Vietnam II: A War Novel Episode 2 (V2) (7 page)

BOOK: Vietnam II: A War Novel Episode 2 (V2)
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Lieutenant Colonel Carol Madison

Air Force Intelligence Officer

Pacific Command Operations Center


The first trouble was between Dickens and me.  He was using old school naval doctrine in the joint world and it needed a little rewriting.

At the outset of air war planning, the Navy proposed that, as in Vietnam and counter to new joint doctrine, it be allotted separate aviation attack sectors.  The Navy knew land and carrier operations are very different.  For example, carrier operations depended on weather and tides that frustrated precision operations.  However, it is reasonably acceptable to insist on precise timing of land base launch aircraft. 

The Air Component commander rejected the Navy’s proposal.  The joint planning required integrating all air operations over Vietnam, whatever their origin.  Separate agendas and redundant planning between the major air arms, Air Force and Navy, had contributed to air combat ineffectiveness in V1.  Cohesion was the order of the day.  With solid joint integration, for example, aircraft from both services could fly apparently random patterns, converging only at their targets.  The Vietnamese air defense would find it impossible to coordinate their resources to deflect the air campaign.  The targets would be for all intense and purposes undefendable.  This type of attack and the required coordination was not easy.  It required very detailed planning.  Flight paths, radio frequencies and call signs would all have to be set in advance of the first aircraft going wheels up.

The Air Force took the lead with planning as they had trained for exactly this sort of operation for years, and it had the computers needed to set it up.  Once the Air Operations Center (AOC) plan had been devised, individual units were given their detailed orders. That was easy enough on land.  However, the carriers proved to be the weak link.  For all the mobility carriers offered they lacked a solid communications channel to receive their orders and the computers to break them down into requirements for individual aircraft; the Navy and Air Force had never planned to fight this way.  They were about to fight a joint war with weapons made for a more divided military. 

The Navy would later fit all the carriers with high-capacity satellite links and better computers capable of receiving and processing joint air plans, but for now we had to go to war with what we had.  Of course none of that did us any good at the time and the only solution was for printed copies of the plans to be faxed to Andersen or Clark and delivered by hand, where the plans were developed.

All the work for a sophisticated planning system was misspent.  The PNAF never really challenged coalition dominance of airspace.  The elaborate coordination system was never needed.  If anything the AOC shot themselves in the foot as the lengthy planning cycle precluded attacks on pop-up targets such as PNAF aircraft which the Vietnamese government kept moving around airbases on a 24-hour cycle.  The lesson from all of this was that too many aircraft would excessively complicate air planning.  The lessons learned were already being briefed at the morning standup.  We would not make the same mistake when and if we moved north.

The Tomahawk was not included in the operational planning at all.  The Navy planners had no faith in it.  I saw all these things being demilled and dumped in a military boneyard somewhere after this thing was over.

Still they were planning on using the beast.  That was clear from the extensive mapping that took place during the buildup.  Unlike a ballistic missile, the Tomahawks required a full flight plan like an airplane to reach a target.  So the Defense Mapping Agency spent the time from the beginning of the embargo to the first week of January working 24-hour days producing digital maps of Vietnam.  The missile relied on terrain mapping.  It was a limitation of the weapon.  The Tomahawk required every target area to be comprehensively mapped from space.  Without that prior research, the Tomahawks could not be used at all.


Staff Sergeant Gerald Zachary

Combat Arms

Andersen AFB, Guam


We arrived in Guam just in time to miss Christmas with our families.  I am not complaining.  There were so many soldiers, airmen and marines on Okinawa the entire island was in danger of sinking into the sea.  We had it good on Guam.  We were on American soil.  There were American stores and fast food right outside the gate.  We were all bunked on the gym floor in the Andersen Air Force Base fitness center. 

There were worse places to be.

The 16 January deadline was for the folks back home.  It was not for us.  I mean we are already here ready to go.  It’s not like waiting until after Christmas let us be home with our families.  The press would have everyone thinking the entire armed forces were enjoying their last days at home over the holidays.  The truth was that who was going to fight was already in place.

It was all for the taxpayers and voters.  That way they could enjoy their Christmas and maybe get in a little after Christmas shopping in before the bullets started flying.  The economy depended on Christmas.  A fact I never understood until after 911.

The chow hall at Andersen did not messing around.  If you walked in there with flip flops on and they kicked you out.  If you walked in there with your PT gear on and you’re sweaty and they kicked you out.  I watched these little islander ladies kick out full bird Colonels before.

The President and some of the Joint Chiefs were working the chow line on Christmas Day.  It was a big public affairs campaign, but it meant good food for us and maybe a chance to be on television.  They had things backwards, probably because the DVs were doing the serving, and you started with the cranberry sauce and worked your way up to the turkey.

They had a NCO food services guy working the knife on the turkey.  I wondered if the Secret Service had to vet the guy with that big a knife right next to the most powerful man in the world.  Probably not.  I suppose you’ve got to trust somebody sometime.

Anyway the President was working the mashed potatoes.  He slung the chow like he’d been doing it all his life.  He even put a little dent in the top of the potatoes before he put the gravy on. 

You can’t teach that.

Major Wesley Clinton

B-52 Aircraft Commander

Andersen AFB, Guam


“Ladies and gentlemen our business is killing and business is good!”

That’s how the general started his brief.  It got us pumped up.

The entire room cheered.

“I won’t lie to you about what we’re up against.  This is going to be the hardest fight of your life.”  He said.

Okay I’m listening.

“Look to the man sitting on either side of you.”  When we saw that he was serious we all did so.  Maybe we were going to hug it out next.  “One of you will be dead when this whole thing is over.”

What the fuck?

I looked over at my copilot Rogers and I could tell he was thinking the same thing.

I never claimed hero status, but this was the first time that I started thinking about getting shot down. 

“We’ve got our guys doing the math at Hickam at the command center based on the expected Vietnamese defense and I got to tell you it isn’t pretty.  I gave it to the tanker bubbas straight and I’m going to do the same for you.  I told them to expect 20 percent losses on the first night.  Your unit can expect to lose at least eight aircraft.”

Everybody looked pretty confused and frightened.

Gee thanks General. Great pep talk. I feel much better now.

Major Leonard Armstrong

KC-135 Aircraft Commander

Kadena AFB, Japan


The general said what?

My biggest problem leading up to the war was how to get all the furniture home that my crew had bought in Okinawa.  I got a hand carved dining room table that I could not fit into the plane.

I’m glad I hadn’t heard that twenty percent business.  It’s bad enough riding a flying gas tank with no guns without hearing crap like that.


Lieutenant Colonel Carol Madison

Air Force Intelligence Officer

Pacific Command Operations Center


I got leave in order to go home for Christmas.  I should say I barely got leave.  Everything was pretty tight to the chest right now.  It would be the last time I would see my family for six months.

When I returned to Hawaii things were as chaotic as ever.

“Oh by the way they finally landed on an operation name.”  Lt Col Elway told me when I returned.

“What did the generals decide on?  Valiant Fury?  Infinite Justice?”

“They’re calling it Jungle Storm.”

BOOK: Vietnam II: A War Novel Episode 2 (V2)
4.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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