargo virtually always got through when it was within the realm of possibility.A positive theme throughout the war was the cooperation between tactical airlift and its primary user, the U.S. Army. Army personnel grumbled about late deliveries and the occasionally inaccurate airdrop of supplies, but with the exception of the siege of An Loc in 1972 the complaints were surprisingly minor. In the case of An Loc, Army personnel were sharply critical of the Air Force for the length of time it took todevise successful airdrop methods in the face of an unprecedented antiaircraft threat. Yet even this criticism became muted when new and successful tactics were introduced. The key to the successful Army-Air Force relationship was the willingness at all levels of command in both services to exchange information, to work together, and to appreciate the other service's problems. The lessons learned in Vietnam ought to have a major impact at the inter-service management level in any future conflict.For those with a taste for the unusual there is a chapter on unorthodox operations which documents for the first time the use of tactical airlift to support secret missions throughout Southeast Asia; included was the novel use of A-1 fighter-bombers to drop supplies in drogue-retarded napalm tanks, while other A-ls bombed the surrounding jungle to disguise the true nature of the mission. Also revealed are details on the use of C-130s as bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, and the insertion and extraction of special forces sent to harass North Vietnamese operations on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.Finally, the reader will be challenged to examine and to assimilate a wealth of detail, and to assemble a cogent picture of tactical airlift across a broad operational spectrum. One thing emerges with clarity from this book: tactical airlift in Vietnam triumphed over enormous obstacles. Itwill forever be to the credit of tactical airlift forces that few friendly units were overrun because tactical airlift failed to deliver the material whenvictory or defeat hinged on supply from the air.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781508698784
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 03/04/2015
Pages: 438
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.89(d)

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