home mail phone armyaviation.com
Logo mast phone
Logo mast
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Army Aviation in Vietnam – The Rogers Board

By Mark Albertson“...what the Howze Board did for tactical doctrine, the Rogers Board did for organizing the factory floor.The evolution of modern war fostered the need for quantity; that is, access to up-to-date technology and availability of weapons in requisite amounts. Take the Great French War (1792-1815).1 Conscription was practiced on a massive scale to fill out the ranks for a conflict that was waged not only on the Continent, but in the Middle East, Russia and as far away as our fledgling Grand Republic in the form of the War of 1812. France fielded the first million man army in Europe; by 1815, upwards of 3.5 million Frenchmen had served. Levee en Masse had arrived.2

The venerable Chinook is a workhorse that helped mark the independence of Army Aviation.

h 1401 aFor armies of this size, vast stocks of weapons were needed and supplied by the exploding Industrial Revolution. The evolving nature of modern war, then, worked hand-in-glove with new techniques in modern production. A reality to which America lacked appreciation as of April 6, 1917.3

France expected the American economic dynamo to produce some 23,000 tanks. By Armistice Day, a paltry 23 had rolled off the assembly lines and of these only 15 made it to France. Doughboys and leathernecks wielded 2,251 artillery pieces, of which only 130 were stamped “Made in America.” Of 8,850,000 rounds of artillery fired by American gunners, only 208,327 had been produced in the United States.4

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, having been Assistant to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, was well aware of America’s unpreparedness in 1917. During the 1930s, and knowing full well that the continuation of the Great War was in the offing, he slowly prepared America for the next round.5 In 1935, the first B-17 took to the air.6 In 1937, the first of the new fast battleships was laid down.7 In 1939, the B-24 Liberator first flew; and, in 1940, the namesake of the new Essex-class flattops was authorized. On December 7, 1941, America was not as ill-prepared as it had been on April 6, 1917.

The Atomic Bomb, though, irrevocably altered the landscape. Gone was the lead time to prepare for war. The destructive capacity of the Bomb made it imperative that not only would weapons and equipment have to be available in sufficient quantities prior to a conflict; but that dispersion and mobility were prerequisites for not only victory, but for survival on the atomic battlefield.

The ubiquitous Huey is the poster child expression of Army Aviation in Vietnam.

It is important to understand that in the context of the Cold War environment of Massive Retaliation,8 what the Howze Board did for tactical doctrine, the Rogers Board did for organizing the factory floor. Known as the Army Aircraft Requirements Review Board, it was an initiative taken by the Army to bolster its airlift capability; while at the same time, ascertain and consider industry offerings of aircraft models to carry forward the Army’s tactical agenda.

On January 15, 1960, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Army Chief of Staff, appointed LTG Gordon B. Rogers as chair of the Army Aircraft Requirements Review Board. General Rogers was, at that time, deputy commander of the Continental Army Command.

Army objectives were based on three major requirements: observation, surveillance and transportation. The criterion for each mission was outlined in the Army Study Requirements or ASRs. ASR 60-1 concerned the Observation Mission. ASR 60-2 explained the Surveillance Mission; while ASR 60-3 outlined the Transportation Mission. These studies offered to industry what the Army required for the 1960-1970 period.

February 1, 1960, 45 companies responded with 119 design concepts — helicopters, compound helicopters, autogiros and fixed wing representing STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) and VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) types.9

From February 1-15, the Army reviewed the plethora of design concepts with a technical evaluation that included aeronautical engineers from NASA’s Langley Laboratory who assisted the U.S. Army Transportation Research Command at Fort Eustis, VA. This data was forwarded to the Office of the Chief of Research and Development for an operational evaluation, February 16-28. This was done by working groups staffed by Army Aviation personnel with wide experience in aviation matters.
The Rogers Board convened at Fort Monroe, VA February 29 to March 6, to evaluate the Army Aircraft Development Plan, assess aircraft types and requirements, procurement and funding for same.

Recommendations offered were in line with aircraft that would shortly dominate the scene in Southeast Asia. For instance, the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook would take center stage, in lieu of such types as the L-19, H-13, CH-21 and H-23. In addition, the Board recommended that greater effort be made in evaluating “sensory devices, data link and intelligence processing.”10 The Board urged that aircraft be replaced every ten years, depending, of course, on operational and technological necessities and requirements.

It is important to understand that the Rogers Board was convened under the shadow of massive retaliation. And since this was so, General Hamilton Howze, as a member of the Rogers Board, affixed an addendum to the committee’s findings – a recommendation for air fighting units or “Air Cavalry.” Not merely for the transportation of ordinary Army divisions; rather, formations of Sky Soldiers transported by aircraft organic to their Sky Cavalry formations. And not only for dispersion on the nuclear battlefield; but for the “brushfire wars” of National Liberation which posed a threat to American foreign policy interests in the post-World War II era.11

General James M. Gavin’s earlier criticism of the Army’s lack of airmobility during the Korean experience was bearing fruit. The Kennedy Administration’s doctrine of Flexible Response would provide the fertile ground for the next board chaired by GEN Howze himself in 1962, the Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board; a committee that would write the Army’s Airmobility doctrine, fostering an agenda of autonomy that would generate a response from the Air Force in the form of the Disoway Report. The Army and Air Force discord over roles and missions, preceded by World War II and Korea, was set to continue into its third war – Vietnam.

Notes

  1. The Great French War blended two conflicts: The French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
  2. Levee en Masse, galvanizing a nation for war, as practiced during the French Revolutionary Wars, helped to set the stage for Napoleon’s domination of Europe. The Great French War laid the groundwork for the modern version of Total War.
  3. Congress issued to Woodrow Wilson the declaration of war the President had requested four days earlier.
  4. Many of the major implements of war used by American troops in World War I came from Britain and France. Such was the time lag and difficulties inherent with converting from a peacetime to a wartime economy.
  5. Years earlier, Stalin had come to the same conclusion. For in 1928, he began his program of forced industrialization that would save the Soviet Union in World War II. Soviet industrial production is one of the best kept secrets for Allied victory, a factor rarely accounted for in most analyses of World War II.
  6. This was the Boeing Model 299 prototype, first flown July 28, 1935.
  7. USS North Carolina (BB-55) laid down October 27, 1937.
  8. By the time of the Howze Board, Massive Retaliation – reliance on strategic airpower as a deterrence – was giving way to Flexible Response, an agenda which featured both conventional and nuclear response options to aggression.
  9. “It is important to note that this was the first time that most major aircraft companies took official notice of the aviation potential within the Army. Before the Rogers Board, only the helicopter manufacturers and a few light airplane companies had any comprehension of the Army’s requirements.” See pages 4 and 5, chapter one, “The Growth of the Airmobile Concept,” Vietnam Studies: Airmobility, 1961-1971, by LTG John J. Tolson.
  10. See Tolson, page 10, chapter 1, Vietnam Studies.
  11. See pages 235 and 236, chapter 19, “The Howze Board,” A Cavalryman’s Story, by Hamilton H. Howze.


Mark Albertson is an award winning historian and contributing editor to ARMY AVIATION magazine.