You are on page 1of 10

The Air War Against North Vietnam

Chapter IV from
The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973
By the United States Air Force, 19!
The United States "a#nched its first air stri$es
against North Vietnam in A#g#st 19%! in response
to the attac$ on the Na&y destroyer, USS 'addo()
Na&y carrier p"anes hit fo#r North Vietnamese
coasta" torpedo *ases and an oi" storage faci"ity)
+n , -ecem*er, the .resident said he fa&ored a
"imited air campaign against Comm#nist "ines of
comm#nication #sed to s#pport the ins#rgency in
So#th Vietnam) The second air stri$e against
North Vietnam, nic$named /F"aming -art I0 1as
"a#nched *y the Na&y on 2 Fe*r#ary 19%3 after
enemy mortar and demo"ition teams attac$ed U)S)
and So#th Vietnamese mi"itary faci"ities near
."ei$#) The fo""o1ing day, as part of this riposte,
VNAF A415s4accompanied *y ,6 F41665s f"ying
f"a$ s#ppression sorties and , VNAF A4175s,
commanded *y 8t) Co") Andre1 Chapman of the
9d Tactica" :ro#p ,d Air -i&ision dropped
genera" p#rpose *om*s on the Chap 8e *arrac$s)
Se&era" of the ,6 accompanying USAF F41665s
attac$ed enemy antiaircraft arti""ery ;AAA< sites)
Three =F41615s pro&ided photographic co&erage)
+n 11 Fe*r#ary, a third air stri$e ;/F"aming -art
II0< 1as cond#cted *y Na&y, USAF, and VNAF
aircraft against NVA *arrac$s at Chanh 7oa and
Vit Th# 8#) It 1as in response to another enemy
attac$, this time against U)S) faci"ities at >#i Nhon
1hich $i""ed more than ,6 Americans)
A 194day pa#se fo""o1ed the second F"aming
-art stri$es) When air attac$s against the North
res#med on , 'arch 19%3, they carried the
appe""ation /=o""ing Th#nder)/ +n that date, :en4
era" 'oore dispatched ,3 F41635s and ,6 B4325s4
accompanied *y ?C4193 ref#e"ing tan$ers and
other s#pporting aircraft41hich hit an NVA
amm#nition depot at @om Bong a*o#t 93 mi"es
a*o&e the -'A, ca#sing hea&y damage)
The =o""ing Th#nder campaign 1as
s#*stantia""y different from those of Wor"d War I
and II, resem*"ing rather the geographica""y
"imited air 1ar o&er ?orea) That is to say,
.resident Bohnson determined to a&oid a "arger
conf"ict 1ith China and the So&iet Union4imposed
stringent contro"s on air operations) The stri$es
had a three4fo"d p#rposeC to raise the mora"e of the
So#th Vietnamese, impose a pena"ty on 7anoi for
s#pporting aggression in the So#th, and red#ce
infi"tration of men and s#pp"ies into the So#th) The
air campaign a"so 1as *ased on the hope that the
grad#a" destr#ction of North Vietnam5s mi"itary
*ases and constant attac$s on its "ines of
comm#nications ;8+C5s< 1o#"d *ring its "eaders
to the negotiating ta*"e)
The restrictions imposed #pon the Air Force
made e(ec#tion of =o""ing Th#nder stri$es &ery
comp"e() Coordination of USAF and VNAF air
operations de&o"&ed #pon :enera" 'oore and his
s#ccessors) Besides *eing responsi*"e to
Washington a#thorities and the commanders of the
t1o #nified commands4Admira" Sharp and
:enera" Westmore"and4the ,d Air -i&ision
commander a"so 1as reD#ired to 1or$ c"ose"y 1ith
the U)S) am*assadors in Saigon, Vientiane, and
Bang$o$) In #nderta$ing air stri$es, po"itica"
considerations 1ere #s#a""y paramo#nt) For
e(amp"e, sD#adrons *ased in Thai"and co#"d attac$
targets in North Vietnam and 8aos *#t not in
So#th Vietnam) In B#ne 19%3 :enera" 'oore 1as
assigned the additiona" Eo* of ser&ing as 'ACV
-ep#ty Commander for Air +perations, *#t it did
not great"y increase his a#thority or a"ter his
responsi*i"ities for three separate *#t re"ated areas
of operations So#th Vietnam, North Vietnam, and
8aos)
The .resident retained s#ch firm contro" of the
air campaign against the North that no important
target or ne1 target areas co#"d *e hit 1itho#t his
appro&a") 7is decisions 1ere re"ayed thro#gh
Secretary 'cNamara to the Boint Chiefs, 1ho then
iss#ed stri$e directi&es to CINC.AC) The "atter, in
t#rn, apportioned fi(ed targets and armed
reconnaissance ro#tes among the U)S) Air Force,
U)S) Na&y, and the Vietnamese Air Force, 1ith
USAF cre1s norma""y pro&iding air co&er for the
VNAF, 1hich "ater 1ithdre1 from northern
operations to concentrate on s#pporting A=VN
.age 1
forces 1ithin So#th Vietnam) In cond#cting
operations o&er the North, the American cre1s
1ere enEoined to minimiFe ci&i"ian cas#a"ties as
m#ch as possi*"e) This po"icy4and the o&era""
target restraints imposed *y the White 7o#se and
.entagon officia"s4he"ped a&oid in North Vietnam
the hea&y ci&i"ian "osses that characteriFed
*om*ings on *oth sides in Wor"d War II)
The initia" air stri$es 1ere "imited primari"y to
enemy radar and *ridges *et1een the 12th and
19th para""e"s) 8ater, the airmen 1ere a""o1ed to
hit a n#m*er of other mi"itary targets *e"o1 the
,6th para""e") The first target hit a*o&e the ,6th
para""e", the >#ang So#i *arrac$s, 1as attac$ed on
,, 'ay 19%3 *y Air Force F41635s and the first
a*o&e 7anoi in "ate B#ne) After mid419%3, the
airmen 1ere a#thoriFed to attac$ important *ridges
and segments of the north1est and northeast rai"
"ines *et1een 7anoi and the Chinese *order) For
an e(tended period, Washington e(empted from
attac$ sanct#ary areas aro#nd 7anoi and
7aiphong, a *#ffer Fone near China, s#rface4to4air
missi"e ;SA'< sites, and 'I: *ases "ocated 1ithin
the 7anoi 7aiphong areas) After the first fe1
sporadic stri$es, =o""ing Th#nder pi"ots on 19
'arch *egan f"ying stri$e sorties against
indi&id#a" targets and target areas on a 1ee$"y
*asis) Beginning on 9 B#"y 19%3, targets 1ere pro4
grammed on a *i1ee$"y *asisG after 19%3 ne1
targets 1ere se"ected periodica""y)
The first Air Force tactica" stri$es 1ere *y
aircraft a"ready in So#th Vietnam and Thai"and)
As additiona" air #nits arri&ed, those assigned
missions against targets in North Vietnam and
8aos4and a portion of the B43, f"eet 1ere sent to
si( "arge airfie"ds, some ne1"y *#i"t, in Thai"and)
USAF strength in Thai"and gre1 from a*o#t 1,666
personne" and 9 aircraft in ear"y 19%3 to a pea$ of
93,666 personne" and %66 aircraft in 19%) U)S)
Na&y aircraft and So#th Vietnam4*ased 'arine
aircraft a"so f"e1 many missions o&er North
Vietnam and 8aos)
The principa" Air Force tactica" stri$e aircraft
d#ring =o""ing Th#nder operations 1as the F4163
Th#nderchief) 'ass4prod#ced after the ?orean
War, it ser&ed thro#gho#t the 1ar in So#theast
Asia) A ne1er fighter, the t1in4seat F4! .hantom
II manned *y an aircraft commander and a
1eapons system officer, initia""y 1as #sed in a
com*at air patro" ;CA.< ro"e) Committed to *att"e
grad#a""y, it f"e1 its first stri$e mission at the end
of 'ay 19%3 and its first armed reconnaissance
mission in A#g#st) A third Air Force fighter, the
t1in4seat, s1ept 1ing F4111A, reached Thai"and
in 'arch 19%, #nder1ent com*at e&a"#ation that
year, and 1as 1ithdra1n) S#*seD#ent"y, in the
"atter stages of the 1ar, this sophisticated night and
a""41eather aircraft ret#rned to So#theast Asia and
f"e1 reg#"ar com*at missions)
A n#m*er of o"der, "o1er4performance and
more &#"nera*"e aircraft 1ere #sed *rief"y or
sparing"y o&er the North) The F4166 S#per Sa*re
and the F416! Starfighter sa1 action chief"y in a
s#pport ro"e a*o&e the -'A) Some Starfighters
f"e1 stri$e missions and the B432 Can*erra "ight
*om*er 1as emp"oyed "arge"y in night operations)
H&ent#a""y, a"" 1ere 1ithdra1n from northern
missions, 1ith the F4166 *eing #sed primari"y for
c"ose air s#pport in So#th Vietnam)
The B43, Stratofortresses made their de*#t o&er
North Vietnam in Apri" 19%% 1ith a stri$e near '#
:ia pass) -#ring the ne(t % 1I, years, these hea&y
*om*ers 1ere emp"oyed against enemy targets in
North Vietnam5s panhand"e, staying far a1ay from
the dangero#s SA4, missi"e sites "ocated most"y in
the 7anoi47aiphong area) Based initia""y on :#am
and "ater in Thai"and, the B43,5s 1ere primari"y
emp"oyed to interdict North Vietnamese "ines of
comm#nication "eading to the -'A and the 7o
Chi 'inh trai" in 8aos) +n these missions, they
norma""y dropped ,3 to 96 tons of ordnance) :en)
Bohn .) 'cConne"", 8e'ay5s s#ccessor as Air
Force Chief of Staff, remar$ed on the irony of the
#se of these strategic *om*ers to hit tactica"
targets) B#t it 1as on"y one of se&era"
impro&isations introd#ced *y the Air Force in
1aging the #northodo( air 1ar)
The ro"e p"ayed *y SAC5s ?C4193 air ref#e"ing
tan$ers pro&ed &ita" to the e(ec#tion of =o""ing
Th#nder) .rior to 19%3 they had *een #sed
primari"y to ref#e" B43,5s *#t they a"so had
pro&ided mid4air ref#e"ing ser&ice to tactica"
aircraft dep"oying from one part of the 1or"d to
another) :en) Wi""iam W) 'omyer, commander of
the Se&enth Air Force ;19%%419%<, o*ser&ed that
fe1 airmen /foresa1 that air ref#e"ing 1o#"d *e4
come a *asic part of the scheme of emp"oyment of
fighter forces o&er North Vietnam)/ Since m#ch of
the USAF tactica" air f"eet 1as *ased some 936
na#tica" mi"es from their targets in the North,
ref#e"ing 1as essentia" if the F41635s and F4!5s
1ere to de"i&er s#*stantia" ordnance "oads on their
targets) The ?C41935s a"so ena*"ed many f#e"4
short or damaged aircraft to ret#rn safe"y to their
*ases)
Among the pro*"ems facing U)S) airmen f"ying
o&er North Vietnam 1ere the hea&y forests, the
E#ng"e terrain, and the ann#a" northeast monsoon,
.age ,
1hich 1as most se&ere from mid4+cto*er to mid4
'arch) A"" affected operations o&er the North)
They a"so p"aced a premi#m on the a*i"ity of
reconnaissance aircraft to "ocate enemy targets and
assess *om* damage) To o*tain this information,
the Air Force emp"oyed a n#m*er of manned and
#nmanned aircraft) .erhaps the most famo#s 1as
the U4,, 1hich first attracted 1or"d1ide attention
in 'ay 19%6, 1hen So&iet missi"emen shot one
do1n o&er centra" =#ssia 1hi"e it 1as on a high4
a"tit#de reconnaissance mission) 8ater, in the fa""
of 19%,, a SAC U4, detected the first So&iet stra4
tegic missi"es dep"oyed in C#*a) In So#theast
Asia, the U4, f"e1 reconnaissance missions o&er
North Vietnam *eginning in 19%3)
Thro#gho#t the 1ar Fone, the Air Force a"so
operated other reconnaissance aircraft, inc"#ding
the =B432, the 1or$horse =F4161, the =F4!C, and
drones) Some of these aircraft, eD#ipped 1ith
infrared and side4"oo$ing radar, he"ped ad&ance
the techno"ogy of reconnaissance d#ring the 1ar)
In 19%3, SAC5s =yan 1!2- ;and other mode"<
drones made their initia" f"ights o&er North
Vietnam) -ropped from -C4196 transports, they
1ere a*"e to o*tain photo inte""igence o&er the
7anoi area) As North Vietnam *egan de&e"oping a
modern air defense system, the Air Force a"so
*egan #sing aircraft capa*"e of o*taining target
data &ia &ario#s e"ectronic methods)
=o""ing Th#nder, 19%3419%
From the first handf#" of stri$es o&er the North
in ear"y 19%3, Air Force and Na&y attac$ sorties
rose from 1,366 in Apri" to a pea$ of a*o#t !,666
in Septem*er) In +cto*er, 1ith the onset of the
northeast monsoon, they dec"ined steep"y) Whi"e
the 1eather 1as good, U)S) pi"ots destroyed or
damaged a &ariety of mi"itary targetsC *ridges,
&ehic"es, ro""ing stoc$, *arrac$s areas, s#pp"y and
amm#nition depots, ferries, 1atercraft, and
antiaircraft arti""ery and radar sites) They *om*ed
rai"road trac$s and roads to pre&ent the mo&ement
of men and s#pp"ies) The res#"ts of the air stri$es
co#"d not *e acc#rate"y assessed and *ecame the
s#*Eect of considera*"e de*ate) B#t they red#ced
or de"ayed the enemy5s operations and infi"tration
into the So#th) They "ed the North Vietnamese to
adopt the practice of tra&e"ing #nder co&er of night
and *ad 1eather 4ta$ing f#"" ad&antage of forested
or E#ng"e terrain) They a"so di&erted considera*"e
manpo1er and materie" to repair their roads, rai"
"ines, and *ridges and increased their antiaircraft
defenses)
Beca#se of the "imitations imposed on air
operations, 1ar materie" from the So&iet Union,
China, and other Comm#nist co#ntries f"o1ed in
easi"y thro#gh 7aiphong and other North
Vietnamese ports and o&er rai" "ines from
?#nming and Nanning, China 4 a"" of 1hich
he"ped 7anoi to ma$e #p for its "osses and 1hich
faci"itated a rapid air defense *#i"d#p) -#ring
19%3, for e(amp"e, North Vietnam5s AAA
in&entory e(panded from an estimated 1,666 g#ns
to ,,666 pieces and a*o#t !66 antiaircraft sites *y
year5s end) These consisted primari"y of 92and 324
mm g#ns *#t inc"#ded a fe1 34mm and 1664mm
1eapons as 1e"") Sma""er *#t dead"y a#tomatic
1eapons41hich inf"icted m#ch of the "osses and
damage to U)S) aircraft a"so pro"iferated)
The So&iet s#rface4to4air missi"es 1ere first
detected *y a SAC U4, aircraft on 3 Apri" 19%3)
By year5s end, USAF and Na&y reconnaissance
had pinpointed 3% SA' sites) The North
Vietnamese, 1ho too$ great pains to concea" them,
readi"y a*andoned sites to *#i"d ne1 ones) By
*#i"ding a "arge n#m*er of sites, some of them
eD#ipped 1ith d#mmy missi"es to decei&e USAF
cre1s, they 1ere a*"e to #se a /"a#nch and mo&e/
tactic) They emp"oyed a simi"ar tactic 1ith their
AAA g#ns) Another $ey e"ement of 7anoi5s air
defenses 1as the North Vietnamese Air Force
;NVAF<, 1hich 1as eD#ipped 1ith 36 to %6 'I:4
135s and 'I:4125s p"#s a fe1 I84, *om*ers)
A"tho#gh the 'i:s *egan cha""enging U)S) stri$e
aircraft at an ear"y date, they did not *ecome a
serio#s threat #nti" 19%%419%2) The s#m of the
enemy5s array of AAA g#ns, a#tomatic 1eapons,
SA's, and the 'I: force *ac$ed #p *y an
e(panding defense radar comp"e(4ena*"ed 7anoi
to *#i"d one of the most formida*"e air defense
systems e&er de&ised)
+n ,9 B#"y 19%3, after se&era" months of USAF
operations against North Vietnamese targets, the
first F4!C 1as do1ned *y an SA4, missi"e) Fo#r
days "ater, 1ith Washington5s appro&a", Air Force
Th#nderchiefs mo#nted the first stri$e of the 1ar
against the SA's) In A#g#st, a Na&y aircraft 1as
do1ned *y a SA', 1hich "ed to a series of specia"
U)S) /Iron 7and/ missions aimed at North Viet4
nam5s rapid"y e(panding SA4, sites) At first, most
of them 1ere in the 7anoi47aiphong sanct#ary
area and th#s co#"d not *e attac$ed, *#t others
1ere emp"aced a"ong maEor rai" and road
E#nctions, *ridges, and cities north and so#th of the
North Vietnamese capita") In $no1n SA' areas,
Air Force pi"ots 1o#"d drop to "o1er a"tit#des to
.age 9
a&oid the SA4,5s *#t this tactic made them more
&#"nera*"e to con&entiona" AAA and especia""y to
sma""er a#tomatic 1eapons) By mid419%3, the
"atter 1ere credited 1ith shooting do1n most of
the appro(imate"y 36 Air Force and Na&y aircraft
"ost o&er North Vietnam)
An e"ectronic 1ar s#*seD#ent"y ens#ed *et1een
U)S) tactica" aircraft and the enemy5s comp"e( of
radar4contro""ed AAA g#ns and SA's and other
defense radars) The Air Force emp"oyed specia""y
eD#ipped aircraft to co#nter SA' radars) Initia""y,
fighter pi"ots re"ied on the e"ectronica""y eD#ipped
HB4%%5s and /Wi"d Wease"/ F41665s and F41635s to
ne#tra"iFe or 1arn them of radar emissions from
enemy /Fan Song/ eD#ipment 1hich signa"ed that
they 1ere *eing trac$ed or that a SA' firing 1as
imminent) These co#ntermeas#res p"#s the SA,5s
genera""y poor g#idance system $ept "osses "o1)
Th#s, of the appro(imate"y 16 SA's "a#nched in
19%3, on"y 11 s#cceeded in do1ning an aircraft, 3
of 1hich 1ere Air Force) Nonethe"ess, the
inhi*iting and harassing effects of the SA's had
considera*"e impact on air operations) After 19%%,
the fighters carried e"ectronic co#ntermeas#re pods
of their o1n) A n#m*er of HB4%%5s and Wi"d
Wease" aircraft contin#ed to *e #sed, ho1e&er)
The North Vietnamese Air Force, f"ying from
airfie"ds 1hich Washington officia"s decided
sho#"d not *e hit *eca#se of their "ocation in the
hea&i"y pop#"ated 7anoi47aiphong area, 1as not a
maEor threat to USAF pi"ots d#ring 19%3)
A"tho#gh North Vietnamese pi"ots shot do1n t1o
F41635s in a s#rprise attac$ in Apri", thro#gho#t
the year the American airmen c"ear"y he"d the
#pper hand in aeria" fighting) In B#ne Na&y pi"ots
do1ned t1o enemy aircraft) +n 16 B#"y the Air
Force scored its initia" $i""s, 1hen Captains
Thomas S) =o*erts and =ona"d C) Anderson in
one F4! and Captains ?enneth H) 7o"com*e and
Arth#r C) C"ar$ in another 1ere credited 1ith the
shoot4do1n of t1o 'I:4125s)
Har"y in the year, se&era" Air Force HC41,15s
1ere dep"oyed o&er the :#"f of Ton$in to maintain
a /'I: 1atch/ o&er So#theast Asia) F"ying
missions off the coast of North Vietnam, these
aircraft not on"y 1ere a*"e to a"ert U)S) fighter and
s#pport aircraft of approaching 'i:s, *#t a"so
ser&ed as air*orne radar and comm#nication
p"atforms) They a"so 1arned American pi"ots 1ho
f"e1 too near the Chinese *order and they assisted
air4sea searches for do1ned air cre1s) 8ater, the
HC41,15s eD#ipment 1as emp"oyed in an
integrated fashion 1ith the Na&y5s sea*ased radars,
ena*"ing U)S) pi"ots to o*tain a &ariety of
additiona" time"y information a*o#t the enemy5s
and their o1n air operations o&er the North)
The po"itica" restraints p"aced *y the .resident
on air operations o&er North Vietnam denied U)S)
pi"ots certain ad&antages of s#rprise) Another
pro*"em 1as the re"ati&e"y sma"" geographica" area
o&erf"o1n *y =o""ing Th#nder cre1s) It forced
pi"ots to #se specific air corridors going into
;ingressing< and departing ;egressing< a target, a
tas$ made a"" the more diffic#"t *y the need to
a&oid ci&i"ian cas#a"ties as m#ch as possi*"e) A
third operationa" factor 1as the 1eather cyc"e in
North Vietnam, 1hich genera""y a""o1ed optim#m
operations in "ate mornings or afternoons 1hen
c"o#ds and fog 1ere minima" or a*sent) A"" of
these factors contri*#ted to stereotyped American
air tactics 1hich the enemy D#ic$"y *ecame a1are
of and 1hich ena*"ed him to dep"oy his AAA
defenses to great ad&antage) A"so, the re"ati&e"y
short d#ty to#rs created m#ch t#rmoi" in air
operations) H(perienced airmen 1ere constant"y
departing and "ess e(perienced rep"acements
arri&ing, 1hich di"#ted *oth p"anning and f"ying
e(pertise in the theater) To red#ce mission
interference *et1een "and4*ased Air Force and
Na&y carrier aircraft operating o&er North
Vietnam, in -ecem*er 19%3, after cons#"ting 1ith
Air Force and Na&y officia"s, Admira" Sharp
di&ided the *om*ing area into si( maEor /ro#te
pac$ages)/ :enera""y, the "onger4range USAF
fighters attac$ed the in"and ro#te pac$age targetsG
the shorter4range Na&y aircraft concentrated on
those near the coast) In Apri" 19%%, :enera"
Westmore"and ass#med responsi*i"ity for armed
reconnaissance and inte""igence ana"ysis of the
/e(tended *att"efie"d/ area of =o#te .ac$age I
a*o&e the -'A as it affected a""ied operations in
So#th Vietnam) CINC.AC contin#ed to contro" air
operations in the other ro#te pac$ages)
The Bom*ing .a#ses
-#ring the first , years of operations o&er the
North, .resident Bohnson periodica""y ordered
*om*ing pa#ses in an effort to *ring 7anoi5s
"eaders aro#nd to disc#ss a po"itica" sett"ement of
the 1ar) The first *om*ing pa#se of a*o#t % day5s
d#ration 1as ordered in mid4'ay) The second one
*egan on Christmas H&e 19%3 and contin#ed #nti"
96 Ban#ary 19%%) In *oth instances, North Vietnam
did not respond to U)S) action and, indeed, #sed
the *om*ing respites to re*#i"d its strength and
speed the infi"tration of men and s#pp"ies
.age !
so#th1ard) USAF reconnaissance a"so disc"osed
maEor North Vietnamese efforts to repair damaged
roads and *ridges and to insta"" more air defense
1eapons) .resident Bohnson a"so appro&ed *riefer
*om*ing standdo1ns, to permit ce"e*ration of the
ann#a" Vietnamese ne1 year ;/Tet/<, B#ddha5s
*irthday, Christmas, and Ne1 Jear5s -ay)
When U)S) dip"omatic efforts to get the North
Vietnamese to the conference ta*"e got no1here,
the .resident in the "ate spring of 19%% appro&ed a
series of hea&ier air stri$es against North Vietnam)
Added to the appro&ed target "ist 1ere .+8
storage faci"ities at 7aiphong, 7anoi, Ng#yen ?e,
Bac :ian, -o Son, and -#ong Nham) +thers
inc"#ded a po1er p"ant and cement factory in
7anoi, an important road4and4rai" and road *ridge
on the north1est "ine, and an ear"y 1arning and
gro#nd contro" intercept radar faci"ity at ?ep) The
first maEor .+8 stri$e 1as cond#cted on ,9 B#ne
19%% 1hen Air Force F41635s hit a 9,4tan$ farm
"ess than ! mi"es from 7anoi) A*o#t 93 percent of
the target area 1as destroyed) Na&y aircraft str#c$
another important .+8 faci"ity near 7aiphong)
Beginning on 9 B#"y 19%%, as part of an
e(panded =o""ing Th#nder program, U)S) aircraft
*om*ed additiona" .+8 faci"ities, f"e1 e(tended
armed reconnaissance missions thro#gho#t the
North ;e(cept for most of the 7anoi47aiphong
sanct#ary area<, and *egan hea&ier *om*ing of the
northeast and north1est rai" "ines in =o#te
.ac$ages V and VI) Admira" Sharp assigned
interdiction of the rai"roads to the Air Force)
Additiona" press#re against the enemy 1as
*ro#ght to *ear on ,6 B#"y 1hen the Air Force and
'arines "a#nched a ne1 campaign ;Ta""y 7o<
against infi"tration ro#tes and targets *et1een the
-'A and the area 96 mi"es north1ard in =o#te
.ac$age I) The U)S) air offensi&e e(panded in the
ens#ing 1ee$s, pea$ing at a*o#t 1,,666 sorties in
Septem*er)
By that time, =o""ing Th#nder had ta$en a
hea&y to"" of enemy eD#ipment, destroying or
damaging se&era" tho#sand tr#c$s and 1atercraft,
h#ndreds of rai"1ay cars and *ridges, many
amm#nition and storage s#pp"y areas, and t1o4
thirds of the enemy5s .+8 storage capacity) 'any
sorties 1ere f"o1n against AAA, SA4,, and other
air defense faci"ities, tho#sands of c#ts 1ere made
in enemy road and rai" net1or$s) To co#nter this
air campaign, 7anoi 1as forced to di&ert an
estimated ,66,666 to 966,666 f#"" and part4time
1or$ers to repair roads, rai"1ay "ines, *ridges, and
other faci"ities, and to man its air defenses)
A"tho#gh infi"tration so#th1ard co#"d not *e
stopped, U)S) commanders in So#th Vietnam
credited the *om*ing 1ith red#cing the n#m*er of
enemy *atta"ion4siFed attac$s) A ne1 =o""ing
Th#nder program, dated 1, No&em*er, added
more targets inc"#ding the Van Vien &ehic"e depot
and the Jen Vien rai"road yards, *oth 1ithin the
en&irons of 7anoi) These targets, str#c$ *y Air
Force and Na&y pi"ots in -ecem*er 19%%,
prod#ced co""atera" damage and ci&i"ian deaths
1hich "ed to a po"itica" and dip"omatic f#ror) By
the end of 19%%, U)S) tactica" aircraft had f"o1n
a*o#t 16%,366 attac$ sorties and B43,5s another
,6 o&er North Vietnam, dropping at "east 1%3,666
tons of *om*s)
The North Vietnamese accepted the tremendo#s
"osses and fo#ght *ac$) By dispersing and
concea"ing m#ch of their .+8 s#pp"y, they 1ere
a*"e to red#ce the f#"" impact of the air attac$s)
Bad f"ying 1eather and e(tensi&e #se of
manpo1er ena*"ed the North Vietnamese to $eep
open portions of the northern rai" "ines so that
some s#pp"ies contin#ed to f"o1 in from China)
'ore important"y, 7aiphong and other ports4sti""
off4"imits to U)S) aircraft4dai"y #n"oaded tho#sands
of tons of 1ar materie") -espite the air attac$s,
AAA and especia""y sma"" a#tomatic 1eapons
too$ a rising to"" of American aircraft, do1ning a
tota" of !33 *y the end of 19%% and damaging
many more) The n#m*er of SA' sites rose to
a*o#t 136 d#ring the year, *#t impro&ed f"ying
tactics4p"#s the insta""ation of e"ectronic
co#ntermeas#re ;HC'< eD#ipment on U)S)
aircraft4red#ced the effecti&eness of the missi"es)
Unti" Septem*er 19%% the North Vietnamese Air
Force made on"y sporadic attempts to interfere
1ith =o""ing Th#nder operations) B#t on 9
Septem*er NVN pi"ots 1ent on the offensi&e)
HD#ipped 1ith 'i:4,1 5s carrying infrared4
homing air4to4air missi"es, they operated free"y
from fi&e *ases4.h#c Jen, ?ep, :ia 8am, ?ien
An, and 7oa 8oc4in the 7anoi area 1hich co#"d
not *e attac$ed) Confronted *y dai"y 'i:4,1
cha""enges, :enera" 'omyer temporari"y di&erted
Air Force F4!C5s from their primary stri$e mission
to e(c"#si&e aeria" com*at against the 'i:s)
A fa&orite 'i: tactic 1as to pop #p s#dden"y
and try to force the hea&i"y "aden F41635s to
Eettison their *om*s *efore reaching their targets)
To offset this, Side1inder4eD#ipped .hantoms
f"e1 at "o1er a"tit#des to ena*"e their pi"ots to spot
the 'i:s ear"ier and then #sed their higher ac4
ce"eration and speed in hit and r#n tactics) They
a&oided t#rning fights *eca#se the 'i:s had great
mane#&era*i"ity) The HC41,15s he"ped materia""y
.age 3
*y a"erting the F!5s to the presence of the enemy
aircraft) -#ring 19%%, U)S) fighters shot do1n ,9
'i:s, 12 of them credited to USAF cre1s, as
against a "oss of 9 aircraft, 3 of them Air Force)
Har"y in 19%2, Washington officia"s appro&ed
ne1 =o""ing Th#nder targets c"oser to 7anoi) To
protect &ita" ind#stria" and 8+C faci"ities, North
Vietnamese pi"ots, operating 1ith near"y 166
'i:s, 1ere thro1n into the air *att"e) To dampen
their ardor, :enera" 'omyer and his staff de&ised
a r#se nic$named +peration Bo"o) The detai"s
1ere 1or$ed o#t and e(ec#ted *y Co") =o*in
Aids, Commander of the th Tactica" Fighter
Wing) Baited *y 1hat appeared to *e a norma"
=o""ing Th#nder stri$e *y F41635s, the NVAF on ,
Ban#ary s#dden"y fo#nd itse"f engaging F4!5s in the
"argest aeria" *att"e of the 1ar to that time) Co"one"
aids and his pi"ots shot do1n 2 'i:s in 1,
min#tes 1itho#t "osing an aircraft) +"ds persona""y
do1ned t1o of them) +n % Ban#ary 19%2 the North
Vietnamese "ost t1o more 'i:s) St#nned *y the
"osses, the NVAF stood do1n to regro#p and
retrain)
The American air offensi&e contin#ed into
'arch and Apri") +n 16411 'arch, F416S5s and F4
!C5s hit the spra1"ing Thai Ng#yen iron and stee"
p"ant a*o#t 96 mi"es from 7anoi) Air Force and
Na&y fo""o14#p stri$es a"so hit portions of the
p"ant) The attac$s disr#pted *#t did not comp"ete"y
ha"t pig iron or stee" prod#ction) A"so, for the first
time, Air Force Eets str#c$ the Cana" -es =apides
rai"1ay and high1ay *ridge, ! mi"es north of
7anoi) Hnemy pi"ots did not attempt to cha""enge
American aircraft again #nti" the spring of 19%2,
1hich sa1 36 engagements fo#ght in Apri" and 2,
in 'ay, the "argest 14month tota" of the 1ar)
-#ring the fierce 'ay *att"es Air Force cre1s
destroyed ,6 'i:sC 2 of them on the 19th and % on
the ,6th)
A re&ised =o""ing Th#nder target "ist iss#ed on
,6 B#"y permitted air attac$s on 1% additiona" fi(ed
targets and ,9 road, rai", and 1ater1ay segments
inside the restricted 7anoi47aiphong area)
Bridges, *ypasses, rai" yards, and mi"itary storage
areas 1ere *om*ed in an effort to s"o1 or ha"t
traffic *et1een the t1o cities and to points north
and so#th) +n , A#g#st 19%2 7anoi5s famo#s .a#"
-o#mer rai"1ay and high1ay *ridge 1as hit for
the first time) The center span 1as $noc$ed do1n
and t1o other spans 1ere damaged) Str#c$ again
on ,3 +cto*er, another span 1ent do1n and
fina""y, on 19 -ecem*er, the re*#i"t center span
1as dropped again)
-espite these s#ccesses, the North Vietnamese
d#ring the year managed to inf"ict a steady to"" on
the Air Force and Na&y, and their 'i:s 1ere
#n#s#a""y aggressi&e) The increasing "osses "ed
Washington to appro&e4for the first time4the
destr#ction of most of the 'i: *ases) Beginning
in Apri" 19%2, Air Force and Na&y pi"ots
repeated"y *om*ed ?ep, 7oa 8ac, and ?ien An
airfie"ds, destroying se&era" 'i:s on the gro#nd in
the process) 'any of the 'i:s f"e1 to near*y
Chinese *ases) +n 1% A#g#st 19%2, :enera"
'omyer to"d a Senate committee that /))) 1e ha&e
dri&en the 'i:s o#t of the s$y for a"" practica"
p#rposes))))/ 7o1e&er, the enemy aircraft ret#rned
1ith impro&ed tactics, and the Bohnson
administration a#thoriFed an attac$ on .h#c Jen,
their principa" *ase)
By ear"y 19% neither U)S) air s#periority,
=o""ing Th#nder, nor air4gro#nd operations 1ithin
So#th Vietnam deterred 7anoi5s "eaders from
contin#ing their efforts to destroy the Saigon
go&ernment) A"tho#gh s#ffering hea&y manpo1er
and materie" "osses, the North Vietnamese 1ere
a*"e to contin#e the conf"ict 1ith the he"p of
comm#nist regimes in 'osco1 and .e$ing)
Washington5s mi"itary restraints aimed at a&oiding
a 1ider 1ar44permitted foreign mi"itary assistance
to f"o1 #nhampered thro#gh the seaports of North
Vietnam) In addition, the enemy had a"most
#nrestricted #se of Cam*odian territory adEacent to
So#th Vietnam for stoc$pi"ing s#pp"ies ;m#ch of it
f"o1ing in from Cam*odia5s maEor seaport at ?om
.ong Som< and for resting and regro#ping their
troops)
In ta$ing ad&antage of the opport#nities
pro&ided *y American restraint, the Comm#nists
concei&ed a p"an for a maEor offensi&e against the
=ep#*"ic of Vietnam in hopes of achie&ing a
dramatic &ictory44s#ch as they had 1on o&er the
French at -ien Bien .h# in 193!41hich 1o#"d
pers#ade Washington and Saigon to ac$no1"edge
their defeat) Where#pon, in "ate Ban#ary 19% they
"aid siege to the 'arine *ase at ?he Sanh and
then, at month5s end, they "a#nched the famo#s Tet
offensi&e thro#gho#t So#th Vietnam) At ?he
Sanh, the a""ies thre1 the enemy *ac$ 1ith hea&y
"oss) H"se1here, after initia" *#t *rief gains, the
enemy5s nation1ide offensi&e s"o1"y sp#ttered o#t
and 1as s"o1ed, ha"ted, and re&ersed) B#t if the
North Vietnamese mi"itary campaign did not
s#cceed, it did "ead to a change in American 1ar
po"icies) As noted in Chapter III, .resident
Bohnson on 91 'arch ordered a ha"t to the
*om*ing of North Vietnam north of the ,6th
para""e", then north of the 19th para""e") As a D#id
.age %
pro D#o, the 7anoi regime agreed to meet 1ith
U)S) de"egates in .aris to disc#ss an end to the
conf"ict) In the meantime, the Air Force and other,
ser&ices &irt#a""y do#*"ed their air stri$es in the
area *e"o1 the 19th para""e", interdicting enemy
troop and s#pp"y mo&ements across the -'A into
So#th Vietnam) They a"so stepped #p raids against
enemy positions in so#thern 8aos) In .aris, after
many meetings and months of dead"oc$ *et1een
the t1o sides on ho1 to *ring the 1ar to an end,
American and North Vietnamese representati&es
agreed on a certain /essentia" #nderstanding/
ena*"ing .resident Bohnson on 91 +cto*er 19% to
end a"" air, na&a", and arti""ery *om*ardment of
North Vietnam as of 666 ho#rs Washington time,
1 No&em*er) The #nderstanding, as 'r) Bohnson
e(pressed it, 1as that the other side intended /to
Eoin #s in deesca"ating the 1ar and mo&ing seri4
o#s"y to1ards peace)/
Ninety min#tes *efore the .resident5s order 1as
iss#ed, 'aE) Fran$ C) 8enahan of the th Tactica"
Fighter Wing made the "ast target r#n in an F4!-
against a target near -ong 7oi) Th#s, 9 years and
9 months after it *egan, =o""ing Th#nder
operations came to an end) The Air Force and the
other ser&ices had f"o1n appro(imate"y 96!,666
tactica" and ,,96 B43, sorties and dropped
%!9,666 tons of *om*s on North Vietnam5s 1ar4
ma$ing ind#stry, transportation net, and air
defense comp"e() Not1ithstanding the &ariety of
constraints imposed on air po1er, the post419%3
aeria" assa#"t on North Vietnam he"ped to red#ce
the mo&ement of manpo1er and s#pp"ies going
so#th1ard and contri*#ted to the 19% dip"omatic
efforts to "o1er the tempo of com*at)
H(cept for Air Force and Na&y reconnaissance
missions, 1hich 1ere permitted in a separate
#nderstanding *et1een the Americans and North
Vietnamese in .aris, a"" air operations o&er the
North ceased) 8ater, after .resident Ni(on
ass#med office, U)S) reta"iatory air stri$es 1ere
"a#nched against enemy air defense #nits 1hich
*egan firing at U)S) reconnaissance aircraft in
&io"ation of the a*o&e /#nderstanding)/ In
Fe*r#ary 1926, after the North Vietnamese again
fired #pon U)S) reconnaissance aircraft, the
.resident a#thoriFed certain /protecti&e reaction/
stri$es against NVA antiaircraft and SA' sites
and a"so enemy airfie"ds) When U)S) aircraft
contin#ed to recei&e gro#nd fire, the .resident
ordered /reinforced protecti&e reaction/ stri$es on
the enemy5s air defense system)
The first of these "atter missions 1ere f"o1n
d#ring the first ! days in 'ay 1926) Near"y 366
Air Force and Na&y aircraft hit missi"e and AAA
sites and NVA "ogistic faci"ities near Barthe"emy
pass, Ban ?arai pass, and a sector north of the
-'A) -#ring the ne(t % months interim sma""er
stri$es 1ere f"o1n) +n ,1 No&em*er the Air Force
"a#nched t1o maEor operations o&er the North)
The first in&o"&ed a Eoint Air Force and Army
commando attempt to resc#e American prisoners
of 1ar ;.+W5s< *e"ie&ed confined at the Son Tay
prison compo#nd, a*o#t ,6 mi"es north1est of
7anoi) ."anned *y Air Force Brig) :en) 8eroy B)
'anor and Army Co") Arth#r -) Simons, the
&o"#nteer commando force f"e1 !66 mi"es from
*ases in Thai"and to Son Tay in 77439
he"icopters, 1ith A41 H S$yraiders and specia""y
eD#ipped C4196H5s pro&iding s#pport) As it
"anded, Air Force and Na&y aircraft "a#nched
hea&y di&ersionary stri$es in the area to distract
the North Vietnamese) 'em*ers of the commando
force D#ic$"y disco&ered, to their dismay, that the
prison compo#nd contained no prisoners) -#ring
the , min#tes the resc#ers 1ere on the gro#nd,
they $i""ed a*o#t ,3 North Vietnamese defenders)
The on"y American cas#a"ty 1as an en"isted man
1ho s#ffered a *ro$en an$"e) +ne he"icopter 1as
destroyed on "anding)
A*o#t % ho#rs "ater, the second operation of the
day 1as "a#nched after an =F4! aircraft 1as "ost)
An armada of ,66 Air Force and Na&y stri$e
aircraft 4s#pported *y 36 other p"anes "a#nched a
maEor reta"iatory stri$e in the &icinity of the '#
:ia and Ban ?arai passes and the -'A) Their tar4
gets inc"#ded SA4, missi"e sites, enemy tr#c$s,
and s#pp"y and transportation faci"ities) A"" aircraft
ret#rned safe"y to their *ases)
-#ring the , years after =o""ing Th#nder
operations ended on 1 No&em*er 19%, the United
States had f"o1n more than %6 separate stri$e
missions in reta"iation to gro#nd fire) When the
North Vietnamese contin#ed to fire at U)S)
reconnaissance aircraft, Washington officia"s
a#thoriFed stepped #p /reinforced protecti&e
reaction/ stri$es) In Fe*r#ary 1921, the Air Force
"a#nched +peration 8o#is&i""e S"#gger) F"ying %2
sorties, USAF cre1s destroyed 3 SA' sites, 13
SA' missi"e transporters, and 13 &ehic"es in the
Ban ?arai pass area) +n ,1,, 'arch, the Air
Force teamed #p 1ith the Na&y in +peration
Fract#re Cross A"pha d#ring 1hich they f"e1 ,9!
stri$e and ,6 armed reconnaissance sorties against
enemy SA' sites) In A#g#st 1921, in an effort to
c#r* enemy road constr#ction across the -'A into
'i"itary =egion 1K in So#th Vietnam, Air Force
Eets f"e1 !29 sorties, seeding the road 1ith
.age 2
m#nitions and sensors) +n ,1 Septem*er, f"ying in
poor 1eather, 19% U)S) tactica" aircraft hit three
.+8 storage areas so#th of -ong 7oi, destroying
a*o#t 936,666 ga""ons of f#e") It 1as the first a""4
instr#ment air stri$e, emp"oying e(c"#si&e"y the
"ong4range e"ectronic na&igation ;8+=AN<
position fi(ing *om* system)
These intermittent protecti&e reaction stri$es4
"a#nched most"y in the so#thern panhand"e of
North Vietnam did not affect 7anoi5s efforts to re4
*#i"d and reconstit#te its air force) By "ate 1921, it
had an in&entory of a*o#t ,36 'i:s, 96 of them
'I:4,15s, and once more it prepared to cha""enge
American operations o&er the North and, to a
"imited e(tent, o&er 8aos) By this time the North
Vietnamese Air Force 1as operating o#t of 16
'i:4capa*"e *ases, 9 of them "ocated in the
panhand"e area) USAF and Na&y pi"ots, 1ho o&er
the years had achie&ed ro#gh"y a , 1I, to 1 &ictory
ratio o&er 'I: fighters in aeria" *att"es, sa1 the
odds drop) 7o1e&er, this 1as attri*#ted to the
U)S) r#"es of engagement, 1hich again e(empted
'i: air *ases and to the geographica" and
e"ectronic ad&antages possessed *y the defenders
rather than to the s#periority of enemy pi"ots) To
co#nter the enemy air threat, HC41,1 aircraft4
1hich had redep"oyed from So#theast Asia after
=o""ing Th#nder operations ended in 19%41ere
ret#rned to the theater to res#me their /'i:
1atch)/ +nce again, as in 19%2 1hen the NVAF
"ast posed a serio#s threat to air operations o&er
the North, USAF commanders #rged that 'i: air
*ases *e attac$ed) Washington officia"s agreed,
and on 24 No&em*er USAF and Na&y pi"ots
*om*ed airfie"ds at -ong 7oi, Vinh, and >#an
8ang) After ne#tra"iFing these air *ases, U)S) pi"ots
on ,%96 -ecem*er "a#nched the hea&iest air
stri$es since 19%41,6,3 sorties against a &ariety
of mi"itary targets so#th of the ,6th para""e")
The Comm#nist Spring +ffensi&e, 192,
Sti"" hoping to end the 1ar thro#gh negotiations,
the Ni(on administration $ept a tight rein on its
principa" *argaining card4air po1er) 7anoi, ho14
e&er, 1as thin$ing in terms of another mi"itary
offensi&e) By "ate 1921 e&idence *egan to
acc#m#"ate that 7anoi 1as p"anning a "arge4sca"e
in&asion of So#th Vietnam) :en) Bohn -) 8a&e""e,
1ho in A#g#st 1921 s#cceeded :en) 8#ci#s -)
C"ay, Br), as Se&enth Air Force commander,
reD#ested the reca"" of certain USAF #nits to the
theater) By the spring of 192,, North Vietnam had
assem*"ed a force of a*o#t ,66,666 men for a p#sh
into the So#th)
The in&asion *egan on ,9496 'arch 192,, 1ith
some enemy forces ro""ing direct"y across the
-'A into 'i"itary =egion I 1hi"e others
penetrated into 'i"itary =egion II from 8aos) A""
1ere s#pported *y considera*"e n#m*ers of tan$s
and other armored &ehic"es) The So#th Vietnamese
army, a"tho#gh great"y impro&ed since 19%, 1as
sti"" p"ag#ed *y poor "eadership and mora"e and
1as forced to retreat) U)S) air po1er4p"#s the
strengthened Vietnamese Air Force41as thro1n
into the *att"e) Air Force F41635s, F4!5s,
A425s, AC41965s and B43,5s 1ere Eoined *y Na&y
and 'arine aircraft in po#nding the enemy dai"y
*et1een the ,6th para""e" in the North and the
*att"e "ines inside So#th Vietnam) Bo"stered *y
aircraft reinforcements from the United States and
e"se1here, attac$ sorties o&er the e(tended
*att"efie"d a&eraged 13,666 per month, a"most
t1o4thirds of the pea$ month"y rate in 19%)
With 7anoi5s forces ensconced inside So#th
Vietnam and determined, despite hea&y cas#a"ties,
to maintain their positions *e"o1 the -'A,
.resident Ni(on on 'ay s#spended the peace
ta"$s in .aris and a#thoriFed the "a#nching of
+peration 8ine*ac$er) For the first time, the
United States imposed a na&a" *"oc$ade and mined
the 1aters of 7aiphong and other North
Vietnamese ports) Sim#"taneo#s"y, the .resident
a#thoriFed a rene1a" of air stri$es thro#gho#t
North Vietnam a*o&e the ,6th para""e") +"d and
ne1 targets 1ere str#c$, inc"#ding the re*#i"t .a#"
-o#mer *ridge in 7anoi, *ridges a"ong the
north1est and northeast rai" "ines from China, f#e"
d#mps, 1areho#ses, marsha""ing yards, ro""ing
stoc$, &ehic"es, po1er p"ants, and a .+8 pipe"ine
r#nning from China) A"" recent"y emp"aced SA4,
missi"e sites in or near the -'A 1ere destroyed as
1ere many SA4, and AAA sites f#rther north)
To degrade or ne#tra"iFe North Vietnam5s
re*#i"t or ne1 *rist"ing air defenses, the Air Force
made f#"" #se of its e"ectronic techno"ogy) It
emp"oyed HB4%%5s, Wi"d Wease" F41635s, and HC4
1935s to a#gment e"ectronic co#nter4meas#re
eD#ipment #sed *y most fighter aircraft) It a"so
emp"oyed a prof#sion of "aser and optica""y4g#ided
*om*s, 1hich had *een de&e"oped in the "ate
19%65s) 'ost"y ,,666 po#nders, the g#ided *om*s
ena*"ed fighter cre1s to stri$e targets 1ith great
acc#racy) Th#s, the spans of the strong"y defended
Than 7oa *ridge 1hich had 1ithstood U)S) *om*s
for years and had cost the Air Force and Na&y a
.age
n#m*er of do1ned aircraft 1ere dropped in one
stri$e *y an F4! 1ith g#ided *om*s)
By B#ne 192, North Vietnam5s offensi&e had
sta""ed o#tside of 7#e and e"se1here as So#th
Vietnamese gro#nd forces *egan to fight *ac$) +n
,9 B#ne, .resident Ni(on reported that 1ith the
mining of the har*ors and *om*ing of mi"itary
targets in the North4partic#"ar"y the rai"roads and
oi" s#pp"ies4the sit#ation /has *een comp"ete"y
t#rned aro#nd) The So#th Vietnamese are no1 on
the offensi&e)/ 7e reiterated his proposa" of 'ay
for an internationa" ceasefire and the ret#rn of
American prisoners of 1ar, 1arning that the
United States intended to *argain from strength)
The peace ta"$s res#med in .aris on 19 B#"y) In the
ens#ing 1ee$s, Saigon5s forces, hea&i"y s#pported
*y U)S) and VNAF air stri$es, contin#ed their
offensi&e against the ,66,666 enemy troops 1ho
had seiFed contro" of "arge portions of the So#th
Vietnamese co#ntryside)
'ean1hi"e, North Vietnamese pi"ots 1ere
reacting aggressi&e"y in the 7anoi47aiphong area
in an effort to dri&e American pi"ots o#t of the
s$ies o&er their heart"and) The rene1ed American4
North Vietnamese air *att"es short"y prod#ced
se&era" Air Force aces) +n , A#g#st 192,, Capt)
=ichard S) =itchie, f"ying an F4!- .hantom II,
participated in his fifth shootdo1n and *ecame the
nation5s second ace) ;The U)S) Na&y prod#ced the
first)< 7is 1eapons system officer, Capt) Char"es
-eBe""e&#e, 1ho had f"o1n 1ith =itchie in three
pre&io#s /$i""s,/ *ecame an ace on 9 Septem*er
1hen he destroyed his fifth and si(th 'i:s,
*ecoming the first 1eapon systems officer to
achie&e this stat#s) Capt) Beffrey S) Feinstein, a"so
an F4! 1eapons system officer, *ecame an ace on
19 +cto*er 1hen he he"ped *ag his fifth 'i:)
These 1ere the on"y Air Force aces of the 1ar) A
Na&y pi"ot and a WS+ "i$e1ise *ecame aces)
The 114-ay Air Campaign
+n ,9 +cto*er 192,, 1hen it seemed that the
.aris ta"$s 1ere "eading to an agreement to end the
1ar, the United States again ha"ted air operations
a*o&e the ,6th para""e") Soon after, ho1e&er, the
negotiations sta""ed amid indications that 7anoi
'i:ht rene1 its offensi&e in So#th Vietnam)
Where#pon, .resident Ni(on ordered a res#mption
of air stri$es a*o&e the ,6th para""e") There
fo""o1ed a fina" 114day *om*ing campaign,
nic$named +peration 8ine*ac$er II, 1hich
res#"ted in one of the hea&iest aeria" assa#"ts of the
1ar) The Air Force dispatched F41635s, F4!5s, F4
1115s, and4for the first time, B43,5so&er the hea&i"y
defended enemy capita" and the adEacent 7aiphong
port) The tactica" aircraft f"e1 more than 1,666
sorties, the 43,5s a*o#t 2!6, most of them against
targets pre&io#s"y on the restricted "ist) They
inc"#ded rai" yards, po1er p"ants, comm#nication
faci"ities, air defense radars, 7aiphong5s doc$s and
shipping faci"ities, .+8 stores, and amm#nition
s#pp"y areas) They repeated"y *om*ed the
principa" NVAF 'I: *ases and transportation
faci"ities)
The North Vietnamese responded *y "a#nching
most of their in&entory of a*o#t 1,666 SA's and
opening #p a hea&y *arrage of AAA fire against
the attac$ers, *#t USAF e"ectronic
co#ntermeas#res he"ped $eep "osses to a
minim#m) +f ,% aircraft "ost, 13 1ere B43,5s
1hich 1ere do1ned *y SA's) Three others 1ere
*ad"y damaged) 7o1e&er, *y , -ecem*er the
enemy defenses had *een a"" *#t o*"iterated and
d#ring the "ast , days of the campaign, the B43,5s
f"e1 o&er 7anoi and 7aiphong 1itho#t s#ffering
any damage)
-epri&ed of most of their air *ases, North
Vietnamese pi"ots 1ere a*"e to "a#nch on"y 9,
aircraft of 1hich 1ere shot do1n, , *y B43, tai"
g#nners) 7anoi c"aimed the stri$es on 7anoi4
7aiphong prod#ced s#*stantia" co""atera" damage
and more than 1,666 fata"ities) Considering the
siFe of the air assa#"t, the *om*ing 1as 1e""
contro""ed and not indiscriminate) Impacting
fragments from enemy SA's contri*#ted to the
destr#ction)
+n 96 -ecem*er 192,, .resident Ni(on
anno#nced in Washington that negotiations
*et1een -r) 7enry A) ?issinger and North
Vietnam5s representati&e, 8e -#c Tho, 1o#"d
res#me in .aris on Ban#ary) Whi"e the dip"omats
ta"$ed, American air attac$s 1ere restricted to
areas *e"o1 the ,6th para""e") Air Force, Na&y, and
'arine fighters f"e1 a*o#t ,6 sorties per day 1ith
B43,5s adding 9% to the dai"y tota") +n 13 Ban#ary
the United States anno#nced an end to a"" mining,
*om*ing, she""ing, and other offensi&e actions
against North Vietnam) +n ,9 Ban#ary, the .aris
negotiators signed a nine4point cease4fire
agreement effecti&e , Ban#ary, Saigon time)
Th#s, air po1er had p"ayed a significant ro"e in
pre&enting the comp"ete ta$eo&er of So#th
Vietnam *y the northerners and in e(tracting an
agreement to end the 1ar) Bet1een 19% and
192,, more than 31,666 tactica" and 9,66 B43,
sorties 1ere f"o1n against the North, most d#ring
.age 9
the t1o 8ine*ac$er campaigns) The tactica"
aircraft dropped a*o#t 1,!,666 tons of *om*s and
the B43,5s a*o#t 169,666 tons, 1ith their /S#nday
p#nch/ missions of "ate -ecem*er 192, *eing
perhaps the most note1orthy) An e&en hea&ier rain
of *om*s po#nded enemy forces in So#th
Vietnam5s 'i"itary =egions I and II)
In addition to the cease4fire, the ,9 Ban#ary
1929 agreement pro&ided for the ret#rn of a""
American and a""ied .+W5s 1ithin %6 days,
esta*"ishment of a commission to s#per&ise tr#ce
and territoria" disp#tes, the right of the So#th
Vietnamese peop"e to determine their o1n f#t#re
peacef#""y, a promise of U)S) economic aid for the
Indochina states, and an affirmation of the
ne#tra"ity of 8aos and Cam*odia) The United
States tacit"y recogniFed the presence of a*o#t
166,666 North Vietnamese troops sti"" entrenched
in So#th Vietnam)
.age 16