Grasshoppers In '44 -- Bird Dogs and
Beavers In '67!
Photo Credit: USAF
Museum Via Wikipedia
Above: A Taylorcraft L2-M
used in World War II, undoubtedly helpful for directing artillery
transporting VIP personnel, conducting low-level visual
surveillance of the battlefield, and bringing beer back to the
unit from wherever it might be obtained -- just like aircraft
available to 1st MIBARS twenty years later.
"The visual surveillance program was conducted jointly by
the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army aviation, and the
Vietnamese Air Force. The nature of tactical operations demanded fully
coordinated and repetitive coverage of border and coastal areas and
other sites of high interest known to be utilized by the enemy in order
to obtain real time reports of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army
activity. The program varied from screening large areas for indications
of enemy presence to concentrating coverage where ground operations were
under way or patrolling over friendly troop movements. It included the
capacity for directing artillery, naval gunfire, or air strikes on any
targets, either fixed or fleeting, detected in the area of search.
helicopters supported the program at division level, the Army, Air
Force, and Marine O-1 Birddogs (single-engine light observation
aircraft) served as the backbone of airborne visual reconnaissance.
Initially hampered by a shortage of aircraft, eventually we fully
implemented the program with sufficient aircraft allocated to each corps
to permit coverage of the entire country.
"The corps were divided into visual surveillance areas governed in
size by the area that one aircraft crew could cover in a systematic
search during a two-hour mission. Frequency of coverage was influenced
by the enemy situation, indications of activity reported by other
sources, friendly operational plans, suspected enemy operations,
weather, and aircraft availability. To make the program more effective,
a pilot and observer covered the same area each day, developing in this
way a familiarity with the terrain that facilitated detecting evidence
of enemy activity (such as a new trail or road repairs). When necessary,
or possible, a Vietnamese observer went along to permit communications
with Vietnamese Army units in the vicinity.
"As the program progressed, service responsibilities became more
clearly defined. Air Force O-1's were assigned to tactical support
squadrons, one of which was placed in support of each corps. These
aircraft, however, were under the operational control of the Tactical
Air Control Center through the corps' direct air support centers and
were intended to perform in a forward air control role more than in one
of visual surveillance; but they were available to support the
reconnaissance effort when operational requirements permitted. This
arrangement worked well as a result of the excellent rapport that
existed among the corps staffs and their Air Force counterparts. The
Army aircraft and crews were placed in direct support of the corps or
division at which they were stationed. With their primary mission of
supporting combat operations, the Army O-1's carried on visual
surveillance, adjustment of artillery and naval gunfire, column cover,
and radio relay. The Air Force Birddogs directed air strikes and, as a
secondary mission, performed visual surveillance."