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The study of history is a resource that most agree is critical to the betterment of any organization. The U.S. Army has always embraced military history, and by studying the “lessons-learned” from past wars and operations it improves its ability to perform in the future. However, the bulk of rewarding historical military study and education has been devoted to combat operations, at the expense of other fields, such as logistics. Moreover, there has been sparse accounting of logistical operations during the Vietnam War. The use of airdrop was not widespread in Vietnam, but significant developments in aerial resupply doctrine and technology were experienced. This monograph analyzes the airdrop operations at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Khe Sanh in 1968, and An Loc in 1972, and presents the doctrinal and procedural evolution that occurred in each. All three battles presented unique challenges to the logisticians tasked to resupply the beleaguered forces, and the solutions that emerged were equally remarkable.
The story of aerial resupply, tactical airlift, and airdrop in Vietnam is largely a story of success in a place and time where (at least strategically and politically) there were few positive achievements. Many of the ideas and tenets employed to relieve besieged forces there were the result of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of Army and Air Force logisticians and aircrews. Some of these methods were incorporated into procedures for future use, but many were not. This study captures these experiences, through an historical analysis of the missions themselves, with the intent of improving the current logistics posture of U.S. forces and their ability to “provide by parachute.”