Close Air Support and the Modern Warfighter
Huntoon, David H., Jr., Army
The opening days of the Korean War represent the nadir of American readiness in the post-World War II era. American ground formations were generally untrained in tactics above the company, and air-to-ground integration was practically nonexistent before actual combat. Most regiments had no radio that could talk to the U.S. Air Force aircraft operating overhead. They had no tactical air control party (TACP) working with them, no way to speak from the ground to the air to call off or direct attacks. The result was chaos, a situation that was not uncommon that deadly summer. This is not surprising considering that at the beginning of the North Korean attack there had been a grand total of one TACP trained and equipped to talk to aircraft conducting close air support in all of South Korea.
The Army and the Air Force had gone their separate ways between the end of World War II and the beginning of this new, come-as-you-are kind of war, and now the bill for that divorce was coming due. In those intervening years not only had the Army atrophied to a point at which the ground forces of the Far East Command were nearly unrecognizable as a combat element, the Air Force had let their support elements waste away as well until there was but a single unit in all of Japan, the 620th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, that could control attacking aircraft in the close air support mission.
Flash forward 51 years to the same Army and the same Air Force, again operating more than 10,000 miles from home in an austere environment with little in the way of indirect fire support. This time, however, things were different. The Army arrived, in force, and stacked up above, waiting patiently for their turns in the queue, were our winged brothers-in-arms from the Air Force, the Marines and the Navy. The results demonstrated something that we sometimes forget; for all of our squabbles, for all of our sometimes frustrating parochialism and interservice rivalry, over time, our armed forces have demonstrated an ability to do something that few other military institutions have successfully accomplished over the course of history. …