Pacific Stars and Stripes information
for 1 CAV DIV

For date 680521


1 CAV DIV was a US Army unit
Primary service involved, US Army
Quang Nam Province, I Corps, South Vietnam
Location, Camp Evans
Description: The following is an edited version of an article titled "Once They Laughed At Him, But Now" by George C. Wilson. Camp Evans - Maj. Gen. John J. Tolson, the Army commander who challenged the North Vietnamese at Khe Sanh, considers himself a soldier who has seen his wildest dreams come true. It was not too many years ago when the Pentagon brass hooted at some of his ideas. Put engines on a glider? Guns on a helicopter? Drop troops and helicopters right smack in the middle of enemy territory with no lines in between? The Pentagon has a name for this kind of way-out thinking - "blue sky." Blue sky or not, those ideas are existing here by the hundred. That glider idea Tolson tinkered with in 1950 flies in here almost every day. It is called the C123 transport, the result of the Army program to develop a plane which could land a lot of troopers on a short stretch of runway. World War II ventures had proved gliders were not the answer. There is no need to dwell on the helicopter. Its worth has been demonstrated to the point where it is now fashionable for generals and defense secretaries to claim credit for pushing it into a combat role. But Tolson - a stocky, soft-spoken comfortable man from New Bern, N.C. - can sit back and let the argument go on around him. There is a 1956 Army manual still on the shelf about how to use the helicopter in battle: "Army Transport Aviation Combat Operations." Its author? John J. Tolson - the major general who has been putting the book into practice as his Air Cav. Div. hopscotches around South Vietnam. The 52-year-old Tolson does not talk in the crackling phrases of cost-effectiveness like the Pentagon's system analysis who rode so high during the tenure of former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. He also looks more like a Ulysses S. Grant than a Robert E. Lee, an easy fishing companion rather than a hard-driving commander. But one veteran brigade commander, who has worked closely with all three generals who have headed the Air Cav. since its inception, said "Tolson is the master tactician of them all. He takes chances but not too many." Critics can scoff at the Air Cav., claiming the North Vietnamese left Khe Sanh before Tolson's troopers jumped down on that terrain. But it cannot be argued that no other military force managed to sweep the enemy out of so many places so fast. And the Cav. boosts progress in pacifying areas as well as killing Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. Tolson - who described himself as a rather undistinguished member of the West Point class of 1937 "because I don't think I took it too seriously" - said he first became interested in air mobility while a second lieutenant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. His company of the 19th Inf. Div. was told to conduct an air movement with the Army Air Corps at Hickam Field. Tolson's companies doped out a system for chalk-marking cargo and setting it in place in an organized way - using many of the techniques now doctrine in the Air Cav. "We landed the troops, using old B18 bombers," Tolson recalled, "at a grass airfield at Kauai" - Hawaii's northernmost island. "We executed a tactical plan to seize the airfield and set up a defense. We stayed there for two weeks getting our resupply by air. This is the first tactical movement of troops by air that I can find." His superiors were sufficiently impressed by the exercise to order the young Tolson to write an article about it for the November, 1939, Infantry Journal. Tolson calls it "my first and last literary effort." From Hawaii, he went to parachute school at Fort Beenning, Ga., and helped activate the 503rd Parachute Inf. Regt. at the outbreak of World WAr II. Among the jumps he made during the war was on Corregidor to recapture the island. Tolson said his paratrooper experience convinced him that something more than a parachute was needed to break the grip of the ground on the trooper. "Once on the ground," Tolson said, "the paratrooper has to walk to get anywhere like anybody else." He got the chance to staff out various ideas in 1954 while chief of the Army's doctrine and combat developments branch. The next year he became director of the airborne-Army aviation department at Benning. He took flying lessons himself in 1956 and 1957, qualifying as a pilot for both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. He has flown 1,000 combat hours in Vietnam alone and takes the stick of his command helicopter most of the time.
Comments: MG Tolson, John J.; 1 CAV DIV CG; ;

The source for this information was 6805pss.avn supplied by Les Hines


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Date posted on this site: 05/16/2021