About Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Retired)


Recent Posts By the Author


A Vital Concept Refined: Marines and the Helicopter

A Vital Concept Refined: Marines and the Helicopter

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Naval History, December 2012
The helicopter revealed its potential in Korea. As the Marine Corps honed close air support in the years since, it has assumed a key role.

Marine Helicopters in Vietnam, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

Marine Helicopters in Vietnam, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

Marine Corps aviation, in “its organization, equipment, and training . . . should be primarily oriented toward performance of close air support.” So wrote a special board in its confidential 1947 report to the commandant of the Marine Corps. Although the Marines’ first “official” use of close air support (CAS) had come in 1927 in Nicaragua, 20 years later the bond between the service’s air and ground forces had not yet been cemented fully. That would occur a few years later in the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea—arguably the birthplace of the Marine air-ground task force.

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Close Air Support: The Pioneering Years

Close Air Support: The Pioneering Years

By:

Naval History, December 2012
Marine aviators’ commitment to deliver support to ground forces—a tactic once deemed too dangerous—grew into a hallowed hallmark of the Corps.

Modern Marine Corps aviation is a powerful combat arm, organized and equipped to perform its primary functions of assault support, antiaircraft warfare, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles, and reconnaissance. The integration of those roles enables the air-combat component to fully support the ground-combat campaign. Mastery of those functions also allows Marine aviation to achieve its most distinctive competence—the ability to deliver close air support (CAS) to Marines on the ground.

Close air support is defined as “air action by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.” Inherently dangerous to airmen and infantry alike, this extreme form of fire support requires extraordinary coordination to deliver safely. Marine riflemen take a personal interest in the proximity of close air. “Close” to them means damned close, and they know it when they see it.

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