Command and Control of Arc Light Strike at Chupong-Iadrang

G3 Journal/IFFV recorded

- 11/14/65 18:50H: 1st Air Cav Div (Lt Col Buham) Gen Kinnard discussed with Gen Larsen the possibility of having a B-52 strike in the Long Reach area “X” Gen Larsen was in favor of this.

Who, General Kinnard or General Larsen, initiated the idea of “having a B-52 strike in the Long Reach area “X”?

At first, one might think it was General Kinnard who raised the idea first and General Larsen concurred.

But in reality, General Larsen was with tact and subtlety breaking the news of the preplanned use of B-52 strike by J3-MACV in coordination with II Corps, 1st Air Cav CP Forward (General Knowles) and IFFV without General Kinnard’s knowledge.

As a matter of fact, the preplanning B-52 strike started as early as November 4. Continuation of quote:

The following info is furnished. On 4 Nov Enemy Bn confirmed vic YA8205, assumed to be moving south. Know secret base “Chupony” vic YA 9000. On 6 Nov had secondary explosion vic YA 8703 as result of Air strike. 12.7mm AA fire received from these guns vic YA 8803. On 14 Nov from line YA 9399 est 1 VC regt ID elem of 2 Bn attaching to W in determined effort using human wave tactics. This confirms Cav to believe they are defending something big – something Cav should hit – such as supply base a hold up forces. VC cap in this area were wearing steel helmets-POW have ID their unit as 66th Regt 304th Div.

Clearly, General Larsen "furnishes" the information obtained since Nov 4 to General Kinnard about various positions of the enemy units that became targetable to B-52 strike (with 4-digit coordinates). Not the other way around.

Just like after being stunned momentarily by the troop insertion into LZ X-Ray, General Kinnard regained his poise and said: “Okey, it looks great. Let me know what you need”, after momentarily stunned by the suggestion of using B-52 strikes, he might have regained his poise and said to General Larsen: “Okey, it looks great. Let me know what you need”. He then proceeded to have his 1st Cav men provide the targets:

- 11/14/ 65 at 21:00H: 1st Air Cav (Capt Parham) Coord for B-52 strike in Code – YA 870000, YA 830000, YA 830070, YA 870070.

Wasn't it too hasty? The Time Over Target was

- 11/15/65 at 06:00H: MACV Capt McCabe – Ref Arclight tgt, TOT is 151600H.

The B-52 folks needed a 72 hour notification. 151600H-142100H=20 hrs were barely sufficient!

Everybody got an electric jolt, from General Larsen through General Knowles to General DePuy who were in the Arclite pre-planning coordination team in 1st Air Cav CPF and J3-MACV respectively. Instead of saying: “Good idea. What is your plan?” And General Larsen just had to break in the news of the pre-planned arclite already set at: “YA 8607, YA 9007, YA 9000, YA 8600” for Nov 15 at 16:00H. Now they had to deal with General Kinnard’s I-am-in-charge attitude. General DePuy tried to throw at General Kinnard a couple of hurdles: he needed to get pre-approval from II Corps Commanding General and would the ground troops be able to vacate the restricted areas on time? When all those attempts failed, he just made known his preference for alternate targets.

- 11/15/65 at 10:30H: MAVC J3 (Gen DePuy) Gen DePuy called Col Barrow and asked if Arc Light had been cleared with CG II Corps. Col Barrow replied yes, CG II Corps has approved Arc Light. Target area approved by Col Barrow and Col McCord. Also Gen DePuy wanted to know if the elem of 1st Cav had received the 151600H restriction on not going west of YA grid line. Col Barrow informed Gen De Puy that the 1st Cav had acknowledged receipt of the restriction and would comply. Gen DePuy personally changed target configuration.

- 11:45H: To: 1st Cav (Capt Coller) 1st Cav inquired on whether 1st Cav has any objections on new target area as changed by J-2 MACV. Ref: Secret Message AVCGT 1511651XF DT 6417052Z. 1st Cav stated they are quite satisfied particularly with the reaction time.

General DePuy might have puffed out a huge sigh of relief! Because, not only he did not suspect anything, General Kinnard even offered to have his 1/9 Cav Squadron go into the airstrike area for body damage assessment in the afternoon.

- 11/15/65 at 18:15H: FFV Adv (Maj Boyle) Passed fm 1 Cav (Gen Kinnard): Elements of 1/9 Cav Sqdn went into the airstrike (arclite) target area this afternoon.

- 18:55H: 1st Cav (Lt Temple) Arc light bombing strike 1602H-1632H, area YA 8607, 9007, 8600, 9000; all aircraft on target except one whose load dropped in general area, YA 8015, 8215, 8212, 8412, results being investigated.

General DePuy gave a pat on the shoulder to General Kinnard for his role in the arclite strike:

- Gen DePuy stated that this is the fastest a strike of this nature had ever been laid-on.

Just 20 hrs instead of 72 hrs!

Do you think, after getting a pat on the shoulder, General Kinnard relented? Au contraire, he gave everybody another jolt by making a request for a second arclite strike! That request turned upside down the entire pre-planned arclite strike schedule on Nov 16 and 17, with a strike right on LZ X-Ray on Nov 17. And yet, when pressed, he said he had no ready plan; and Major Turner, who acted as liaison officer, were tired of going back and forth without a clear and definite answer from your 6 and my 6.

- 11/15/65 at 20:40H: 1st Air Cav (Capt Parham) Request for arclight NLT 17 Nov, preferred 16 Nov. Primary YA 830050, YA 850050, YA 843000; Alternate: YV 890980, YV 910980, YV 890950, YV 910950. In approx. 2 hrs a FLASH TWX will follow request.

11/16/65 at 07:15H: To: 1st Air Cav (Capt Brady) Question: If second B-52 strike approved does Cav plan to exploit? – 0715 Answer from Capt Brady. – yes if not overly committed and if sufficient day light left.

- 08:30H: 1st Cav (Maj Anderson) 1. What are plans for Exploitation of yesterday’s strike? 2. Does 1st Cav plan to commit another Bn. For a total of 5 in Plei Me area? If so we need to know ASAP. 3. If primary tgt for today is approved what are plans for exploitation? Approval of plan is pending on above answers.

- 09:15H: 1st Cav (Maj Anderson) Ref: exploitation of Arclight Tgt. Commander on the ground had plans to send in 1st Cav however at present all units are engaged. When En vic Points X Ray and Lime are defeated. 1/9 will make recon of area. If a stronger force is needed another unit will reinforce. No results of the first light recon. No results.

- 11:35H: 1st Cav Maj Turner – (Encoded) – Present plan extract 1/7 and B/2/7 today, then pull back 2000 meters to defensive position. After ARC tomorrow will follow plan TURNER gave you last night.

The arclite coordination team scrambled in trying to accommodate General Kinnard’s whim. They did not expect that he flatly refused to budge his troops to a 3000m safety distance at first. It took General Larsen (my 6) to meet him (your 6) right on LZ X-Ray to have the problem solved.

- 11/16/65 at 12:35H: FFV TOC Maj Murray to 3d Bde Adv 1st Cav – Ref your last msg. 3000 meter withdrawal. My 6 called your 6 who said no such plans, plans to remain and also to go into yesterday’s strike area. If the situation has changed and withdrawal necessary suggest you contact your 6 as “He is on the spot” notify this HQ ASAP of decision.

- 12:53H: MACV Maj Kirky – Kirby – I have just talked to the big 6 (Gen Westmoreland). He wanted to know if everything was ok with the Cav, did they have enough air and are troops ok. Ans: To the best of our knowledge and believe yes. Should anything occur you will be notified.

- 12:57H: 1st Cav Maj Turner – The last info (3000 meter w/d) was correct it is a long range plan. We have so much on the ground, that it will take a little time but they plan to move up on high ground to the east (from the bottom of the saucer to the eastern rim) but, whatever our 6 said we will do. I have not talked to 6 yet, perhaps he is unaware of these plans. The Bde also plans to send an element to MACON. Maybe I should not pass any more info to you. I am in the way here and tie up commo. But these are the plans as of now, will let you know outcome.

- 14:00H: Fm G3 TOC SP Howell to 1st Cav Capt Cook – (Encoded) Ref MAC msg – Pull back 3000 meters. General Larsen spoke to Gen Kinnard. Kinnard said no plans to pull back. Elements are going to investigate arclite area bombed yesterday. Suggest you touch base with Kinnard for verification of plans. Notify this HQ ASAP of plans.

- 15:35H: MACV Maj Oneil – What is the status of arclight #1745 Sphinx 160325Z. Ans: Currently being staffed at MACJ 237. II Corps CG concurs with msg number 1745.

- 15:35H: 1st Cav Maj Custer – Request fm Gen Kinnard Status of Arclite requests? One in processing at MACV. CG has approved. Most recent (161520) being processed in this HQ. Gen Kinnard request the latest be afforded highest priority although previous request stand. Hunter is with Kinnard and concurs on target and priority.- 16:25H: Fm TOC to MACV – Arclight request YV 932985, YV 936996, YA 898005, YA 898019. TOT 171300, Not later than 171700.

- 18:50H: II Corp (Capt McConnell) CG II Corps does concur with Arclite.

- 20:25H: G-3 1st Air Cav (Capt Parham) Ref Arc Light MACV advises 3 KM minimum separation target area and frdy troops. Request info this HQ ASAP if 3KM separation can be guaranteed and minimum lead time necessary to provide separation. Fr TOC Lt Bol Benton.

- 20:40H: 1st Air Cav (Capt Parham) CO 3d Bde 1st Cav can meet 3KM separation necessary Arc light and frdy troops by time specified in Msg.

- 22:45H: 1st Air Cav (Capt Parham) Call to say that B-52 Targets Number 34, 35, 36 are OK and Troops will meet 3km safety limits -1st Arc Cav will notify this HQ Units move not safety limit.

- 23:10H: II Corps (Maj Sanabria) Maj Sanabria call to pass concurrence of CG ARVN II Corps on B-52 targets 34, 35, and 36 for 17 Nov.

The G3 Journal/IFFV reveals the following points:

- General Kinnard was not aware of the pre-planned arctlite strike on Nov 16. He said he preferred to have it on Nov 16 rather than on Nov 17.

- General Kinnard was oblivious to the 72 hour notification when he suggested the strike for Nov 16 on Nov 15.

- When he was advised that the Nov 17 arclite strike would be at LZ X-Ray itself, General Kinnard at first refused to budge his two battalions on the ground to a 3,000 meter safety distance. He finally relented to the relief of everybody.

General Kinnard through his ignorance and arrogance almost jeopardized the Arclite strike operational concept meticulously designed by II Corps Command.

He naively thought he could use B-52 strategic weapons as tactical weapons.

G3 Journal/IFFV left no doubts who was in command and control of B-52 airstrike in Long Reach operation.

- 11/15/65 at 10:30H: MAVC J3 (Gen DePuy) Gen DePuy called Col Barrow and asked if Arc Light had been cleared with CG II Corps. Col Barrow replied yes, CG II Corps has approved Arc Light. Also Gen DePuy wanted to know if the elem of 1st Cav had received the 151600H restriction on not going west of YA grid line. Col Barrow informed Gen De Puy that the 1st Cav had acknowledged receipt of the restriction and would comply. Gen DePuy personally changed target configuration. Gen DePuy stated that this is the fastest a strike of this nature had ever been laid-on.

- 19:00H: 1st Cav (L/C Buchan) Target completely covered; best coverage he had seen; one rack of bombs out of target area vic YA 820122-808142, cords not accurate. Between 1700-1730 had Mohawk photo coverage and aerial recon, smoke too thick to observe target area; 1st light 16 Nov will have recon in area. Cav plans to request another strike, will call info to FFV by 2000. Not an immediate, II Corps will make similar request for same area. Mohawk photo now in lab.

11/16/65 at 15:35H: MACV Maj Oneil – What is the status of arclight #1745 Sphinx 160325Z. Ans: Currently being staffed at MACJ 237. II Corps C concurs with msg number 1745.

- 18:50H: II Corp (Capt McConnell) CG II Corps does concur with Arclite.

- 23:10H: II Corps (Maj Sanabria) Maj Sanabria call to pass concurrence of CG ARVN II Corps on B-52 targets 34, 35, and 36 for 17 Nov.

II Corps Command continued to direct B-52 strikes well into Than Phong 7 operation.

- 11/21/65 at 22:00H: II Corps Capt Neary and Capt Martin - (Encoded) Request time of Abn Bde atk on obj vic YA 810055. Is Abn Bde aware of Arc Lite #4 at 221210H.

- 22:50H: II Corps Capt Neary - Ref encoded msg (log item #60). This request for info is for confirmation that subject (arc lite) is well coordinated. It also pertains to II Corps sec msg, cite number 174, which affects some subj (Arlite msg, gives southern boundary of area of opns which falls within Arc lite tgt. No times are included for movement south). Confirmation of time of movement is required as well as confirmation that subj of encoded msg (Arc lite) is coordinated.

11/22/65 at 01:00H: II Corps Capt Neary - Ref inquiry made by Maj Amey: The Abn Bde will not move south toward their objective area in the south until after Arc light. Actual time is unk, but will be coordinated with Arc light.

- 14:50H: G3 Air (Capt Green) Arc Light strikes were not on time. No results as yet.

That is understandable once we know only II Corps Command - not MACV Command, not IFFV Command, not 1st Air Cav Command, and not 1st Air Cav Forward Command - had at all times a perfect and total situation of the enemy due to its “special agents”.

Nguyen Van Tin
04 July 2010

Documents

- Primary

- Books, Articles

* Pleiku, the Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam, J.D. Coleman, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988.

* We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, Random House, New York, 1992.

* "First Strike at River Drang", Military History, Oct 1984, pp 44-52, Per. Interview with H.W.O Kinnard, 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General, Cochran, Alexander S.

* The Siege of Pleime, Project CHECO Report, 24 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.

* Silver Bayonet, Project CHECO Report, 26 February 1966, HQ PACAF, Tactical Evaluation Center.

- Viet Cong

generalhieu.com