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Airmobile doctrine during the Vietnam War

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Swamp Fox, Dec 15, 2002.

  1. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    It seems that, during the VN War, when soldier's jump off the choppers, they are to run to their positions, firing their rifles all the way. I understand that they fire their weapons so as to ensure that any hidden enemy would be hit. This, by the way, happened during the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965, a battle made famous by the book and the movie "We were soldiers once, and young."

    But, in reality, I think that they would only select a landing site after it was secure (perhaps by air strikes) or deemed secure. Airmobile commanders would not land their troops within firing range of their opponents. And, in any case, those initial soldiers firing off their M-16's probably wouldn't have hit anyone.

    So I think that the idea of jumping off and firing their rifles is actually a waste of time. Can anyone enlighten me?
     
  2. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    All commanders will attempt to land troops in a safe area, but there is no guarentee of safety, particularly from snipers.

    As I understand it, the doctrine of "blind" or "panic" fire isn't to actually hit anyone, but is simply to try and make them keep their heads down for fear of being hit; the idea being that the noise of fire and spray of bullets will make any snipers keep their heads down for the few seconds until the troops can gain a place of relative safety.

    A waste of bullets? Well, if firing a few bursts would increase my chance of going home whole, I'd vote for it! ;)
     
  3. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Generally speaking, an LZ is prepped before insertion. Types of prep differs from campaign to campaign, but these days, you can be pretty sure it's not going to leave a lot in the general vicinity that can shoot back.

    Prep can come in the form of artillery or Air Force bombardment with a widely varied amount and type of munitions. I don't know if Naval bombardment is still available, given that the big battleships have been retired, and I'm not so sure that cruise missiles would be used to soften up an LZ, given their relative cost. But regardless, a whole lot of mud would generally be moved preparatory to moving in troops.

    Additionally, Army attack helicopters would pepper the LZ right before insertion, then orbit in top cover. This is what was done during the 101st's big jump out into the regions surrounding Basrah in the first Gulf War.

    As far as infantrymen firing their weapons at random objects while offloading, I'm not really sure. I've never received that kind of training, but I can agree with Advocat, if I feel the need to generate some heat, I'd definitely do it.

    SM
     
  4. Jedi Writer

    Jedi Writer Guest

    Trying to infer anything as doctrine using Vietnam as an example would be a mistake. The best thing that came out of Vietnam were the lessons learned by the genuine professional soldiers such as Powell, Horner and Schwarzkopf and the resulting creation of a professional military that produced the professionalism and skill executed by people like Steve Moore and eventually produced victories like the Gulf War.

    Safe LZ--almost an oxymoron! Think of the terrain and then think of the mobility of the enemy combined with limited recon.

    There were 12,000 helicopters shot down there. They were nothing more than civilian birds with green paint. (Till the Cobra.)

    The unit in the war with the highest casualty rate? Why the 1st Air Cav of course.
     
  5. jamming

    jamming Banned

    The doctrinal term, I am familiar with is supression fire and it was not everyone in the unit firing, but usually one man out of four. It was designed to keep your enemy off balance rather then letting them have an unhurried moment. If you have less time to think in combat the more likely you won't do the right thing.
     
  6. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    And most of those guys were aircrews. :)

    Vietnam was the proving ground for heliborne operations, the same way Operation EAGLE CLAW was the proving ground for Special Operations Aviation. NOE didn't even come about until around 1972, and that was one of the reasons the Army took a step back from maturing the AH-1; a single-engine attack bird with a teetering mast system couldn't handle an aggressive NOE ingress/egress.

    In Vietnam, they made ingress/egress runs at initial altitudes of over 2,000 feet.

    SM
     
  7. jamming

    jamming Banned

    I think I remember that the number of MOH's for chopper crewmen is second only to infantry, but there are less total people trained as crewman.
     
  8. Swamp Fox

    Swamp Fox Veteran Member

    Don't get me wrong - if firing those bullets would increase the chances by even 0.001%, then it would be worth it. But, as Steve said, since the LZ would already have been softened up, there would be nothing to fire at or keep down.

    So my question really is, does those few bullets increase the chance of survival by even that miniscule percentage?
     
  9. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Might be...I only know two of them, a guy named Gary Stenzel (I think) who lost both his hands in the Nam, and a former Major General Pat Brady, who had the temerity to continue rescuing wounded infantryman one night at the expense of two helicopters.

    Oh wait, make that three--a fellow warrant named Mike Novosel. Goodness, I forgot one of my own...

    SM
     
  10. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    I can answer that with this: a lot of the air assault guys will do a lot of pedal movements when they're bringing their aircraft in. All they're essentially doing is pivoting the aircraft from side to side while maintaining their approach; the general feeling is that a moving target is less likely to be hit than one which is holding steady during descent. I used to think this was total bunk until I read the book Chickenhawk in maybe 1986, 1987...and the author said he did the same thing in the Vietnam era.

    SM
     
  11. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Brave Men

    With people like these the American Nation was made and preserved, and he is just one of many who were Awarded the MOH.
     
  12. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Scope out MG Brady's.....

    This guy is max hooah if ever there was one, and in real life, he's a real pussycat.

    SM
     
  13. jamming

    jamming Banned

    I read a book that details that action and in a Roleplaying Game I played a character sort of based upon him and his feats there. I figured he be rather laidback in real life, was I right?
     
  14. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Oh, definitely so, but I understand that he was a real hardcharger when he became a general officer. Only the really good ones or the really bad ones get drummed out as a two-banger.

    Of course, I've also heard from others that he was a real pansy or prick, too, depending upon the reporting individual. But the military's no different politically from any other institution; some people think a certain guy has the Midas touch, while others think he's pond scum.

    Hal Moore is the same way, and he's the guy Mel Gibson played in We Were Soldiers. Gibson was totally over the top in that one, but hey, that's Hollywood...

    SM
     
  15. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Got a book that you might enjoy "Ghost of the Air" Martin Caidin, helped him pick out his last kitten at the humane society near home before he passed away. He gave me a copy, for the help and the fact he almost ran me over once in a landing pattern on a uncontrolled airfield with his old Nazi German Air Force One, that he and a few friends bought. I sat in the chair that Hitler road in to the Russian Front, Rome, and Paris.

    It was rather awe inspiring in a wierd way, to know that he had sat there in that same chair. While he tried to impose his world view on the world. It was like using something of Stalin's or some other sociopath, like both revolting and fascinating at the same time. I guess it was something like why people look at traffic accidents.
     
  16. Jedi Writer

    Jedi Writer Guest

    Wow, there is a name I've not read or heard for a long time. Great writer.
     
  17. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    What Steve said about LZ's being prepped for insertion is pretty much the case. I cannot recall an instance where there was an issue getting us on the ground. Of course, I wasn't infantry and the typical insertion LZ's, like LZ English for example, weren't our normal fair.

    Extraction is another matter. I recall a time or 3 playing hide and seek for a day or so because the extraction point was too hot.
     
  18. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    After the movie with Mel Gibson I went on the net and searched for Hal Moore. The facts of the battle matched the movie near as I could tell. Now the language, mannerisms, and attitude I could not tell. But when his wife and the others began telling wives their husbands were killed I lost it.

    During my second tour I was a company commander in the signal battalion supporting the Cav, 13th Signal Battalion. We had airborne radio relay for insertions and could listen to much of the action. But my tour was in 70-71 so I missed the period of action in the movie by years. We were in III Corps during my time, Phuoc Vinh, Long Binh, and Song Be for the three brigades. My last assignment with the Cav was turning over the signal equipment to the ARVN as the cav went home. I had months left on my tour.
     
  19. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    OT No Shit "War" Story

    OT, but I had a platoon supporting the 3rd Brigade at Song Be. The grunts would not share their latrine with my guys so we built them one and sent it up to Song Be. Then the grunts began using it. So my troops, like good signal types will do, placed nails in the seat and wired them to a TA-312. They let the next grunt get good and comfortable before they started cranking. Now the height of the johns was only tall enough to sit. So when the grunt came off the seat he cracked his skull on the 2x4 across the roof. When he came down my boys were still cranking so he came up again. By that time they realized the screaming was from the cut out latrine so they quit cranking. While their victim was being medevacced they removed all evidence. Of course, my battalion commander and I still had to face one irate full bird but no proof of guilt so nobody was charged. We did laugh our asses off.
     
  20. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Coot and Shiny, as Mikepd often says thank you for your time there and for your associates who came back and taught people like Steve and others the jobs they did. You carried the ball when it was your time, as others did before, did after, do now, and in the future. I may not always agree with you, but I always will respect you for that effort.
     

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