Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War

Marine Corps doctrine also preferred the orbiting of aircraft "on station" above the
infantry, ready to respond to a request at a moment's notice. The AF (Air Force)
absolutely opposed this.10
Stated the Marine Corps Board Study:
The practice. . . of orbiting a number of aircraft on station over the front line area
insures that aircraft are immediately available, with pilots briefed on the local
ground situation, for employment on shortest possible notice. [These planes
could stay "on station" longer than Air Force planes because these usually
deployed from a nearby carrier or land-based strip, not from Japan as the Air
Force jets often did.] It also enables pilots of aircraft with large munitions loads to
make attacks on several different targets during the time spent over the front line
target area. The provision for short notice employment of aircraft is a
fundamental requirement of the Marine Corps-Navy system. It insures that the
front line unit will receive air support promptly after a request and causes the
ground unit to place reliance upon air support. The employment of aircraft
orbiting on station has been criticized as wasteful. It is to be noted, in connection
with this charge, that the orbiting of aircraft is not a requirement of the system but
rather is a means of insuring that aircraft are available for short notice
employment when required to assist the ground forces. Other means, if they are
as effective, can be used equally well, however, two important advantages
accrue as a result of the practice of orbiting a number of aircraft over a front line
area: first, as noted above, pilots are briefed on the local ground situation and
second, the enemy front line area is kept under surveillance by aircraft capable of
making immediate attacks."
In fact, on that last point, aircraft served much like cavalry in the 19th Century; the
planes could swoop in on a fleeing or breaking enemy and cause great casualties
among the retreating foe. They did this on numerous occasions in the Pusan Perimeter
battles, the Inchon/Seoul campaign, and the Chosin Reservoir campaign. Another
advantage of having the aircraft orbit was that upon several occasions in those
campaigns, the eyes in the sky prevented ambushes by spying them out in advance, of
10 1MarDiv, "Report of CAS," "Memorandum for Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific," on
the subject of "Interim comments on close air support," from CG 1MarDiv, Maj. Gen. Gerald C. Thomas,
dated 21 July 1951, 3-4.
" U.S. Marine Corps, "MCBS," IV-B-8.

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Montandon, Joshua W. Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3938/. Accessed August 28, 2014.