DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT AE 073
COL Hubert de Laroque Latour
Commander, 3d Helicopter Regiment
6th (French) Light Armored Division
Interview Conducted 16 March 1991 at 6th (French) Light Armored Division Headquarters, south of As Salman, Iraq
Interviewer: MAJ Dennis Levin (Commander, 130th Military History Detachment)
NOTE: Interview conducted in part in French using CPL Andrew McLean of the Foreign Legion as an interpreter.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 073
MAJ LEVIN: This is an Operation DESERT STORM oral history. Today is the 16th of March . I'm located at the Headquarters of the 6th Light Armor Division south of As Salman off of MSR TEXAS. This is Major Levin of the 130th Military History Detachment.
I am interviewing --
COL LaTOUR: My name is Hubert de Larocque LaTour.
MAJ LEVIN: Let me spell that. That's H. De ... Hubert de Larocque, L-A-R-O-C-Q-U-E. Separate word, LaTour, L-A-T-O-U-R.
COL LaTOUR: Okay. I'm the commanding officer of the 3d Helicopter Regiment, Combat Helicopter Regiment, which is place in France, is a little town of Etaing near Verdun.
MAJ LEVIN: Near Verdun?
COL LaTOUR: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: And your rank is Colonel?
COL LaTOUR: Yes, my rank is Colonel. Full Colonel.
MAJ LEVIN: Full Colonel.
COL LaTOUR: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: Sir, can you tell me a little bit about early in the deployment when you came here to Saudi Arabia: the kinds of difficulties that you may have had or your unit had in having to fly according to American standards, American air control?
COL LaTOUR: I arrived in Saudi in the very beginning of December between the 12th of December and 10th of December before all my unit. But I have two companies who were ... are ... in Saudi before and these companies arrived in October.
I have no problem. I have only a problem of training. But as you know, all my units know the desert because everybody [saw] combat in Chad previously. And everybody had a certain experience in Djibouti. So I had no very important problems. The real problem for me was to find a new style for these -- for the employment [of attack helicopters] because the desert is absolutely flat.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, true. Did you have problems with navigation?
COL LaTOUR: I had problem of ... in the very beginning, yes. But we had a navigator ... navigational device inside the helicopters and I have some GPS [Global Positioning System] also. So, I think it is not very different from the ... between this navigation of the desert and the navigation on sea. I have the same processing above the sea and above the desert. I think it is quite the same.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, except the sea doesn't give you dust.
COL LaTOUR: Yes, exactly. Exactly. [Laughter]
MAJ LEVIN: We had a lot of problems with our helicopters, especially the rotor blades, because of the sand. Did the French helicopters have the same difficulty?
COL LaTOUR: No. [INTERVIEW INTERRUPTED BY DISCUSSION IN FRENCH] Yes, we had some problem with the engine and the blades but in fact, the experience we had in Chad was very interesting because we had some scotch ... you know scotch?
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, tape.
COL LaTOUR: Correct, tapes ... on the blades. [INTERVIEW INTERRUPTED BY DISCUSSION IN FRENCH]
MAJ LEVIN: Hello. Are you going to help with the translation?
CPL McLEAN: Yes, I'm going to try. [Translation was accomplished as the interview took place, with COL LaTour speaking in French and the interpreter translating after each complete thought. Hereafter, unless otherwise stated, all citation indicates that COL LaTour is the speaker. The symbol * is used to indicate where each translation sequence took place.]
MAJ LEVIN: Okay, Can I have your name, please?
CPL McLEAN: McLean.
MAJ LEVIN: McLean, what is your full name?
CPL McLEAN: Andrew.
MAJ LEVIN: Andrew McLean. And you are a ... ?
CPL McLEAN: Corporal in the Foreign Legion.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Where are you from?
CPL McLEAN: I'm Welsh.
MAJ LEVIN: You're Welsh. So you should know some English? [Laughter]
COL LaTOUR: [*] With the experience they've had in Chad, they learned to put tape on the blades and avoided the problems.
MAJ LEVIN: That's interesting because we just discovered that when we came here. So that was a French innovation. How have they dealt with preventing damage to the engines?
COL LaTOUR: [*] The first time they were at Chad, they had a lot of problems. From that, they learned to form filters on the engines. Using those filters here once again avoided a lot of problems.
MAJ LEVIN: Can you describe the numbers and types of helicopters that you have in the regiment?
COL LaTOUR: [*] The regiment's got four types of helicopters. The first type is anti-tank ... in an anti-tank role. That's Gazelles, armed with four HOT missiles. [*] He's got 40.
MAJ LEVIN: 40 Gazelles.
COL LaTOUR: Antitank. [*] He's got fourteen more Gazelles in a reconnaissance role. For air-to-air missiles they use the French MISTRAL, and for ground fire they use 20mm cannons.
MAJ LEVIN: All right. So, all of his regiment is anti-tank or Gazelle, or does he have other helicopters?
COL LaTOUR: [*] He's got [*] 18 Pumas which they used for resupply or casevac [casualty evacuation].
MAJ LEVIN: Okay.
COL LaTOUR: [*] During the Operation DESERT STORM he was reinforced with four extra Pumas. [*] Seventy-six helicopters in total.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. During the operation, which element of the French were you supporting?
COL LaTOUR: [*] He worked to the west, on the west flank. And his regiment had the mission to perform reconnaissance to the Euphrates River. [*] And they were covering the ground troops of the division.
MAJ LEVIN: So they were primarily in support of the Legion?
COL LaTOUR: No.
MAJ LEVIN: No? The whole division?
COL LaTOUR: The whole division.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. When you were preparing for the attack and you were located below Phase Line RAZOR, what kinds of missions did you undertake?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They were doing reconnaissance missions for the whole division on Phase Line RAZOR to the depth of the corps rear.
MAJ LEVIN: Was his regiment involved with any of the radar, side looking radar?
CPL McLEAN: Side looking?
MAJ LEVIN: Yeah. It's a side looking radar.
COL LaTOUR: [*] Yeah, he's got one in his regiment. They used to [reconnoiter] and this radar could detect vehicles on the ground at a distance of 70 kilometers away.
MAJ LEVIN: That was very good. Very good. During the preparation phase, did his regiment ... did your regiment undertake any attack missions, to go after targets and attack them north of the border?
COL LaTOUR: [*] During the offensive?
MAJ LEVIN: No, prior to.
COL LaTOUR: [Discussion by several voices in French] During the three days prior to the offensive, they undertook a number of missions. First day, they went up to [*] [Objective] NATCHEZ. [*] And took out one BMP, several other vehicles. [*] The enemy put down a anti-helicopter barbed wire.
MAJ LEVIN: How effective was it?
COL LaTOUR: [*] No. [Laughter] [*] Everybody came back.
MAJ LEVIN: That's good.
COL LaTOUR: [*] He said the first helicopter of the regiment ... it was well directed because [*] it was within 50 meters of his helicopter.
[*] The second day they didn't come under any fire. The third day they had a helicopter which sustained a direct hit in the blade.
MAJ LEVIN: Was it able to come back?
COL LaTOUR: No, no.
MAJ LEVIN: It went down?
COL LaTOUR: [*] No, it continued with the mission.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, very good.
COL LaTOUR: [*] They took out a vehicle at a position CORDS, and that's where they had a helicopter hit. They carried on the mission; just a little short of [Phase Line] CHARGER. No further losses.
MAJ LEVIN: Are your helicopters capable of night missions?
COL LaTOUR: No. No.
MAJ LEVIN: So this is all ... ?
COL LaTOUR: Unfortunately.
MAJ LEVIN: This is all during the day?
COL LaTOUR: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: Did you have any problems at all with American air control?
COL LaTOUR: No. [*] He said it's very well done. Didn't get any problems with the American air control because everybody had certain zones to work in. During the preliminary phase, we did have American formations flying into his zones but they called them on the radio and with the IFF [Identification, Friend or Foe] the problem resolved.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. That's good.
When the attack began, how were your helicopters employed?
COL LaTOUR: [*] We undertook reconnaissance missions, put two squadrons up to CHARGER and at the same time they had another part of his regiment on the west flank, who got to forty kilometers.
[*] During the preliminary phase on the 17th of January, the regiment undertook the reconnaissance missions between KKMC [King Khalid Military City] until the Iraqi border. And during these missions, they were doing cover to the XVIII [Airborne] Corps which is at that moment deploying, just until they got in.
MAJ LEVIN: Where were the French helicopters based?
COL LaTOUR: They were based in the desert. The desert. No base. Not at all. There's no particular fixed base.
MAJ LEVIN: I noticed on G-Day that a lot of Gazelles and some Pumas came to the same area as the 2d Brigade of the 82d [Airborne] Division, and that there was a lot of sand storm. There was a big sand storm and there was ... one Gazelle was turned over. Was that one of your helicopters?
COL LaTOUR: [*] No, that was not one of his helicopters. He was there, but the regiment had no accidents at all.
MAJ LEVIN: That's good. Did the sand storm [shamal] on G-Day hamper any of your operations?
COL LaTOUR: [*] Sand storms, they're a big problem visibility-wise.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
COL LaTOUR: But, during the preliminary phase, they undertook several missions in terrain where they would be flying. [*] And on purpose they undertook these missions during sand storms to see what would it be like and to train the pilots. [*] Four days before G-Day there was a big sand storm and they took all the helicopters up during the sand storm to see what it would be like.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, very good. Very good. I also noticed ... well, let me drop back a little bit. Can you describe the kind of control that the 2d Brigade of the 82d had of French helicopter missions? How was that coordinated between the 2d Brigade of the 82d and your regiment?
COL LaTOUR: [*] The 2d of the 82d were actually in the eastern flank. His regiment was actually in the western flank.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay, so there was ...
COL LaTOUR: The western section. No connection.
MAJ LEVIN: No connection?
COL LaTOUR: No connection at all.
MAJ LEVIN: All right. Did you have ... did you work with any American helicopters during the course of your operation?
COL LaTOUR: [*] No, because the majority of American helicopters, they were restricted to the eastern flank and the regiment where I was, was in the western flank.
MAJ LEVIN: I saw ... I went with the 2d Brigade and I saw Gazelles and OH-58D [Kiowas] going together. I was wondering how that was coordinated.
COL LaTOUR: [*] The other French helicopter regiment [1st Helicopter Regiment] that were working that flank with the Americans in this zone; and his zone, he was always working on his own. [*] He regrets that a lot because it was a unique experience. [*] Good experience.
MAJ LEVIN: All right. Going up the western flank, what kinds of missions were called in by the [2d] Foreign Legion [Infantry Regiment] during their advance, because they moved very quickly?
COL LaTOUR: [*] During the whole phase, his helicopter regiment were actually taking up missions before [*] or in front of the Legion, doing reconnaissance. So ... [discussion in French by multiple voices] During the first day they actually took out ... they did an attack on [Objective] CHAMBORD [*] and actually they came from the north and attacked the Iraqis from behind [*] and they took out an artillery battery.
MAJ LEVIN: Were there any attacks that were directed from the ground?
COL LaTOUR: No.
MAJ LEVIN: None?
COL LaTOUR: None. [*] They give him the area which could pick up movement and doing the missions, flying, and from there he decides what his men could do. [*] During the attacks they have contact with the ground troops in the case the ground troops will ask them to stop firing. But during the mission, he decides while he's flying which is the best way to go.
MAJ LEVIN: To what extent were your missions dependent on prior intelligence and imagery to know where the targets were going to be? Or, did you simply come up on an area and find something?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They do alike [?] with intelligence, but there's two types of missions that ... there's this type of mission where he knows there's something and they don't exactly where or what and he's got to find out what it is and take it out; or they got a mission where he's got no real prior intelligence and he discovers it as he's going along and takes necessary action.
MAJ LEVIN: Did you discover much damage from air strikes prior to the missions that you flew? In other words, was there much evidence of damage from jets and deep strikes before G-Day?
COL LaTOUR: [*] He didn't really see much damage on Objective CHAMBORD. He did see impacts and craters from bombs, but he didn't see the results.
MAJ LEVIN: Right. From CHAMBORD he moved up to the air field?
COL LaTOUR: No.
MAJ LEVIN: That was the air field?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They never used a fixed zone during the whole phase of the operation. They just ... they were just using certain parts of the desert where this happened for a short period of time.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh yeah.
COL LaTOUR: As Salman.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, As Salman.
COL LaTOUR: [Extensive discussion in French] On the second day they did a recce [reconnaissance] to SPEAR and PARIS. [*] And to the north until [Phase Line] SMASH. [*] On PARIS, they actually took several prisoners. [*]
MAJ LEVIN: How did they surrender to him?
COL LaTOUR: The visibility was very bad, about 500 meters between 5 and 800 meters.
MAJ LEVIN: I remember that day.
COL LaTOUR: You remember, very bad. And we arrived with 30 helicopters, 20 in front and ten in the second line. And when we arrived, I was in the center, in the middle of the formation, and suddenly I see something as a cloth, a white cloth, but I don't know what it ... what is this cloth. I think it was a [aside in French to select appropriate phrase] because it was in a field.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes.
COL LaTOUR: It was in a field, a green field. [*] He thought it was a scarecrow, or what a scarecrow to begin with. [*] He looked into his binoculars to get a closer look and he saw it was a ... was somebody with a white flag.
[END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE]
COL LaTOUR: ... a Japanese system. [Laughter]
MAJ LEVIN: Yes.
COL LaTOUR: Cheap.
After, I ... [*] They surrounded the position with ... the gun. And I fired only two shell and 4 people stand up. [*] We fired off two rounds and straight away four people, they stood up. [*] Behind they had a Puma for the taking out of casualties.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
COL LaTOUR: [*] So, they landed two Pumas, one which contained an infantry squad, and in the second Puma they brought in a [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. [*] Then continued the mission. They saw they were [*] some positions. They fired again with 20mm and straight away another 8 stood up. They didn't have any more place left in the Puma so they just left them.
MAJ LEVIN: They just left them. Okay. What Infantry went with you?
COL LaTOUR: [*] In the regiment, yes, he's got an infantry company.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, very good. Okay. Let's see, did ... what kind of operations were undertaken on the air field at As Salman?
COL LaTOUR: [Discussion in French with multiple voices] The Legionnaires were at this moment at [Objective] PARIS [*] and they overtook the Legionnaires, [*] and then they attacked the airport. At As Salman 10 helicopters and another 10 helicopters to another objective at the border [limit of advance]. [*] The border being the cross roads to the village itself.
[*] At the airport they fired on a tank and two 14.5mm aircraft guns ... [*] cannons, but they didn't even fire back. [*] But during the attack on border--cross roads--they were fired upon by more 14.5[mm] antiaircraft guns.
MAJ LEVIN: Were you able to return fire and take them out?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They did return fire with a HOT missile. But the distance was so small, about 5 or 400 meters, that they couldn't take out that target.
MAJ LEVIN: Too close.
COL LaTOUR: [*] They returned, and afterwards the target was taken out by two AMX-10 tanks. [*] That's basically the operation and then after that the mission was to do the recces and to secure any prisoners.
MAJ LEVIN: Was your regiment involved at all in the capture of the prison on the hill?
COL LaTOUR: [*] What they did, they sent antitank helicopters and antitank missile and a 20mm to surround the ground troops and give covering fire to the troops, French troops, on the ground. [*] And wounded; they had the casevac helicopters.
[*] During the operation in As Salman, they did do reconnaissance missions through the 100 kilometers ... [*] west, to the west to a place called Bashawana [?]. [*] They took out a communication center which was 50 kilometers to the west of As Salman.
[*] He's going to tell a funny story here. The first squadron that saw the antenna, they fired into a dish and then into the building ... [*] which they found out was a PC, just a place where they fight. [*] A half an hour later, the second squadron came in and saw the same target. They fired and the rounds hit in exactly the same place where the first squadron fired; straight into the same antenna and straight into the same building. [*] Half an hour later the third squadron came, fired more missiles straight into exactly the same place into the dish, and at that moment there were 18 personnel who surrendered.
MAJ LEVIN: That was convincing.
COL LaTOUR: [*] He thinks what happened was that they decided they were going to be coming every half an hour so we've had enough. [Laughter] [*] It was rather good because around the antenna there were a lot of individual emplacements, and so they were able to pick up a lot of their weapons.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, very good. Those were used ... mostly personal weapons or were there any heavy weapons?
COL LaTOUR: [*] No, small weapons, small arms.
MAJ LEVIN: Small ones. Was there any evidence from all of the reconnaissance, did you see any units moving north or trying to get out?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They did see columns trying to escape to the north but they were composed of lorries--trucks or pick-ups. [*] Each time they fired on the columns and the took them out.
[*] After the incident with the communication center one of his elements, they notified that they saw identification panels for ground troops. [*] What they saw actually were solar panels.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, solar panels.
COL LaTOUR: [*] So, after seeing these panels, he sent another squadron in, thinking that after seeing this, there must be another communication center in the area. [*] While they were looking for the communication center on the horizon, one of his elements saw on the horizon a very, very large signature. [*] Because it was a very long distance, he took out a mission with one squadron of antitank helicopters, one squadron of 20mm helicopters, and the infantry company as well. [*] And at this location, he is sure that it was a very, very well organized, with communication center and a lot of fortifications. [*] At this location they took out the command post, the communication center, the antenna, and three anti-aircraft pieces. [*] Then they surrendered, and they took 90 prisoners ... [*] ... 94 prisoners, and he picked up all their weapons.
MAJ LEVIN: Um-hum.
COL LaTOUR: [*] What he regrets a lot, is that on his map this air field to the north it wasn't marked, so he didn't realize it was there. If he had known, he would have carried on with this mission to see if there were any planes.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes. Okay, now, identify this airfield.
COL LaTOUR: [*] Ghalaysan.
MAJ LEVIN: Ghalaysan. And the action that you undertook was at the ...
COL LaTOUR: [*] The operation was on a place called As Shubakr [?].
MAJ LEVIN: How did you coordinate the movement of your infantry and your gunships? Did the gunships come in first and then you brought in infantry, or did the infantry come in when the enemy indicated they were surrendering?
COL LaTOUR: [*] First of all they sent in the gunships and the antitank helicopters, and then the infantry were brought in in helicopters to mop up and carry on the operation. [*] The first thing they did was to take out the antenna and the antiaircraft positions. [*] They then sent in the helicopters with the guns to fire on the ground troops ... [*] and then they brought in infantry. They landed them just next to the village.
MAJ LEVIN: The infantry came in from one direction?
COL LaTOUR: Huh?
MAJ LEVIN: When the infantry landed, did they sweep in from one direction?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They only fired into the command post and the they seen personnel come out because they knew they were located, so they came in in one direction. [*] What they did, they surrounded the whole village with all his helicopters. [The ones with the] 20mm cannons, they supported the ground troops at a closer distance. and the ground troops went through the whole village and searched it.
MAJ LEVIN: How close to the village were the ground troops landed?
COL LaTOUR: [*] 400 meters.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay.
COL LaTOUR: [*] What they did is that during the missions it's up to him to decide what he wants to do and the mission, it was actually outside these designated zone where the French were to act ... the designated zone. [*] But because he saw there was an ammunition, he decided to go and take it out.
MAJ LEVIN: Did the ground troops encounter any resistance at all?
COL LaTOUR: No. No. [*] He thinks they were very surprised. They didn't see him coming in. The first thing they knew about it was when the HOT missiles started landing. [*] They were flying very, very low; 50 centimeters, which is about one and a half feet.
MAJ LEVIN: At what range were they employing the HOT missile?
COL LaTOUR: 400.
MAJ LEVIN: 400 meters?
COL LaTOUR: No, 4,000 meters.
MAJ LEVIN: 4,000 meters. That's pretty good. Now, is that ... the HOT missile is strictly wire guided, isn't it?
COL LaTOUR: Right.
MAJ LEVIN: So it can't be directed from another helicopter?
COL LaTOUR: NO no. [*] It's got to be guided in by the same helicopter that fired it. [*] It's not like the HELLFIRE.
MAJ LEVIN: Yeah. It's a good missile, though. Does a good job.
COL LaTOUR: [*] It works very well. He said a missile that goes into a building and takes it out ... .
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, yes.
COL LaTOUR: [*] Afterwards, they fired on the armored hangers at the airport, As Salman, and they saw that their missile would go through them.
MAJ LEVIN: Really? That's very good. That's a surprise because that's a ... those are very thick.
COL LaTOUR: [*] It's the first time they've done it. They didn't know what was going to happened.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes. That's good. Good experience.
COL LaTOUR: Good experience, yes. [Laughter]
MAJ LEVIN: Once the cease fire was roughly in place, what kinds of missions have you undertaken?
COL LaTOUR: [*] Since the cease fire, they mostly take support missions up into Euphrates River, at the same time on the western flank, to stop any enemy coming in from the west.
MAJ LEVIN: Has there been any detection of enemy unit movement?
COL LaTOUR: [*] Absolutely no.
MAJ LEVIN: What about civilians?
COL LaTOUR: [*] They did see a very small number of civilian personnel in an oasis. [*] It's very, very easy to distinguish civilian truck ... [*] a Mercedes lorry, a truck, big tanks, and sheep.
MAJ LEVIN: Right, the Bedouin.
COL LaTOUR: [*] They can't really make a mistake. It's very easy to recognize.
MAJ LEVIN: Good. Very good.
COL LaTOUR: [*] During the operation, one of the risks that worried him was that they could open up on civilians which is why he always was in front in his ... in the lead in his helicopter. And it was him who decided to open fire or not.
MAJ LEVIN: Have you had an opportunity at all to talk with American aviators, pilots, during the course of this whole operation? Or to interchange on gun camera ...
COL LaTOUR: No. [*] Unfortunately he found himself in the zone where there wasn't really many Americans deployed. So, during the actual operation he didn't get a chance to discuss things. But during ... before the operation, he had a chance to speak quite a lot with the Americans.
MAJ LEVIN: So how would you compare the French attack helicopter missions and the Americans' operations? Are they different, are they very different or are they pretty much the same?
COL LaTOUR: [*] Basically, they don't think they're that different; but the main difference is that during an operation it was totally up to him to decide what he does, the best approach, what to fire on. And also, in the regiment, he's got all the means, needs, for infantry. So, he doesn't need to call in for support. [*]
MAJ LEVIN: Would you consider your operations more flexible than American operations?
COL LaTOUR: [*] Yes, probably more flexible because less planning, prior planning. [*] What he likes a lot is that he can do what he wants with the missions. For example, the attack on As Shabaka was completely on his authority that he decided to go in. There was no prior planning at all. [*] Go out and he radios back to the division. He said, I've seen something. I'm going in. Division came back, okay.
MAJ LEVIN: And that's all the coordination. [Laughter] That was good.
Okay, is there anything in particular that you would like to bring out in this history that you feel is significant that I may not have covered?
COL LaTOUR: [*] What he'd like to say is he thinks he suffered a lot in that we didn't have helicopters with night capability. [*] The American counterparts were probably ... would be a lot more ... a lot happier if they've got night flying capability and the operations that they take out at night would be a lot more effective because the enemy won't know where they're coming from. And ... [*] he thinks the American night attacks with the [AH-64] Apaches actually terrified the enemy and we reaped the benefit from that.
[*] He thinks that it's very important the helicopters are very free to fly where it is necessary because the best attacks they undertook were when the attacked the enemy from behind. [*] They weren't really capable of taking out targets that were stopped; stationary targets that were well camouflaged.
MAJ LEVIN: So you don't ... do you have a capability of picking up things by heat?
COL LaTOUR: [*] Not yet. [*] All the targets ... [*] during the preliminary phase, they did a lot of training and actually were attacking the American encampments just to see at 4,000 meters the appearance of a tank or an enemy emplacement. [*] At the beginning of these training missions, they really weren't able to distinguish the enemy but after doing several, then they could see very well ... pick up very well the enemy just by looking.
[*] Psychologically, the helicopters were very important, especially when they're used ... a lot of helicopters and a very tight formation. [*] He's decided this after consulting with the prisoners, because actually the enemy was a lot superior to the forces he was attacking with. [*] What clinched it ...
[END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE]
MAJ LEVIN: This is tape number two of the COL Laroque-LaTour interview.
Okay. So that [it was] the mass formation of the helicopters coming in that brought the enemy up out of the holes?
COL LaTOUR: Um ... As I said before, the enemy didn't realize that they were there until they were practically 800 meters in front of them. And then when they saw 30 helicopters in a tight formation like that, they were actually terrified.
[*] Um. You like to compare it with a frontal assault by tanks. The difference is that while the tanks are advancing it's not dangerous because they can't fire. [*] Ah yes, they can fire but it's a lot less precise. [*] Whereas, with the helicopter ... what he thinks ... frightens the enemy more than the movement of the tanks, more than the actual ...
MAJ LEVIN: Than the firing?
COL LaTOUR: ... the actual firing, yes.
[*] He'd remember this when they were attacking with the helicopters because when you had 30 helicopters in line attacking at 150 kilometers an hour, it was a very, very big effect of movement. Its very frightening to the ground troops. [*] And then during the interrogation of the prisoners after, they found out that the prisoners thought that they had been seen, whereas actually they hadn't.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh. It's just ... I guess when you see all those helicopters coming at you, you feel like, well, somebody must know we're here.
COL LaTOUR: [*] Yes, exactly.
MAJ LEVIN: That's a very interesting observation. Is there anything else you would like to add?
COL LaTOUR: [*] No, I think that's about it.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Well, sir, I thank you very much for your time and I thank you for the input. This is going to be, I think, very helpful.
COL LaTOUR: You're welcome.
[END OF INTERVIEW]