Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, October 04, 2004

This is coolbert: During the Vietnam War, three [some say it was four] American general officers lost their lives. One Army general in combat and two Air Force generals in plane crashes. Amazingly so [perhaps not so amazingly so], the Army general who lost his life did so in part because of RADIO INSECURITY!!

The Army general, Major General Keith L. Ware was undeniably a commander of great courage. Had been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroics in the Second World War [WW2]. While not a West Point graduate, had risen through the ranks to become commander of the First Infantry Division [1ID] in Vietnam [first OCS graduate to attain the rank of General]. Was a comrade-at-arms with Audie Murphy, actually personally fighting on the same battlefield with the WW2 hero [Murphy].

It should also be remembered that the communist Alfa-3 comint [communications intelligence] unit mentioned in another blog entry was working against the communications of the First ID [worked against many units, including South Vietnamese]. It was a squad from the 1ID that DID eventually capture the Alfa-3 unit.

It is reputed that the Alfa-3 unit was able to compromise the entire SOI [Signal Operating Instructions] of the 1ID.

General Ware had a habit of flying over the battlefield in his own personal helicopter when the 1ID was involved in combat. Observing the combat and issuing orders for combat support and such. To FACILITATE communications, General Ware had the fixed radio callsign of FIREFLY-1. Not only did he use a fixed callsign, but the General had this callsign PAINTED ON THE BOTTOM OF HIS PERSONAL HELICOPTER IN WHITE PAINT! SO THAT IT WAS HIGHLY VISIBLE FROM THE GROUND!! This indiscreet behavior was to cost the General his life [and the lives of all the crew members of the chopper, his aides, and his pet dog too!!].

It seems that during one battle that the 1ID was involved in, General Ware was flying over the battlefield as he was in the habit of doing. And in the midst of the battle, each and every communist weapon within range [and maybe even some not in range] of the General's chopper suddenly took aim at Firefly-1 and opened fire in unison, downing the chopper, killing the General and all on board [some have speculated that it was a RPG round that brought the chopper down, this is unclear]. It should be obvious that someone in the communist ranks gave the command to fire based upon actionable intelligence provided by the communist Alfa-3 element or similar communist comint unit!! The fixed callsign of Firefly-1 was associated with the commander of the 1ID. Seeing the callsign on the bottom of the chopper allowed the enemy to know with certainty who they were firing at. With great success!!

[Various web sites say there was not hostile fire nearby, other sites say that there was. I stand by the above description!!].

And I don't think that Ware's habit of hovering over the battlefield is necessarily a sign of micro-management either. Ware was merely seeing how the battle was progressing without interfering. Gauging if the forces were adequate for the task, if support was needed, etc. And by exposing himself to the same dangers as the combat troops on the ground, inspiring his men at the same time. An excellent leadership technique, and something to be expected from a man of the caliber of Ware.

The death of Ware was a significant loss for American forces. This cannot be denied. Superior leadership is hard to come by. This disaster largely from RADIO INSECURITY!!



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