Army Aviation

Sixty Years Ago: The Howze Board Part III

Looking Back / Army Aviation, October 2022; By Mark Albertson

Sixty Years Ago:
The Howze Board

Part III

By Mark Albertson

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1961, Clifton von Kann, recently named Director of Army Aviation, scheduled a briefing with Secretary McNamara on Army Aviation and the importance of tactical aerial assets for the Ground Forces.  “McNamara indicated that the briefing helped him to see Army Aviation in a new light and he requested additional paperwork.”[1]

A mover and shaker behind the scenes was Robert R. Williams, a West Point grad and member of the Class Before One and, the first Master Aviator.  Williams was, for all intents and purposes, a political insurgent for the Air Observation Post.

robert r williams

Robert R. Williams, one of the members of the Class Before One in 1942, would later become a post-1945 political insurgent working behind the scenes in the advancement of the Army Aviation movement.  Army Aviation could never have survived without such individuals working to advance the cause and did so by thinking and acting out-of-the-box.

Following the defeat of the Axis Powers, Williams was sent by the Army Air Forces to Europe, so as to cavass AAF officers and Ground Forces commanders with regards to the Army Ground Forces retaining their organic aerial assets.  “His report, suggesting the retention of organic liaison aircraft by the Army, was greeted with mixed reaction at the top Air Forces levels.  Some officers—General Hoyt S. Vandenburg for example—felt that such an arrangement would permit the Army to convert its aircraft into close support fighter-bombers and airlift craft; others, such as General Lauris Nordstad, felt that the atomic bomb had rendered the Army essentially irrelevant.”[2]

lauris norstad

Air Force General Lauris Norstad, who following 1945, thought that the strategic bombing force armed with nuclear ordinance virtually relegated Army ground forces to insignificance.  Such were among the threats to the Air Observation Post as it was evolving to become Army Aviation.

Williams, too, was on the McNamara staff and, from the inside, helped to channel the office of the Secretary of Defense towards nodding favorably in the direction of Army Aviation.  This resulted in a pair of missives penned by the Secretary of Defense on April 19, 1962:
1)  “Memorandum for the Secretary of the Army:  Subject:  Army Aviation,” And . . .
2)  . . . “Memorandum for Mr. Stahr.”

Both directives compelled the Secretary of the Army, Mr. Elivis J. Stahr, to proceed in the fashion outlined above.  The latter ordered the Army to take advantage of recent developments in technological advances in aviation to effect improvement in aerial tactical mobility, noting it as a “’bold new look’ at land warfare mobility,” while the former was a more general directive requiring the Army to effect positive changes in tactical mobility.[3]

This culminated, of course, in the Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, created by the United States Continental Army Command, May 3, 1962.  Total staff amounted to 199 officers, 41 enlisted and 53 civilians.[4]

Lieutenant General Hamilton H. Howze, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was pegged to chair what would to be commonly known as, the Howze Board.

Per the directive of General Herbert Powell, of the Continental Army Command, the final draft of the board’s findings was to be submitted to the Secretary of Defense by August 20 to accommodate Mr. McNamara’s deadline of September 1.  A caveat, here, though, was the voluminous nature of the report, which Howze questioned.  Department of the Army asserted that it should be able to fit neatly into an Army footlocker.  And, of course, 300 copies were required.  To fulfill such a paper chase, the printers at the Adjunct General Department stated that to produce 300 copies of a report that could fit into an Army footlocker demanded that it have the report no later than August 1, so as to accommodate the August 20 deadline.  So the window of constraint was quite obvious here.[5]

The Board consisted of a review committee, composed of 17 officers and five civilians; an advisory panel with two members and a secretariat.  Board secretary to General Howze was Colonel John Norton.  Within the body of the memorandum addressed personally to Secretary of the Army Stahr, were individuals named by Secretary of Defense McNamara, who would be on the review committee chaired by General Howze and/or the secretariat:  Besides Howze, Brigadier General Delk M. Oden, Brigadier General Walter B. Richardson, Colonel Robert R. Williams, the aforementioned Colonel John Norton, Colonel A.J. Rankin, Mr. Frank A. Parker, Dr. Edwin A. Paxson and Mr. Edward H. Heineman.[6]  In addition, the commanding general of The Infantry center, the special assistant to the Chief of Staff for Special Warfare and Brigadier General Edward L. Rowney of the 82nd Airborne Division, were attached to the review committee.  The Board would be settled at Fort Bragg in a school facility set aside as the headquarters.

Much of the work associated with the Tactical Mobility Requirements Board was done by seven working committees, from May 5 to June 21, 1962, and were as follows:  Operations Research; Field Tests; Tactical Mobility; Firepower; Logistics Operations and Logistics Support; Reconnaissance. Security and Target Acquisition; and, Programs, Policy and Budget.  On the heels of which were eight working groups, June 22 through July:  Logistics Forces; Combat Force; Counterinsurgency; Strategic Area; Operations Research; Long Range; Field Tests; concluding with programs, Policy and Budget.

General Howze was not only President of the Board, but Chairman of the Steering and Review Committee as well.  In addition to General Howze, seven other officers and six top level civilians originally composed the Steering and Review Committee.  These included Major General Ben Harrell, Major General William B. Rosson, Brigadier General John J. Lane, Brigadier General Delk M. Oden, Brigadier General Robert R. Williams, Colonel William M. Lynn, Jr., Dr. Jacob A. Stockfisch, Dr. Edwin W. Paxson, Eugene Vidal, Fred Wolcott, Frank A. Parker and Edward H. Heineman.  Mr. Parker, General Rowney and Colonel Lynn also served as chiefs of working committees.  Other senior board members (eventually added to the Steering and Review Committee) were named working committee chiefs—Major General Clifton von Kann, Major General Norman H. Vissering, Brigadier General Frederic W. Boye, Jr., and Brigadier General Walter B. Richardson.[7]

“The Air Force sent down a brigadier general to act as a monitor.  He was privileged to see all the tests and exercises and could interview anyone he chose, but we did not invite him to sit with the steering committee, and all the subcommittees were privileged to exclude him.  This, in retrospect, seems regrettable, but in some sensitive areas, frank debate would have alarmed the Air Force and that admirable establishment really needed no additional agitation.”[8]

Perhaps in an effort to foster better service relations, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Roswell L. Gilpatric, on May 8, 1962, that in support of Army efforts wanted to make sure that air transport was available when requested by the Board.  Such was a squadron of C-130s “which would provide the Air Force an opportunity to sell its services and capabilities.[9]

Howze further explains in his book, that in preparation Army Intelligence was petitioned for the latest intelligence on doctrine and capabilities of the Warsaw Pact forces as well as the People’s Republic of China.  Weapons experts, designers and scientists were vetted for weapons types expected for the period 1963-1975, including opinion from the newly minted Combat Developments Command.  Robert R. Williams was sent with a team to Southeast Asia to assess the potential of Army Aviation in such an environment.  And Army logistics experts, in accordance with civilian equivalents from a dozen aircraft companies to advise on the current capability of the Army aircraft support system and its potential.[10]

Howze added, that some 400 letters were posted to officers, those on active duty as well as to those who had retired, for their expertise.  Another 300 letters or more were forwarded to airframe, engine, armaments and electronic firms for their input, creating in essence, a reference source of unquestioned value, as well as being a sales pitch for companies to consider Army Aviation as a viable market.[11]

“Two agencies under contract with the Army, Research Analysis Corporation (RAC) and Technical Operations Incorporated (CORG), did studies and analysis for use as requested.  Rand Corporation and Stanford Research Institute provided several analysts and scientists for consultation and evaluation of committee work.”[12]

Computer simulations, together with actual field work, saw Airmobility challenged through four battle models:  A Warsaw Pact attack on Western Europe; versus Chinese Communist Forces in Asia (obviously the stalemate of the Korean War as still fresh in the minds of the planners); and, the blunting of threats to Africa as well as Central and South America.[13] And, of course, the Army’s choice of vehicle to carry forward Airmobility . . . the helicopter.

The Howze Board released its findings on August 20, 1962.  From the viewpoint of history, a fascinating perspective arises:  The Army’s attempt to base Airmobility on the helicopter during the 1960s as not too unlike the transition in mobility from the horse to the truck and tank, during the 1920s and 1930s.  However an important factor to appreciate here was that the United States was not the only power wrestling with mobility during that period leading up to the continuation of the 1914 conflict, sharing the stage with Germany, Britain and the Soviet Union. . .   Yet during the 1960s, American practitioners of Airmobility virtually wrote the book.  And the living embodiment of the criteria set forth by the Howze Board . . . the 11th Air Assault Division (Test).

* * * * *

11th Air Assault Division (Test)

The resolution of the Tactical Mobility Requirements Board set the stage for that next step in the quest to implement Airmobility.  Lieutenant General Hamilton H. Howze urged the conversion of the 82nd Airborne into that air assault division as projected by his committee.  He was overruled by Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, who instead authorized an expansion of Army personnel for fiscal year 1964, from 960,000 to 975,000.[14]

McNamara’s authorization would enable the new unit to be organized from scratch; and this would have come to naught, except, . . . there was that ingredient that made this stew palatable, everyone was basically on the same page—from Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara to Secretary of the Army, Elvis J. Stahr, to General Hamilton H. Howze to General Harry Kinnard and so on down the food chain.  Minus this continuity, victory at Ia Drang in 1965 would not have been possible.

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[1]  See page 110, Chapter 5, “The Dynamics of Insurgency,” The Army Gets an Air Force, by Frederic A. Bergerson.

[2]  See pages 99 and 100, Frederic A. Bergerson.

[3]  To read both memorandums by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, see pages 39-42, “The 1962 Howze Board and Army Combat Developments,” by J.A. Stockfisch.

[4]  See page 15, J.A. Stockfisch.

[5]  See page 237, 19, “The Howze Board,” A Cavalryman’s Story, by Hamilton H. Howze.

[6]  See paragraph 4, page 1, “memorandum for Mr. Stahr,” April 19, 1962.

[7]  See page 21, Chapter 1, “The Growth of the Airmobile Concept,” Vietnam Studies:  Airmobility 1961-1971, by Lieutenant General John J. Tolson.

[8]  See page 239, Hamilton H. Howze.

[9]  See page 21, Lieutenant General John J. Tolson.

[10]  See page 239, Hamilton H. Howze.

[11]  See page 240, Hamilton H. Howze.

[12]  See page 240. Hamilton H. Howze.  See also page 17, J.A. Stockfisch, who notes CORG as representative of Combat Operations Research Group.

[13]  Below is a detailed exposition of the training objectives of the Howze Board as put forward by General Howze himself.  See pages 14 and 15, SIX:  “The Benefits to be Derived,” U.S. Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Final Report (U), 20 August 1962.

“The United States is faced with the possibility of fighting one or more of four varieties of hostile ground forces:

“- A modern army (the Soviet, reinforced by European Satellite armies) whose primary characteristics are great size, a large inventory of heavy combat vehicles and artillery, and a capability to employ nuclear and chemical weapons.

“- An Oriental army (Communist Chinese, Vietminh, North Korean or a combination of two of these) characterized by large size, relative unsophistication, great foot mobility, and an association with the area not enjoyed by US forces.

“- Insurgents, such as the Viet Cong, who achieve strength not from modern weapons but from foot mobility, elusiveness, difficulty of identification, surprise, and the sympathy or fear of the local populace.

“- Other forces (Africa, Middle Eastern, Latin American) likely to resist the execution of existing STRAC contingency plans.

“The alternative 3 Army will have an unusual flexibility of response to any likely demands for the application of land combat power, and a much improved effectiveness in execution.

“- Better deployability of airmobile forces will permit faster reaction by the general reserve.

“- Improved tactical mobility will provide the best foreseeable chance of coping with the largely unknown contingencies of the land battle in an atomic war.

“- Greater mobility will improve the chances of success of the detection, screening and delay missions charged to the cavalry regiments which, in Germany, form the forward fringes of the ‘shield.’

“- A highly mobile counterattack reserve, strong in anti-tank weapons, will, in Europe, serve as a most valuable counter to strong Soviet armored thrusts,

“- Airmobile US units will provide the most effective augmentation to friendly indigenous forces fighting Communist armies in Southeast Asia or Korea, not only by reason of their freedom from local limitations to surface transportation but also because their extreme mobility will permit a flexibility of employment much to be desired, perhaps as a counterattack reserve or as a blocking or enveloping force.

“- Whatever the difficulties of detection and identification, airmobile forces have the best chance of surprising and eradicating guerrilla forces, and at the same time stand to suffer fewer losses due to ambush of combat and supply columns.

“- Two of the three CONUS-based air assault divisions will retain the ability to conduct parachute assault in execution of contingency plans, but will also (by incorporation of additional aircraft in their structures) have far better means to accomplish the missions set by those plans.

“- There are also corollary benefits, of which one only is worth mentioning here:  the incorporation of the concept of modern tactical mobility into the Army will have an enormously vitalizing effect on its whole structure, and this in turn cannot fail to strengthen our national reaction to whatever challenges the future may hold.”

Lieutenant General, USA

[14]  See page 26, J.A. Stockfisch.

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Bibliography for Series

Barks, Lieutenant Colonel, Phillip B., United States Air Force, Anything But:  Joint Air-Ground Training at the U.S. Ground Combat Training Centers, Joint Forces Staff College, Joint Advanced Warfighting School, Norfolk, Virginia, 2009

Bergerson, Frederic A., The Army Gets an Air Force:  Tactics of Insurgent Bureaucratic Politics, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1980.

Givens, Adam Thomas, The Air Close to the Trees:  Evolution and Innovation in U.S. Army Assault Helicopter Units During the Vietnam War, Wright State University, 2011.

Horwood, Dr. Ian, Interservice Rivalry and Airpower in the Vietnam War, Combat Studies Institute Press, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2006.

Howze, Hamilton H., A Cavalryman’s Story, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, 1996.

Oden, Brigadier General Delk M., Director of Army Aviation, ODCSOPS, Vol. 11, No. 5, Dorothy Kesten, Publisher, Westport, Ct., May 1962.

Olinger, Mark, “Conceptual Underpinnings of the Air Assault Concept:  The Hogaboom, Rogers and Howze Boads,” Land Warfare paper No. 60W, The Institute of Land Warfare, Association of the United States Army, Arlington, Virginia, December 2006.

MacGrath, John D., Fire for Effect:  Field Artillery and Close Air Support in the U.S. Army, Combat Studies Institute Press, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2010.

Rawlings, Lieutenant Colonel Morris G., “Army Aviation 1970,” Vol. 11, No. 1, Army Aviation, Dorothy Keston, Publisher, Westport, Ct., January 1962.

Stahr, Honorable Elvis J., Secretary of the Army, “Army Flying is Not an End in Itself,” Vol. 11, No. 4, Dorothy Kesten, Publisher, Westport, Ct., April 1962.

Stockfisch, J.A., The 1962 Howze Board and Army Combat Developments, RAND, Santa Monica, California, 1994.

Tolson, Lieutenant General John J., Vietnam Studies:  Airmobility, 1961-1971, Center of Military History, CMH Pub 90-4, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., 1973.

U.S. Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Final Report (U), 20 August 1962, U.S. Army Military Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

Von Kann, Major General Clifton, USA, Final Report of the Working Committee II, Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, Fort Benning, Georgia, 23 June 1962

Weinert, Richard P, Jr., A History of Army Aviation, 1950-1962, TRADOC Historical Monograph Series, Office of the Command Historian, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1991.

Williams, Dr. James W., A History of Army Aviation, iUniverse, Inc., New York, Lincoln, Shanghai, 2005.