Operation Menu - System


First, the number of individuals who had complete knowledge of the operation was kept to a bare minimum. All communications concerning the missions was split along two paths – one route was overt, ordering typical B-52 missions that were to take place within South Vietnam near the Cambodian border – the second route was covert, utilizing back-channel messages between commanders ordering the classified missions. For example: General Abrams would request a Menu strike. His request went to Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC), in Honolulu. McCain forwarded it to the Joint Chiefs in Washington DC, who, after reviewing it, passed it on to Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird (who might consult with the president). The Joint Chiefs then passed the command for the strike to General Bruce K. Holloway, Commander of SAC, who then notified Lieutenant General Alvin C. Gillem, Commander of the 3rd Air Division on Guam.

During this time Air Force Major Hal Knight was supervising an MSQ-77 Combat Skyspot radar site at Bien Hoa Air Base, RVN. "Skyspot" was a ground directed bombing system which directed B-52 strikes to targets in Vietnam. Each day a courier plane would arrive from SAC's Advanced Echelon Office at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. Knight was given a revised list of target coordinates for the next day's missions. That evening, the coordinates were fed into Olivetti Programma 101 computers. and then relayed to the aircraft as they came on station. Only the pilots and navigators of the aircraft (who had been personally briefed by General Gillem and sworn to secrecy) knew of the true location of the targets. The bombers then flew on to their targets and delivered their payloads. After the air strikes, Knight gathered the mission paperwork, computer tapes etc., destroying them in an incinerator. He then called a special phone number in Saigon and reported that "The ball game is over." The aircrews filled out routine reports of hours flown, fuel burned, and ordnance dropped. This dual system maintained secrecy and provided Air Force logistics and personnel administrators with information that they needed to replace air crews or aircraft and replenish stocks of fuel and munitions.

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