Rules of Engagement  

MACV 1962





MACV Directive Number 62, 24 November 1962, established operational

restrictions on U.S. aircraft to be employed an combat support missions

which read, in extract, as follows:


a. In South Vietnam all operational missions flown by U.S. personnel and/or aircraft are classified as combat support. As a general policy, no missions will be undertaken utilizing U.S. personnel and/or aircraft unless it is beyond the capability of the Vietnamese Air Force (because of lack of training, equipment, etc.) to perform the mission. Efforts will be intensified to provide the necessary training for GVN personnel so that the VNAF can perform all required missions at the earliest possible time.

b. U.S. aircrew personnel operating under the terms of this

and other applicable directives are reminded that nothing shall infringe upon the inherent right of the individual to protect himself against hostile attack. In event of such an attack, the individual concerned will take immediate aggressive action against the attacking force with any means available.






5. SPECIFIC RESTRICTIONS: The following specific restrictions are applicable and strict compliance therewith is directed:

a. Farmgate: Utilization of Farmgate aircraft for operational (combat support) missions will be only with a combined U.S. and Vietna- mese crew. Farmgate U-10 aircraft will not be employed on armed recon- naissance missions. Farmgate aircraft will carry VNAF markings.

b. Waterglass: 2d Air Division will prepare regulations applicable to U.S. aircraft conducting air defense orientation training under the Waterglass concept. Waterglass restrictions are not included in this directive due to classification.

c. Mule Train/Ranch Hand: C-123's will be U.S. marked. They will be manned with a combined U.S. and Vietnamese crew on applicable combat missions as defined *** above.

d. U.S. Army CH-21C's (Shawnee) and USMC UH-34D's (HUS):

Armament may be installed in and utilized from transport helicopters for defensive purposes only. Armament in such aircraft will not be utilized to initiate fires upon any target; however, if the aircraft is fired upon, it may return the fire. Aircraft will be U.S. marked and manned.

e. U.S. Army UH-l's (Iroquois): The U.S. Army armed UH-1 may be used defensively only. It may not be utilized to initiate fires upon any target; however, if the aircraft or any aircraft which it is escorting is fire upon, it may return the fire. Such aircraft, when employed on combat support missions, will be U.S. marked and manned with a combined U.S. and Vietnamese crew.

f. U.S. Army OV-1ís (Mohawk): The OV-l's may be utilized in an armed configuration (only as specifically directed by COMUSMACV) for

combat support missions, however. such armament will be utilized only defensively. These aircraft will not be utilized as strike aircraft. When utilized in a combat support role, they will be U.S. marked and manned with a combined U.S. and Vietnamese crew.

g. Cambodian/SVN/DMZ Border: MACV Letter, subject: Air Operations, dated 23 October 1962, applies to operations of all U.S. aircraft. However, the general content of this letter is repeated in this directive and is applicable to all U.S. aircraft operating in SVN. Day: Normally no U'.S. aircraft will operate closer than three miles to the Cambodian border and then only when the ceiling is atleast 1500 feet and visibility is three miles or better. When the border is clearly defined by physical landmarks, operational missions may be conducted to a point no closer than one mile to the border; non-operational flights are restricted to five miles from the border and at least 2000 feet altitude. Night: No U.S. aircraft will operate closer than three miles to the Cambodian border during periods of reduced visibility and only then when under positive radar control. Unless specifically authorized by this headquarters, no U.S. aircraft will conduct combat missions more than two miles off the coast of Vietnam. Waivers to these border restrictions (paragraph 3c, above cited letter) will be granted with the utmost discretion and then only when the border can be unmistakably defined by visual reference.


Thus, there were aircraft operating within the Republic of Vietnam which had VNAF markings and Vietnamese crews: VNAF markings and U.S.- Vietnamese crews; U.S. markings and U.S.-Vietnamese crews; and U.S. markings with U.S. crews.

Admiral Felt pointed out to General Harkins that JCS message Number

5972 of 6 September 1962 had authorized the initiation of fires by armed aircraft engaged in escort:

By definition (JCS 5972) suppressive fires resulting from escort missions are considered defensive fire. You should amend paragraphs 5D and

E of (MACV Directive 62) in such manner as to indicate armament on UH-l's and CH-21's/UH-34's may be used to initiate fire provided enemy target is clearly identified and is threat to the safety of the helicopter and passengers.

Moreover, JCS message 8678 of 16 February 1963 had authorized an amendment to the rules of engagement, pertaining specifically to U.S.A helicopters in the RVN, to allow them to engage clearly identified Viet Cong forces considered a threat to the safety of the aircraft and their passengers. JCS stated that, during a visit of their team to the RVN,

it was found that the JCS message of September 1962 concerning rules of engagement for armed Army helicopters had been erroneously interpreted

to mean that the helicopter must wait to be fired upon before initiating

return fire i8/ "Such interpretation is more restrictive than was the intent ..."    COMUSMACV amended his rules of engagement accordingly.