U.S. Marine Corps - Small Wars Manual (1940 Edition)
Chapter IX. AVIATION.
GENERAL CONDUCT OF AIR OPERATIONS
Par. Control and Comand 9-13 Details of Operations 9-16 Reports 9-17
9-15. Control and command .-a. The senior aviator on duty with a command exercises a dual function similar to that of the force artillery commander. He commands the air force and acts as advisor on air matters to the Force Commancler. The air commander will generally have an extensive detailed knowledge of the area in which operations are being conducted-first-hand knowledge which may not be available otherwise-and he should maintain close contact with the Force Commander and staff through the medium of frequmt conferences. An aviation liaison officer may be detailed to represent the air commander at headquarters during the absence of the latter on flying mission.
b. Normally, all aviation attached to a small wars expeditionary force will operate from the main airdrome under centralized control. However, when distances are great and weather conditions uncertain, it may become advisable to detach aviation units to subordinate commands, to be operated from auxiliary airdromes.
9-16. Details of operations.-a. At the close of each day's operations the air commander estimates the situation for the following day, and imparts his decision to his staff and unit commanders, Formal operation orders are seldom written in advance, their substance being posted on the operations board and explained to the pilots concernecl. The hour for publishing the daily orders will normally be late enough in the day to permit the commander to analyze the day's reports and receive last-minute instructions from the higher command, but should not be so late as to interfere with the crew's rest. Where possible, the board should be made ready for inspection at a given hour each evening-at 7 or 8 o'clock for example.
b. During daylight hours the airplanes and crews not scheduled for flight should be kept in a condition of readiness to take off within 20 or 30 minutes. Small wars situations often require prompt action on the part of the supporting air force. Night operations will seldom be required, due to the nature of the support rendered, but should occasion demand, the air units must be equipped to perform night reconnaissance or combat missions. Operations under unfavorable weather conditions will be the rule, rather than the exception, in the average small wars theater. This factor, and the necessity for operating small independent units rather than large formations, requires a large percentage of seasoned and highly trained pilots. At least half of the flight personnel should be in this category.
c. Constant two-way radio communication is desirable between the air patrols and the airdrome operations office. Present equipment will permit such communication within reasonable distances by radio telephone; radio telegraph is available in the same sets for longer range transmission.
9-17. Reports.-a. Upon the completion of each tactical flight the pilot and observer should compare notes and submit their report on a standard form which will contain a brief chronological record of the flight, including a statement of the mission; time, and place of observation; action taken; comments on the situation; copies of all messages sent or received ; weather conditions encountered; ammunition expended; and casualties inflicted or suffered. Reports should be limited to observed facts, and opinions given sparingly. Deductions, except where immediate action is indicated, should be left to the Force staff or appropriate commander. It must be understood, however, that the air observer in small wars operations must be given a greater latitude in estimating a situation on the ground than he would be given in a comparable position in major operations. Often the rapidly moving situation will not permit of delay in the transmission of information to headquarters, but requires immediate positive action on the part of the air patrol commander. In such cases, of course, the written report will eventually be made, with notation of the action taken. In any event, flight reports are submitted immediately upon completion of each mission.
b. In addition to the formal reports submitted upon landing, flight crews may gather information to be dropped to troops in the field, or they may submit fragmentary reports prior to the completion of the flight. Expediency will govern the method of disseminating information, but it is doctrinal for observers to transmit important information without delay to the units most immediately concerned. The airdrome radio station guarding the flight will habitually copy all intercepted messages.
o. The air operations office consolidates the information contained in the individual flight reports into the operations report, which is submitted daily to Force Headquarters. The air force commander is responsible for the accuracy of these reports and for their immediate transmission when urgent action is required. Normally, a brief summary of important or unusual information is telephoned to Force Headquarters immediately, or the air commander calls in in person to discuss the results of important flights. Radio reports received from airplanes in flight should be handled in the same manner, unless Force Headquarters also maintains a radio watch on the aviation frequency. Standard procedure will govern as to the priority of transmission. Formal reports are intended as a summary of the day's operations; vital information should never be withheld pending their preparation.
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