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

or ten minutes, they had to have combat air craft on "air-alert" stations over the
front lines almost continually. The Army, on the other hand, preferred to employ
air strikes against targets which were normally outside the range of its artillery.
Even if these remote targets were moving, they could not normally be expected
to reach friendly positions for some time. These more remote targets were
usually too far from the front to be visible to observers on the ground. In a normal
situation, the Army would have adequate time to employ the "call-type" air-
support missions which were more conservative of scarce air capabilities than
were "air-alert" missions.47
The charge that the Marine system "required" the on station orbiting of air craft
was blatantly false, just one of many straw men scattered throughout the above
passage. While Marines preferred to have on station air over the battlefield when
moving forward in the attack, it was certainly not a requirement. Said the Marine Corps
Board Study:
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.48
In fact, General Thomas tried to work a compromise called "strip alert" of air craft
where the planes did not orbit the battle-field at all, but where a few planes from the
1 MAW were kept on a strip close to the area of ground operations on "alert" ready to
head to the skies and execute emergency CAS on short rather than extended notice.
The compromise did not work too well as can be seen in the letters quoted from
General Thomas on the subject earlier on.
47 Robert F. Futrell, United States Air Force in Korea, 705.
48 U.S. Marine Corps, "MCBS," IV-B-8.


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. Accessed July 9, 2014.