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U.S. Marine Corps - Small Wars Manual (1940 Edition)



General					9-1
Special air tactics involve		9-2

9-1. General.-a. The opposition usually encountered in small war operations consists of scattered bands of irregular troops, well armed and extremely mobile, but deficient in undisciplined morale. Logistical arrangements for such forces apt to be very primitive and sketchy, offering no substantial target for bombing aviation. Air opposition is usually nonexistent or negligible. The Marine air force is thus able to concentrate almost entirely on the close support of ground units.

b. In order to secure the full measure of cooperation between the air and ground forces, it is necessary that each understands the problems of the other. The aviator must know something of the tactics of the ground patrol, and he must be ready and willing to assume any justified risk to assist the ground commander. On the other hand, the ground commander should understand the hazards and limitations imposed on aviation operating over difficult terrain, and should not expect the impossible.

9-2. Special air tactics involved.-a. The employment of aviation in small wars is characterized by the operation of many small units, two or three plane patrols, over a wide area. Normal scouting missions will in most cases be modified to search attacks, performed by airplanes of the scouting or observation class armed with light bombs and machine guns.

b. If attack or light bombing units are included in the force, the tactics of their employment will not differ greatly from normal procedure. They should constitute an aerial reserve, to be dispatched only against definitely located targets, and in such force as may be necessary. Occasions will arise where one six-plane division may be ample force for the task at hand; in fact, the employment of small striking units will be frequent, and independent missions for the division the rule rather than the exception. The usual absence of air opposition in small wars gives to an air force a freedom of action, and the ability to employ small units independently, not enjoyed in major conflicts. If air opposition should exist, it must of course be countered by fighters in the normal way.

c. In the past, Marine air forces have been equipped generally with dual-purpose airplanes of the two-seater type, suitable for observation or scouting, and equipped with the armament necessary for limited ground attack. The observation and light bomber types were so similar that they were used indiscriminately on whatever mission came first to hand. While it is true that such diversion and substitution is still possible for emergency situations, modern design of airplanes and engines is along specialized lines and does not permit the wide latitude of tactical employment practiced with the more simple machines of former years.

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