Conceptual Underpinnings of the Air Assault Concept: The Hogaboom, Rogers and Howze Boards

December 7, 2006

America’s versatile commissioner to France, Benjamin Franklin, was so enthusiastic about the success of hot air balloons in 1784 that he posed this interesting military question:

[W]here is the prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defence, as that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief, before a force could be brought together to repel them?

The answer to Franklin’s question would not be fully realized until the U.S. Army and Marine Corps had doctrinally-based air assault forces. Air assault forces are composed primarily of ground and rotary-wing air units organized, equipped and trained for air assault operations.

An air assault operation is an operation in which air assault forces—using the firepower, mobility and total integration of helicopter assets in their ground or air roles—maneuver on the battlefield under the control of the ground or air maneuver commander to engage and destroy enemy forces. The evolution of the air assault concept led to an interwar transformation for both services and potential models for future transformations.

This paper assesses the boards used by the Army and Marine Corps in the development of air assault forces between the Korean War and July 1965. First, it discusses the strategic environment and how the services were influenced by it. Second, it briefly outlines the growth of the air assault concept after the Korean War. Third is a series of discussions on the boards used by the services; an outline of the force structure and an analysis of the boards as potential models of transformation are also presented. Finally, an analysis of the applicable theories and the strategic implications of air assault forces and their longterm efficacy concludes the paper.