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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Vietnam War

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Vietnam War The Battle for Vietnam. .

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Old 19 Feb 14, 21:13
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"Broken Arrow" Vietnam

We know that LtCol Hal Moore declared "Broken Arrow" at the battle of Ia Drang and the amount of air power that arrived was incredible. Was there any other declarations of Broken Arrow during our involvement in Vietnam?
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Old 20 Feb 14, 09:15
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Originally Posted by TTownLarry View Post
We know that LtCol Hal Moore declared "Broken Arrow" at the battle of Ia Drang and the amount of air power that arrived was incredible. Was there any other declarations of Broken Arrow during our involvement in Vietnam?
Interesting Q. I've wondered about it myself. I'm no expert. Just guessing, for starters.

1. I don't know whether "Broken Arrow" was just code used on that particular unit net at that time, or whether the particular code phrase was generalized throughout other commands, throughout the war. Moore and Galloway (p 194 WWSOY) seem to say that it was universal for all US in Vietnam, at least in Nov '65. But a lot of things changed after that. Informed correctives welcome.

They wrote,
"Lt Charlie Hastings, our FAC...made an immediate instinctive decision: "I used the code-word 'Broken Arrow,' which meant American unit in contact and in danger of being overrun--and we received all available aircraft in South Vietnam for close air support..." "

2. I think situations in which a US commander brought all available firepower to bear danger close were probably rare.* I can't name the other such incidents. If I wanted to research it, I'd start with incidents in which a US unit was overrun, or nearly overrun, and see how many of those involved anything like Moore's "Broken Arrow." Maybe start with Lang Vei, Kham Duc. (I think someone compiled a list of "lost battles".) But notice that at Ia Drang the code word meant literally "American unit in danger of being overrun." It did not mean all available firepower would be brought, necessarily-- and availability varied, the enemy got smarter, etc.

JM$.02. I know this is longer than it needed to be, and it doesn't answer your question. Thinking it over, I see that the code word "Broken Arrow" was a USAF code, not Army. The FAC made the call, not the commander. I should rewrite it now, but I'm too lazy. Hopefully someone here is an authority on VN War battles and can give a more informed reply. The topic of CAS has been pretty well worked too, I believe. So in addition to "lost battles vietnam" try search "CAS vietnam overrun" or something similar.

*This might be misconstrued. I'm not talking about small unit contacts in which the commander was a Lt or a recon sgt and "all available" might have meant some mortars and maybe one 105 battery, for example.

Last edited by Jeffy; 20 Feb 14 at 09:27..
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Old 20 Feb 14, 11:00
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Between 1945 and 2007, the term 'broken arrow' has been used 32 times. I'm not sure how many of those times were in Vietnam at this time but I'll try to look into it further.
I do know that the definition changed from being used to alert command that a unit is in dire straits as Lt. Col. Moore used it to it referring to a situation with a 'nuclear' threat of some kind.

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