June 15, 1966
to ‘Bomb’ Gives New Latitude
Black, Enquirer military writer is in Viet Nam reporting on activities
of the 1st Cavalry Division. Today, he continues a series on
Operations Sea Wolf.)
By CHARLES BLACK
Ledger-Enquirer Staff Writer
VUNG TAU - My introduction to Operation Sea Wolf - part of a big
operation down in the mangrove swamps and rivers of the Rung Sat
Special Zone here - came from Brig. Gen. George Senneff’s 1st Aviation
Brigade headquarters at Saigon
I was sent to the 12th Aviation Group Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut
airfield to see Capt. Wade LaDue, the public information officer, who
relayed me through channels and a rickety three-quarter ton truck with
its windshield blown out during the last mortar attack to Bien Hoa, 19
At Bien Hoa I was left off at the 145th Aviation Battalion in time to
see the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Horst K. Joost, receive the
Legion of Merit in recognition of what must have been one of the most
interesting six months of his Army career.
The award came for his service as deputy commander of the famous 173rd
Airborne Brigade, formerly commanded by Brig. Gen. Ellis W. Williamson,
now assistant commandant at The Infantry School.
Joost’s battalion had leaped heartily into the new state of affairs
concerning the way the Army can use helicopters after paying 140
Caribous and the CV-7 program for the privilege.
Before the dismal and capricious decision was made, the U.S. Air Force
kept a closer eye on the kind of armament the armed UH1B helicopters
used than it did on the problems of how to supply and support such an
operation as the Hueys make possible.
A hand grenade dropped by an enterprising pilot could bring a howl of
wounded wrath that this was bombing and could only be done by the
It is a fact, for example, that a high Pentagon Army official saw for
the first time the armed Mohawks which have been flying for years from
Vung Tau and ordered the weapons to be stripped from them because they
offended the jurisdictional contracts drawn so rigidly in the archaic
It is also a fact that a high U.S. Army official in the Vietnamese war
effort bucked this order and that the guns are still on the Mohawks at
Vung Tau - although nowhere else, much as they would help with a quick
reaction for infantrymen in a fight.
With the new latitude offered for use of armed choppers, Joost
immediately went to work and has used anti-personnel bombs, dropped
spinfused 81 mm. mortar shells, with a kite tail streamer to keep them
nose-down, and has even dabbled with napalm.
The napalm technique has long been a dream of men who have had occasion
to observe the effect a high speed approach has on effectiveness of
napalm dropped on a jungle canopy.
Only last week a cannister hit trees over a company of the 1st Cavalry
Division, for example. It was not the tragedy it could have been,
however. The cannister burst in the trees and the flaming stuff
made a horrible slash of roaring flames - 100 feet overhead.
The startled company had no casualties. They did have a
depressing reassessment of the effectiveness of the jet attacks on an
enemy in exactly their same situation, however.
They had long been horribly impressed at the roaring mass of flames
spreading over the canopy as the jet delivered cannisters skimmed
across the treetops but now they know that all too often the effect
doesn’t get down to the VC level.
A load of napalm dropped from a helicopter, at low speed and with
pinpointed directions, smashes down through the canopy.
It doesn’t spread but it hits where it is aimed and gets through the
trees, which is more important.
Early efforts in this line were stopped in this war by Air Force
protests. Joost’s battalion has used it up in the Tay Ninh area
since the new arrangements and they are enthusiastic over the future.
“With the 173rd, we were always trying to figure out ways to get our
chopper support to help kill the enemy. It seems perfectly
correct to me to make use of every practical, effective and economical
method we can devise to help the infantry in that task.
“Helicopters can be used in so many different ways, all depending on
imagination and ingenuity and how much hardware we can develop, modify,
invent or borrow. These experiments we have done with the
bomblets and the mortar shells, for example, are just things we could
get hold of in a hurry.”
“We had a 26 body count on the first landing zone where we used the
mortar bomb technique. It also keeps people alert and interested
and thinking about their job to work out such ideas,” Joost stated.