Elijah Blustain C/3c, Detachment 370

The Importance of Air Mobility in the Vietnam War It is an uncontested fact that air mobility in the United States truly took flight during Cold War with the Berlin Airlift. In this operation, the United States Air Force and Britain¶s Royal Air Force delivered over two million tons of supplies, including food and coal, to the citizens of West Berlin over the course of almost a full year. However if the Berlin Airlift is said to be the birth of air mobility in the United States, then it is during the Vietnam War that it was given its baptism by fire. United States involvement in the Vietnam War truly escalated in the early 1960s and it was on 11 December 1961 that the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Card brought the 57th Transportation Company and the 8th Transportation Company into Saigon. What this entailed was eighty-two Piasecki H-21 helicopters and four hundred men from the U.S. Army (Tolson 12). These helicopters, designated ³Shawnee,´ could hold a capacity of about twenty troops. Eighty-two of these then had a capacity of over sixteen hundred. These helicopters first saw action only twelve days later when over a thousand South Vietnamese paratroopers were flown into a Viet Cong stronghold only a few miles from Saigon. The Viet Cong were defeated and an underground transmitter was captured (Tolson 12). Suffice it to say that this was a successful and groundbreaking victory for the United States and air mobility as a concept. With such an auspicious first operation, airlifting and mobility became a much more important factor in the fight against the spread of communism in Vietnam. Even more so when considering the geography of Vietnam. The land is highly uneven and densely forested; this all

However. The 1st Cavalry Air Division¶s air assault during Operation Pegasus came through the trial and errors tactics that were first used back by the Piasecki H-21 helicopters and perfected throughout the duration of the war. Operation Pershing was launched which required the 1st Air Division to deploy its troops into various parts of the jungle on a search and destroy mission (³1st Cavalry Division History´). It was on 1 July 1965 that the 11th Air Assault Division and the 2nd Infantry Division activated as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). By far its longest operation. The 1st Cavalry Air Division¶s job was to take quick jumps from area to area in order to cover their advance. The 1st Cavalry Air Division was the culmination of the ideals of what air mobility truly means in a war environment. Operation Pershing truly showed the capabilities and importance of air mobility by quickly transporting soldiers in and out of combat zones and dependably resupplying them. commonly referred to as the 1st Cavalry Air Division (Tolson 62).adds up to difficulty traversing the terrain. Its first major operation in Vietnam was during the Pleiku Campaign with Operation Silver Bayonet in which the 1st Cavalry Air Division headed thirty-five days of continuous airmobile operations. in the summer of 1967 the true test of the power of United States air mobility came when a Marine base was isolated from the main forces. The basic premise was that there would be two Marine battalions fighting their way over to join the isolated forces at South Vietnamese city of Khe Sanh. but also to spare soldiers from the effort of climbing hill after hill and navigating through dense jungle. helicopters transported troops and supplies in a role that could otherwise have gone unfulfilled. But with the introduction of lightweight helicopters as tools to quickly transport troops. Operation Pegasus was launched in the first of April 1968. in 1967. The Air Division assaulted into an old French fort south of . Later. it became possible to not only move units from place to place. Throughout the war.

and Operation Attleboro which was an air mobile search and destroy mission conducted by the 196th Light Infantry Brigade and forces from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. air tactics performed vital operations that aided the United States¶ efforts. the fifth day into Operation Pegasus. Though there was heavy resistance on Highway Nine (Tolson 177) which led up to Khe Sanh. the troops of the 1st Cavalry were airlifted close to Khe Sanh and offered the Marine defenders isolated there their first relief (Tolson 174-7).the city of Khe Sanh held by the enemy and captured it. there was also the infamous Operation Rolling Thunder which was a three-anda-half year air bombardment campaign conducted by the United States Air Force. As Tolson describes. In addition to Operation Chopper and Operation Silver Bayonet. Whether it is through support tactics or through air assault. . The importance of air mobility was hardly limited to just the Battle of Khe Sanh and Operation Pegasus. when the 1st Cavalry Air Division reached the landing zone. it is through the power and tact of air mobility that the defenders of Khe Sanh began receiving reinforcements and supplies. it was ³a disaster for the enemy´ (178). On April 5th. This all adds up to how important of a role air mobility played throughout the Vietnam War.

Web. Airmobility. of the Army.us/tableaux/chapt_08/>. Tolson. 1965 . Print.first-team. John J.1972.Vietnam War. 1961-1971.Bibliography "1st Cavalry Division History . 24 Jan.The OutPost. D.: Dept. Washington. <http://www. 1973. 2011." 1st Cavalry Division .C. .

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