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The

P r es t i g e P r es s
and
Chr i s t mas
Bombi ng
, 1 9 7 2
I
The
P r es t i g e P r es s
d Chr i s t mas
Bombi ng , 1 9 7 2
I
The
P r es t i g e P r es s
t he
Chr i s t mas
Bombi ng 1 9 7 2
I mag es and Reali t y i n Vi et nam
Mar t i n F . H er z
A s s i s t ed by L es li e Ri der
E t hi c s and P u bli c P oli c y Cent er
Was hi ng t on, D . C .
TH E E TH I CS A ND P UBL I C P OL I CY CE NTE R,
es t abli s hed i n 1 9 7 6,
c ondu c t s a pr og r am of r es ear c h, wr i t i ng , pu bli c at i ons , and c onfer enc es t o
enc ou r ag e debat e on domes t i c and for ei g n poli c y i s s u es among r eli g i ou s ,
edu c at i onal, ac ademi c , bu s i nes s , poli t i c al, and ot her leader s
. A nonpar t i s an
effor t , t he Cent er i s s u ppor t ed by c ont r i bu t i ons fr om fou ndat i ons , c or por at i ons ,
and i ndi vi du als
. The au t hor s alone ar e r es pons i ble for t he vi ews expr es s ed
i n Cent er pu bli c at i ons .
L i br ar y of Cong r es s Cat alog i ng i n P u bli c at i on Dat a
H er z , Mar t i n Flor i an, 1 9 1 7 -
The pr es t i g e pr es s and t he Chr i s t mas bombi ng ,
1 9 7 2 .
I nc lu des i ndex .
1 . Vi et names e Confli c t , 1 9 61 -1 9 7 5 -Jou r nali s t s .
2 . Vi et names e Confli c t , 1 9 61 -1 9 7 5 -A er i al oper at i ons ,
A mer i c an . 3 . Jou r nali s m -Uni t ed St at es
. I . Ri der ,
L es li e .
I I .
Ti t le .
DS559 . 46 . H 47

9 59 . 7 04'38

80-2 62 41
I SBN 0-89 633-039 -7
$5 . 00
1 9 80 by t he E t hi c s and P u bli c P oli c y Cent er . A ll r i g ht s r es er ved .
P r i nt ed i n t he Uni t ed St at es of A mer i c a .
1
2
3
4
5
Cont ent s
For ewor d by E r nes t W
. L efever

vu
Vi et nam War Chr onolog y 1 9 7 2 -7 3

xi
E vent s L eadi ng t o t he Bombi ng

1
Mar t i n F. H er z
Repor t i ng by t he P r es t i g e P r es s

1 5
Mar t i n F
. H er z and L es li e Ri der
Comment by t he P r es t i g e P r es s

44
Mar t i n F. H er z and L es li e Ri der
What Really H appened

54
Mar t i n F. H er z
I mag es vs . Reali t y : Seven Conc lu s i ons

64
Mar t i n F
. H er z
A ppendi xes
A
. K i s s i ng er 's St at ement on t he P ar i s Talk s 7 1
B . Nor t h Vi et nam's St at ement s on t he P ar i s Talk s 81
C
. Nor t h Vi et nam's St at ement on t he Bombi ng 86
D . " Ter r or Fr om t he Sk i es "

88
New Yor k Ti mes
E
. " Ter r or Bombi ng i n t he Name of P eac e"

9 0
Was hi ng t on P os t
F . Comment ar y by E r i c Sevar ei d

9 3
CBS E veni ng News
G. " A bou t t he Bombi ng "

9 5
Wall St r eet Jou r nal
H
. " The P eac e That Was n't "

9 7
The E c onomi s t (L ondon)
I ndex of Names

1 01
For ewor d
TH E U. S. BOMBI NG OF TH E
H anoi -H ai phong ar ea of
Nor t h Vi et nam t hat beg an on Dec ember 1 8, 1 9 7 2 , was a c las s i c
example of a mi li t ar y i ni t i at i ve des i g ned t o ac hi eve a poli t i c al
obj ec t i ve
. I t was als o one of t he mos t pas s i onat ely c r i t i c i z ed A mer -
i c an ac t i ons i n t hat c ont r over s i al war
. The vi ews of s u ppor t er s of
t he " Chr i s t mas bombi ng , " as i t c ame t o be k nown, wer e r ar ely
c ar r i ed i n t he pr i nt or elec t r oni c medi a . I n s har p c ont r as t , t he New
Yor k Ti mes , t he
Was hi ng t on P os t , Ti me, News week , and t he t hr ee
c ommer c i al TV net wor k s -t he " pr es t i g e pr es s " -bot h lavi s hly
r epor t ed t he ou t bu r s t of oppos i t i on t o t he bombi ng and r ei nfor c ed
i t wi t h c r i t i c al and s omet i mes s c at hi ng edi t or i al c omment
. Thi s
c r i t i c i s m by t he pr es t i g e medi a was an ext ens i on of t hei r s u s t ai ned
hos t i li t y t o bot h P r es i dent Ni xon and t he Vi et nam War
.
The P ar i s peac e t alk s bet ween Nat i onal Sec u r i t y A dvi s er H enr y
K i s s i ng er and H anoi 's L e Du c Tho had s u ddenly ac c eler at ed i n
Oc t ober 1 9 7 2 , when i t appear ed t hat an ag r eement was i n s i g ht
.
Di ffi c u lt i es had t hen ar i s en i n Sai g on, and t he neg ot i at i ons wer e
r es u med i n November
. Then, i n Dec ember , j u s t when t he A mer i -
c an s i de felt t hat an ac c ept able ag r eement had been hammer ed
ou t , H anoi har dened i t s pos i t i on, and by Dec ember 1 3 t he peac e
t alk s had bec ome s t alemat ed .
To per s u ade H anoi t o neg ot i at e s er i ou s ly, P r es i dent Ni xon on
Dec ember 1 4 or der ed t he r enewed mi ni ng of H ai phong har bor
and t he bombi ng of mi li t ar y t ar g et s i n t he H anoi -H ai phong ar ea
.
Fou r days lat er t he bombi ng beg an
. I t c ont i nu ed dai ly exc ept for
Chr i s t mas u nt i l Dec ember 2 9 , a t ot al of eleven days
.
The U. S
. pr es t i g e pr es s was ou t r ag ed . On Dec ember 2 0 t he
Ti mes
s ai d t hat " c i vi li z ed man wi ll be hor r i fi ed at t he r enewed
s pec t ac le of t he wor ld's mi g ht i es t ai r for c e mer c i les s ly pou ndi ng a
s mall A s i an nat i on i n an abu s e of nat i onal power and di s r eg ar d of
hu mani t ar i an pr i nc i ples
. " Nor t h Vi et nam mi g ht yet be bombed
" bac k t o t he s t one ag e, " i t s ai d, bu t per haps at t he pr i c e of U. S
.
r ever s i on t o a " k i nd of s t one ag e bar bar i s m . "
vi i
Vi i i
E RNE ST W . L E FE VE R
Two days lat er t he Ti mes as s er t ed t hat A mer i c an planes had
dr opped an es t i mat ed 2 0, 000 t ons of explos i ves i n t he fi r s t t wo
days alone-t he " eq u i valent of t he H i r os hi ma bomb" -and as k ed
i t s r eader s t o i mag i ne what t hi s wou ld do t o " New Yor k or any
ot her A mer i c an c i t y . " To s t op t hi s " mas s i ve, i ndi s c r i mi nat e u s e of
. . . over whelmi ng aer i al mi g ht , " t hi s " t er r or i s m on an u npr ec e-
dent ed s c ale, " A mer i c ans mu s t " s peak ou t for s ani t y i n Was hi ng -
t on and peac e i n I ndoc hi na
. " (See A ppendi x D for t he fu ll t ext of
t hi s edi t or i al . )
Ti mes c olu mni s t s vi g or ou s ly s u ppor t ed t he edi t or i al pos i t i on
.
" H ow t er r i ble i t i s t o r eali z e t hi s Chr i s t mas , " s ai d A nt hony L ewi s ,
" t hat i n t he eyes of mos t of t he wor ld t he Chr i s t i an peac e offer ed
by t he Uni t ed St at es i s t he peac e of t he I nq u i s i t i on
: c onfor mi t y or
t or ment ed deat h
. " Tom Wi c k er added : " Ther e i s s hame on ear t h,
and A mer i c an s hame . . .
. What ever happened i n P ar i s , i t i s not
t hey who i n wi llfu l ang er ar e blas t i ng ou r c i t i es and ou r people . I t i s
we who have loos ed t he holoc au s t . "
The
Was hi ng t on P os t
on Dec ember 2 8 c alled t he bombi ng " t he
mos t s avag e and s ens eles s ac t of war ever vi s i t ed, over a s c ant t en
days , by one s over ei g n people u pon anot her . " I t c ont i nu ed : " To
pr et end t hat . . . we ar e mak i ng ` endu r i ng peac e' by c ar pet -
bombi ng ou r way ac r os s downt own H anoi wi t h B-52 s . . . i s t o
pr ac t i c e yet one mor e c r u el dec ept i on u pon an A mer i c an pu bli c
alr eady c r u elly dec ei ved, " and " t o t alk of ` mi li t ar y t ar g et s ' when
what we ar e hi t t i ng ar e r es i dent i al c ent er s and hos pi t als and c om-
mer c i al ai r por t s " s hows t he A dmi ni s t r at i on's " c ont i nu i ng r eadi -
nes s t o di s s emble . " (Thi s P os t edi t or i al appear s as A ppendi x E
. )
A ft er a t hor ou g h exami nat i on of bot h t he news and t he edi t o-
r i als c ar r i ed by t he pr es t i g e pr es s , t he au t hor s of t hi s s t u dy s ober ly
r epor t what r eally happened on bot h t he mi li t ar y and t he poli t i c al
fr ont . Ther e was no " c ar pet -bombi ng , " no c i vi li an t ar g et s wer e
deli ber at ely hi t , and ac c or di ng t o t he offi c i al Nor t h Vi et names e
c ou nt , 1 , 31 8 c i vi li ans wer e k i lled i n t he H anoi ar ea and 305 i n t he
H ai phong ar ea . Thi s was a far c r y fr om t he s pec t er r ai s ed by t he
Ti mes
and t he P os t -H i r os hi ma (wher e near ly 7 0, 000 wer e
k i lled), holoc au s t , " t er r or i s m on an u npr ec edent ed s c ale . " Unli k e
FORE WORD
i X
H anoi 's many deli ber at e at t ac k s ag ai ns t i nnoc ent c i vi li ans ,
t he
Chr i s t mas bombi ng was c onfi ned t o mi li t ar y t ar g et s
.
On t he poli t i c al fr ont , t he bombi ng s eems t o have ac hi eved i t s
pr i nc i pal obj ec t i ve
: H anoi r et u r ned t o t he neg ot i at i ng t able on
Janu ar y 8, 1 9 7 3, and s i g ned an ag r eement t hat led t o t he c eas e-fi r e
of Janu ar y 2 7 .
A lt hou g h t hi s s t u dy exami nes bot h t he fac t s of t he Chr i s t mas
bombi ng and t he r es pons e of t he pr es t i g e pr es s , i t i s pr i mar i ly
c onc er ned wi t h t he di s c r epanc y bet ween t he t wo
. The au t hor s
dr aw s ome pr ovoc at i ve c onc lu s i ons abou t t he i mag es evok ed by
t he medi a and t he r eali t y i n Vi et nam
.
The s t or y i s t old her e by A mbas s ador Mar t i n F
. H er z wi t h t he
c alm obj ec t i vi t y t hat has c har ac t er i z ed hi s ear li er wor k s
. A mbas -
s ador H er z c u r r ent ly t eac hes at t he Sc hool of For ei g n Ser vi c e of
Geor g et own Uni ver s i t y i n Was hi ng t on and di r ec t s i t s I ns t i t u t e for
t he St u dy of Di plomac y
. A c ar eer For ei g n Ser vi c e offi c er , he has
been U. S
. ambas s ador t o Bu lg ar i a and for mer ly s er ved i n Cent r al
and Wes t er n E u r ope, t he Mi ddle E as t , and t he Far E as t
. H e i s t he
au t hor of nu mer ou s ar t i c les and monog r aphs on r ec ent di plomat i c
hi s t or y . A mong hi s book s ar e
Beg i nni ng s of t he Cold War (1 9 68)
and
H ow t he Cold War I s Tau g ht
: Si x A mer i c an H i s t or y Text book s
E xami ned (1 9 7 8) . H e i s t he edi t or of
Dec li ne of t he Wes t ? Geor g e
K ennan and H i s Cr i t i c s (1 9 7 8)
. The lat t er t wo book s wer e pu b-
li s hed by t he E t hi c s and P u bli c P oli c y Cent er , wher e for fi ft een
mont hs A mbas s ador H er z was a s eni or r es ear c h fellow .
A s s i s t i ng i n t hi s pr oj ec t was L es li e Ri der , an alu mna of
Geor g et own's Sc hool of For ei g n Ser vi c e who i s now a g r adu at e
s t u dent at Colu mbi a Uni ver s i t y
. She for mer ly was on t he s t aff of
t he I nt er nat i onal Res c u e Commi t t ee i n Was hi ng t on .
Thi s s t u dy i s enr i c hed by ei g ht appendi xes . The fi r s t t hr ee ar e
U. S. and Nor t h Vi et names e s t at ement s on t he P ar i s t alk s and t he
Chr i s t mas bombi ng . Thes e ar e followed by t hr ee c r i t i c al c omment s
on t he bombi ng , fr om t he New Yor k Ti mes , t he Was hi ng t on P os t ,
and CBS News , and by t wo s u ppor t i ve c omment s , fr om t he
Wall
St r eet Jou r nal and t he L ondon E c onomi s t .
A br i ef c hr onolog y
pr ec edes c hapt er 1 , and names ar e i ndexed aft er t he appendi xes
.
X E RNE ST W . L E FE VE R
The Cent er i s pleas ed t o mak e avai lable t o s c holar s and laymen
ali k e t hi s pai ns t ak i ng ly pr epar ed c as e s t u dy t hat i llu mi nat es t he
c omplexi t i es of war t i me poli c y dec i s i ons , t he i mpac t of popu lar
pas s i ons , and t he r ole of t he mas s medi a i n a democ r at i c s oc i et y .
The au t hor s alone ar e r es pons i ble for t he vi ews expr es s ed .
E RNE ST W . L E FE VE R, P r es i dent
E t hi c s and P u bli c P oli c y Cent er
Was hi ng t on, D . C .
November 1 9 80
Vi et nam War
Chr onolog y, 1 9 7 2 -7 3
1 9 7 2
Mar c h 30

Nor t h Vi et names e s pr i ng / s u mmer offens i ve beg i ns wi t h


mas s i ve at t ac k ac r os s t he Demi li t ar i z ed Z one .
A pr i l 6

A mer i c an bombi ng of Nor t h Vi et nam r es u mes .


May 8

U. S. mi nes H ai phong and ot her Nor t h Vi et names e


har bor s .
May 2 3-2 9 Ni xon-Br ez hnev s u mmi t meet i ng i n Mos c ow
.
Ju ne

Nor t h Vi et names e offens i ve pet er s ou t , aft er heavy


los s es .
Ju ne 1 3

Br ez hnev s ends Sovi et pr es i dent P odg or ny t o H anoi


.
Ju ne 2 2
Br ez hnev r epor t s t o Ni xon abou t P odg or ny vi s i t t o
H anoi , s u g g es t s U. S
. pr opos e a dat e for r es u mi ng
neg ot i at i ons .
Ju ly 1 9

Sec r et K i s s i ng er -L e Du c Tho t alk s r es u me i n P ar i s


.
Ju ly 2 4

A mendment c alli ng for wi t hdr awal fr om Vi et nam


pas s ed by fi ve vot es i n U. S . Senat e (bu t bi ll t o whi c h i t was
at t ac hed lat er fai led t o pas s ) .
A u g . 1

Fi r s t s i g ns appear of Nor t h Vi et names e flexi bi li t y i n


s ec r et P ar i s t alk s .
Sept . 1 5

Sou t h Vi et names e r et ak e Q u ang Tr i near t he


Demi li t ar i z ed Z one, t he only pr ovi nc i al c api t al t he Nor t h
Vi et names e had c apt u r ed i n t hei r offens i ve
.
Sept
. 2 6, 2 7 Fu r t her c onc es s i ons by t he Nor t h Vi et names e i n P ar i s
t alk s .
Oc t . 2

Ni xon t ells Sovi et for ei g n mi ni s t er Gr omyk o t hat U


. S.
wi ll mak e " fi nal" pr opos als t o Nor t h Vi et names e
Oc t ober 8
. I f r ej ec t ed, t her e wi ll be no fu r t her
neg ot i at i ons du r i ng elec t i on per i od ; aft er war ds U. S . wi ll
r et u r n t o " ot her met hods . "
xi
X i i CH RONOL OGY
Oc t
. 4

Thi eu obj ec t s t o U. S . c ou nt er -pr opos als .


Oc t . 8

Fi r s t " br eak t hr ou g h" i n s ec r et neg ot i at i ons : H anoi


mak es for t hc omi ng pr opos als , g i vi ng u p i dea of c oali t i on
g over nment and ac c ept i ng c ont i nu anc e of Thi eu r eg i me
aft er c eas e-fi r e .
Oc t
. 2 3

K i s s i ng er g oes t o Sai g on ; fai ls t o s ell s et t lement t o Thi eu ,


who demands maj or c hang es .
Oc t . 2 6

H anoi " g oes pu bli c " wi t h t he dr aft s et t lement and


demands t hat ag r eement be s i g ned by Oc t ober 31 .
Oc t . 2 6

K i s s i ng er i s s u es " we beli eve peac e i s at hand" s t at ement ,


c onfi r mi ng es s ent i al ac c u r ac y of t ext r eleas ed by H anoi
bu t s t at i ng t he c lar i fi c at i ons s t i ll r eq u i r ed .
Nov . 7

U. S . pr es i dent i al elec t i ons : Ni xon r eelec t ed wi t h 60 . 7 per


c ent of vot e, t o 37 . 5 per c ent for Mc Gover n . H owever ,
Senat e has lar g er ant i -war maj or i t y .
Nov . 2 0

K i s s i ng er -L e Du c Tho t alk s r es u me i n P ar i s . Some


pr og r es s .
Dec . 4

L e Du c Tho har dens s t and, wi t hdr aws s ome c onc es s i ons ,


and i nt r odu c es new c hang es . Meet i ng s Dec ember 6, 7 ,
1 1 , and 1 3 s how pat t er n of Nor t h Vi et names e
" i ns olenc e, g u i le, and s t alli ng . " L e Du c Tho s ays he mu s t
r et u r n t o H anoi for c ons u lt at i ons .
Dec . 1 1

Thi eu appear s t o r ej ec t peac e plan i n s peec h t o Sou t h


Vi et names e Nat i onal A s s embly .
Dec . 1 4

Ni xon or der s mi ni ng of H ai phong and bombi ng of


mi li t ar y t ar g et s i n t he H anoi -H ai phong c omplex .
Dec . 1 6

K i s s i ng er pr es s c onfer enc e ac c u s es Nor t h Vi et nam of


s t alli ng t he peac e t alk s .
Dec . 1 7

Nor t h Vi et names e deny K i s s i ng er 's s t at ement abou t


neg ot i at i ons .
Dec . 1 8

Bombi ng of H anoi -H ai phong ar ea (and of ot her t ar g et s


nor t h of t he t went i et h par allel) and r enewed mi ni ng
beg i n .
Dec . 2 6

Nor t h Vi et names e s end " s i g nal" abou t r es u mpt i on of


neg ot i at i ons .
Dec . 2 9

E nd (" s u s pens i on" ) of bombi ng . A g r eement t o meet


Janu ar y 8 .
1 9 7 3
Jan . 8

Res u mpt i on of K i s s i ng er -L e Du c Tho neg ot i at i ons .


Jan . 9

" Maj or br eak t hr ou g h" s c or ed . Tho ac c ept s dr aft as i t


had s t ood November 2 3, wi t hdr aws demands t hat he had
made s u bs eq u ent ly, and ac c ept s A mer i c an c ompr omi s e
lang u ag e on DMZ t hat he had r ej ec t ed i n Dec ember .
Jan . 1 2

Neg ot i at i ons c onc lu ded .


Jan
. 1 5

Ter mi nat i on of all bombi ng and mi ni ng ac t i vi t y i n Nor t h


Vi et nam .
Jan
. 1 6

Gener al H ai g meet s wi t h Thi eu , explai ns t er ms , c onveys


Ni xon mes s ag e g u ar ant eei ng " s t r ong [ U . S. ] r eac t i on" i n
c as e of Nor t h Vi et names e vi olat i ons , t hr eat ens t hat i f
nec es s ar y U. S. wi ll s i g n alone .
Jan . 2 0

Thi eu ac c ept s t he ag r eement .


Jan . 2 3

A g r eement i ni t i aled by K i s s i ng er and L e Du c Tho .


Jan . 2 7

A g r eement s i g ned by Nor t h Vi et nam, t he Vi et Cong


(P RG) " g over nment , " Sou t h Vi et nam, and t he Uni t ed
St at es .
Jan . 2 7

Ceas e-fi r e g oes i nt o effec t .


CH RONOL OGY
X i i l
CH A P TE R ONE
E vent s L eadi ng t o
t he Bombi ng
Mar t i n F . H er z
WH E N I WA S OFFE RE D t he oppor t u ni t y t o exami ne t he
per for manc e of t he pr es t i g e medi a i n r epor t i ng and c omment i ng
on t he Chr i s t mas bombi ng i n Nor t h Vi et nam i n 1 9 7 2 , I j u mped at
t he i nvi t at i on bec au s e I t hou g ht t he t opi c i mpor t ant , i nt er es t i ng ,
and r es ear c hable
. I had s er ved i n Vi et nam (fr om 1 9 68 t o 1 9 7 0)
and have a c ont i nu i ng i nt er es t i n t he s u bj ec t . I i mmedi at ely i m-
mer s ed mys elf i n t he avai lable mat er i al on t he mi li t ar y s i t u at i on,
t he P ar i s neg ot i at i ons , and t he A mer i c an medi a r es pons e t o t he
bombi ng s
. Bu t t hen a s t r ang e let har g y s et i n, whi c h las t ed for
mont hs
. I c omplai ned t o my wi fe t hat I di dn't s eem able t o g et a
handle on t he pr oblem
. On t he c ons c i ou s level I want ed t o g et on
wi t h t he j ob
. On t he u nc ons c i ou s level s omet hi ng was holdi ng me
bac k
.
Fi nally t he c au s e of my fr u s t r at i on bec ame c lear t o me . I had
c ome t o t hi nk t hat t he evi denc e " pr oved" c er t ai n t hi ng s , bu t
g r adu ally-i mper c ept i bly at fi r s t , t hen almos t wi t h a r u s h-i t was
bor ne i n on me t hat t hes e t hi ng s ar e, for t he mos t par t , q u i t e
i mpos s i ble t o pr ove i n any s c i ent i fi c s ens e : (1 ) t hat t he bombi ng ,
far fr om c r eat i ng a new and maj or obs t ac le t o c onc lu s i on of t he
Vi et nam peac e ag r eement , ac t u ally fac i li t at ed i t ; (2 ) t hat t he
Uni t ed St at es was " u nfai r ly" ac c u s ed of wholes ale s lau g ht er of
c i vi li ans i n t he H anoi -H ai phong ar ea, wher eas t he bombi ng was
lar g ely c onfi ned t o mi li t ar y t ar g et s and was q u i t e ac c u r at e
; (3) t hat
t he A mer i c an pr es t i g e medi a-i . e . , t he New Yor k Ti mes , t he
1
2 MA RTI N F . H E RZ
Was hi ng t on P os t , Ti me, News week ,
and t he t hr ee maj or TV
net wor k s -g ave " u nfai r , " one-s i ded at t ent i on t o c r i t i c s of t he
bombi ng , fai li ng t o pr es ent adeq u at ely t he ot her s i de of an i mpor -
t ant c ont r over s y
; and (4) t hat i n what was s ai d abou t t he neg ot i at -
i ng s i t u at i on, t hos e medi a t ended t o g i ve mor e c r edenc e t o t he
s t at ement s of t he enemy t han t o t he s t at ement s of t he g over nment
of t he Uni t ed St at es .
Whi le t her e i s c ons i der able evi denc e t o s u ppor t all t hes e pr opo-
s i t i ons , I now r eali z e t hat only t he las t one i s s u s c ept i ble of pr oof
.
The fi r s t t hr ee r u n i nt o pr oblems c onc er ni ng t he nat u r e of t he
i nfor mat i on avai lable at t he t i me, t he s pec u lat i ve c har ac t er of
as s u mpt i ons abou t Nor t h Vi et names e mot i vat i on, and t he log i c al
pi t fall of mu lt i ple c au s at i on, among ot her s , t hat mak e i t almos t
i mpos s i ble t o dr aw c onc lu s i ons c at eg or i c ally . I n my opi ni on, when
one c ons i der s t he evi denc e of mi s r epor t i ng and mi s r epr es ent at i on
of t he bombi ng and i t s c ons eq u enc es , one has t o be awar e t hat :
1
. Befor e t he Chr i s t mas bombi ng , H anoi was not pr epar ed t o
s i g n t he ag r eement neg ot i at ed wi t h Was hi ng t on i n Oc t ober 1 9 7 2
and i mpr oved du r i ng neg ot i at i ons i n November . I t di d s i g n t he
November dr aft , wi t h fu r t her i mpr ovement s (fr om t he Sou t h Vi et -
names e poi nt of vi ew), s hor t ly aft er t he bombi ng , i n Janu ar y 1 9 7 3 .
No one c an s ay wi t h as s u r anc e, however , t hat t he bombi ng c au s ed
H anoi 's c hang e of mi nd . The fac t t hat B happens aft er A does n't
pr ove t hat B was c au s ed by A . * I happen t o t hi nk t hat t he bombi ng
s peeded c onc lu s i on of t he t r eat y, bec au s e I fou nd c onvi nc i ng t he
s t at ement s abou t Nor t h Vi et names e obs t r u c t i on g i ven by Dr .
H enr y K i s s i ng er i n Dec ember 1 9 7 2 , befor e t he bombi ng beg an .
Bu t u nles s a member of t he Vi et names e P oli t bu r o defec t s and
r epor t s t hat t he bombi ng helped t hat body mak e u p i t s mi nd, t he
pr opos i t i on i s i nher ent ly u npr ovable . Thi s i s s o even t hou g h s u b-
s eq u ent event s have s hown t hat t hos e who pr edi c t ed t hat t he
* Nei t her , of c ou r s e, c an one r eas onably c onc lu de, as Tad Sz u lc c onc lu ded i n
For ei g n P oli c y, Su mmer 1 9 7 4 (p . 67 ), and i n hi s book The I llu s i on of P eac e (p .
654), t hat bec au s e t he ag r eement s i g ned i n Janu ar y 1 9 7 3 was only i nc r ement ally
bet t er t han t he ag r eement neg ot i at ed i n Oc t ober 1 9 7 2 ,
t her efor e t he bombi ng had
been u nnec es s ar y . The ar g u ment beg s t he q u es t i on . No one c an s ay wi t h any
as s u r anc e what , i f anyt hi ng , t he Nor t h Vi et names e wer e pr epar ed t o s i g n i n
Dec ember .
E VE NTS L E A DI NG TO TH E BOMBI NG 3
bombi ng wou ld c au s e t he Nor t h Vi et names e t o di g i n t hei r heels
and har den t hei r s t and, or t hat i t wou ld j eopar di z e det ent e wi t h
Chi na or Ru s s i a or bot h, wer e mi s t ak en .
2 . The bombi ng was lar g ely done by B-52 bomber s , whi c h had
never befor e been u s ed ag ai ns t t ar g et s i n or near lar g e popu lat i on
c ent er s
. The B-52 i s wi dely beli eved t o be an ai r c r aft t hat deli ver s i t s
load not on a pi npoi nt ed t ar g et bu t over an ar ea, a s o-c alled box
meas u r i ng abou t half a mi le by a mi le and a half . Thi s i s t he way i t had
been u s ed on ar ea t ar g et s ear li er i n t he war
. I t was t her efor e not
u nr eas onable for c r i t i c s of t he bombi ng t o s peak of " c ar pet -
bombi ng , " whi c h c alled t o mi nd t he devas t at i on c au s ed by U
. S. and
Br i t i s h bombi ng of s u c h t ar g et s as H ambu r g , Dr es den, and Tok yo
du r i ng Wor ld War I I
. A s i t t u r ned ou t , t he c r i t i c s wer e mi s t ak en . The
bombi ng s , for r eas ons t o be explai ned, wer e q u i t e ac c u r at e, and t he
los s of c i vi li an li ves s u r pr i s i ng ly s mall
. Bu t i t i s har d t o fau lt t he c r i t i c s
for t hi nk i ng ot her wi s e at t he t i me .
3
. When t he Uni t ed St at es was bombi ng wi t h B-52 s , whi c h was
done lar g ely at ni g ht and t hr ou g h c lou d c over du r i ng t he mons oon
s eas on, t he pr ec i s e ext ent of t he damag e c ou ld be ac c u r at ely
as s es s ed by U. S
. au t hor i t i es only s ome t i me aft er t he event
.
Unt i l ext ens i ve phot o-r ec onnai s s anc e c ou ld be u nder t ak en, only
t he Nor t h Vi et names e k new pr ec i s ely what had happened on
t he g r ou nd
. They, of c ou r s e, had no r eas on t o pay t r i bu t e t o t he
ac c u r ac y of t he at t ac k er s and ample r eas on t o exag g er at e t he
effec t s on t he c i vi li an popu lat i on . (The handfu l of A mer i c an ant i -
war ac t i vi s t s i n H anoi at t he t i me of t he bombi ng c ou ld r epor t only
what t hey wer e s hown or allowed t o s ee, and t hei r r epor t i ng t u r ned
ou t t o be almos t as mi s leadi ng as t hat of t hei r hos t s
. ) Fu r t her mor e, i n
t he c over ag e of r eac t i ons t o t he bombi ng i n t he Uni t ed St at es and
abr oad, t her e s i mply was not mu c h appr ovi ng c omment t o r epor t
. I n
fr ee c ou nt r i es , people do not pu bli c ly demons t r at e t hei r s u ppor t of
an u npleas ant mi li t ar y dec i s i on t ak en by t hei r g over nment . The
news was lar g ely g ener at ed by opponent s , and t he U. S
. pr es t i g e
medi a c opi ou s ly r epor t ed as news (wi t h fu ll at t r i bu t i on) t he pr op-
ag anda g i ven ou t by t he enemy and hi s alli es
. H enc e, balanc ed
r epor t i ng abou t t he bombi ng was di ffi c u lt t o ac hi eve . (Di ffi c u lt ,
however , does not mean i mpos s i ble
. )
4 MA RTI N F . H E RZ
4 . The neg ot i at i ng s i t u at i on at t he t i me t he t alk s br ok e down i n
Dec ember 1 9 7 2 (and whet her t hey ac t u ally br ok e down i s i t s elf i n
di s pu t e) was exc eedi ng ly c ompli c at ed . A mer i c an offi c i als had
r ai s ed, lar g ely pr o for ma, var i ou s poi nt s t hat P r es i dent Thi eu of
Sou t h Vi et nam want ed t hem t o r ai s e, poi nt s t hat t hey k new t he
Nor t h Vi et names e wou ld c ons i der non-neg ot i able . The Nor t h
Vi et names e had exc ellent r eas ons t o hes i t at e and per haps t o dr aw
bac k fr om s i g ni ng t he ag r eement t hat had been neg ot i at ed i n Oc t o-
ber 1 9 7 2 and c lar i fi ed and mar g i nally i mpr oved (fr om t he Sou t h
Vi et names e poi nt of vi ew) i n November and ear ly Dec ember
; bu t
t hey wer en't t alk i ng abou t t hos e r eas ons
. The A mer i c an people,
who r emember ed t hat H enr y K i s s i ng er had i n Oc t ober 1 9 7 2 de-
c lar ed t hat " we beli eve peac e i s at hand" and who now s aw t he
hos t i li t i es bei ng r enewed wi t h a veng eanc e, c an be for g i ven for
wonder i ng i f t hey had been mi s led by t hei r g over nment
.
The P u r pos e of Thi s St u dy
Thi s analys i s of medi a per for manc e i s bas ed on t he as s u mpt i on
t hat mas s c ommu ni c at or s i n a democ r ac y have a r es pons i bi li t y t o
pr ovi de a r eas onably fu ll and fai r pi c t u r e of maj or poli t i c al and
mi li t ar y development s . They have an eq u al obli g at i on t o r eflec t t he
var i et y of vi ews abou t t hes e development s s o t hat t he people as
c i t i z ens c an pas s j u dg ment wi s ely on t hei r g over nment 's dec i s i ons
.
Thos e du t i es ar e ac k nowledg ed i n t he c odes of t he pr i nt and elec -
t r oni c medi a . The Code of Br oadc as t News E t hi c s , for example,
s t at es t hat " br oadc as t news pr es ent at i ons s hall be des i g ned not only
t o offer t i mely and ac c u r at e i nfor mat i on, bu t als o t o pr es ent i t i n t he
li g ht of r elevant c i r c u ms t anc es t hat g i ve i t meani ng and per s pec -
t i ve . "
The fai r nes s r eq u i r ement i s mor e s t r i ng ent for t he elec t r oni c
medi a t han for t he pr i nt medi a bec au s e t he for mer mu s t s har e a
li mi t ed nu mber of fr eq u enc i es and c hannels and ar e t her efor e
r eg u lat ed by t he g over nment . Under t he Feder al Commu ni c at i ons
Commi s s i on's Fai r nes s Doc t r i ne, bu t t r es s ed by law and u pheld by
* Code of Br oadc as t News E t hi c s , Radi o Televi s i on News Di r ec t or s A s s oc i a-
t i on, adopt ed Janu ar y 2 , 1 9 66, and amended Oc t ober 1 3, 1 9 7 3, A r t i c le Two
.
E VE NTS L E A DI NG TO TH E BOMBI NG 5
t he Su pr eme Cou r t , all br oadc as t er s ar e r eq u i r ed t o s er ve " t he
pu bli c i nt er es t " i n t hei r pr es ent at i on of all pu bli c i s s u es
. Thi s
doc t r i ne i s r oot ed i n " t he par amou nt r i g ht of t he pu bli c i n a fr ee
s oc i et y t o be i nfor med and t o have pr es ent ed t o i t for ac c ept anc e or
r ej ec t i on" t he di ffer ent vi ewpoi nt s on " c ont r over s i al i s s u es . " * The
br oadc as t er i s r eq u i r ed t o pr ovi de ac c u r at e news i n a meani ng fu l
c ont ext and has an " affi r mat i ve du t y" t o s eek ou t s pok es men for
c ont r as t i ng opi ni ons and per s pec t i ves . When pr es ent i ng oppos i ng
vi ews , t he br oadc as t er mu s t pr ovi de a " r eas onable oppor t u ni t y"
for eac h t o be hear d . A ny r adi o or TV s t at i on-and by i mpli c at i on
a net wor k -has a r i g ht t o advoc at e par t i c u lar vi ews , bu t i t has a
c or r es pondi ng obli g at i on t o pr es ent c ont r as t i ng ones .
Whi le t he Fai r nes s Doc t r i ne appli es t o a s t at i on's or net wor k 's
t ot al pu bli c -affai r s pr og r ammi ng (news , doc u ment ar i es , and panel
s hows ), t he A BC, CBS, and NBC eveni ng news pr og r ams wi t h
t hei r vas t au di enc e and i nflu enc e have a s pec i al r es pons i bi li t y t o
obs er ve t he s pi r i t of balanc e and fai r play embr ac ed i n t he doc t r i ne .
To a c ons i der able ext ent , I t hi nk , t he s ame appli es t o t he New Yor k
Ti mes and t he Was hi ng t on P os t , whi c h, as news paper s of r ec or d,
oc c u py a s pec i al pos i t i on of t r u s t and i nflu enc e .
Thi s s t u dy t ak es i nt o ac c ou nt t he i mpor t ant di s t i nc t i on bet ween
news r epor t i ng , whi c h s hou ld be as ac c u r at e and obj ec t i ve as
pos s i ble, and c omment ar y or edi t or i als , whi c h, when t hey ar e s o
labeled, may be par t i s an and opi ni on-laden . My pu r pos e i s not t o
as s emble a bi ll of par t i c u lar s ag ai ns t t he pr es t i g e medi a for mi s -
r epor t i ng and mi s i nt er pr et i ng a s i g ni fi c ant event i n ou r r ec ent
hi s t or y . I t i s r at her t o pr es ent t he evi denc e, t o t ell t he s t or y of how
t op j ou r nali s t s r epor t ed and c omment ed on t he Chr i s t mas bomb-
i ng . I n t he fi nal c hapt er I dr aw s ome c onc lu s i ons . The pr i nc i pal one
c an be s t at ed her e, r i g ht at t he beg i nni ng : Many mi s t ak es wer e
made i n c ommu ni c at i ng t he fac t s and meani ng of t he Chr i s t mas
bombi ng t o t he A mer i c an people and t he r es t of t he wor ld . The
* FCC 7 4-7 02 (1 842 5), r eleas ed Ju ly 1 2 , 1 9 7 4
. A br i ef hi s t or y and i nt er pr et a-
t i on of t he Fai r nes s Doc t r i ne, whi c h had been evolvi ng for mor e t han fou r
dec ades , c an be fou nd i n TV and Nat i onal Defens e: A n A nalys i s of CBS News ,
1 9 7 2 -1 9 7 3, by E r nes t W
. L efever (Bos t on, Vi r g i ni a : I ns t i t u t e for A mer i c an
St r at eg y P r es s , 1 9 7 4), pp . 4-9 .
6
MA RTI N F . H E RZ
pr es t i g e medi a wer e not t he only ones at fau lt ; t he U. S . g over n-
ment had a s i g ni fi c ant s har e i n t hes e mi s t ak es .
I t need har dly be r ec alled t hat by 1 9 7 2 U . S . i nvolvement i n t he
Vi et nam War was not popu lar wi t h t he pr es t i g e pr es s and t he TV
news anc hor men. I n t he eyes of t he medi a, t he c r edi bi li t y of t he
Ni xon admi ni s t r at i on was low, even (and per haps es pec i ally) aft er
t he P r es i dent was r e-elec t ed i n 1 9 7 2 by a s u bs t ant i al maj or i t y . The
s ec r et i venes s of t he A dmi ni s t r at i on, whi c h i n t he c as e of t he P ar i s
peac e t alk s was nec es s ar y, di d not mak e for eas y ac c ept anc e of i t s
pu bli c s t at ement s
.
The Chr i s t mas Bombi ng
On Dec ember 1 8, 1 9 7 2 , alt hou g h not hi ng i n t he mi li t ar y s i t u a-
t i on i n Vi et nam war r ant ed i t , t he Uni t ed St at es s u ddenly r es u med
heavy bombi ng of Nor t h Vi et nam nor t h of t he t went i et h par allel .
The at t ac k c onc ent r at ed on t ar g et s i n t he H anoi and H ai phong
ar eas ; c onc u r r ent ly mi nes wer e dr opped i nt o Nor t h Vi et names e
har bor s . The next day Whi t e H ou s e pr es s s ec r et ar y Ronald Z i eg ler
c i t ed as a r eas on for t he bombi ng s ome s i g ns of pr epar at i ons for
anot her Nor t h Vi et names e offens i ve ag ai ns t Sou t h Vi et nam ; bu t
t her e had been no ment i on of s u c h pr epar at i ons befor e, and
Z i eg ler 's s t at ement had li t t le c r edi bi li t y . Ot her g over nment
s ou r c es made i t c lear t hat t he pu r pos e of t he bombi ng and mi ni ng
was t o for c e Nor t h Vi et nam i nt o a mor e t r ac t able pos i t i on at t he
ar mi s t i c e t alk s i n P ar i s , whi c h had been s u s pended i n di s ag r eement
fi ve days befor e .
Thi s was not t he fi r s t t i me du r i ng t he war t hat bombi ng had been
u s ed for pr i mar i ly poli t i c al pu r pos es , bu t t he oc c as i on was di ffer ent
fr om pr evi ou s ones i n s ever al r es pec t s . Fi r s t , i t had been t he
g ener al i mpr es s i on pr i or t o t he Dec ember 1 3 s u s pens i on of t he
t alk s bet ween H enr y K i s s i ng er and L e Du c Tho t hat Nor t h Vi et -
nam and t he Uni t ed St at es wou ld c onc lu de an ag r eement t o end
t he war befor e Chr i s t mas . Two mont hs befor e, H enr y K i s s i ng er ,
P r es i dent Ni xon's nat i onal s ec u r i t y advi s er , had annou nc ed t hat
" we beli eve peac e i s at hand" aft er t he Nor t h Vi et names e had
pu bli c i z ed t he t ext of t he ag r eement -pr emat u r ely, t o for c e t he
E VE NTS L E A DI NG TO TH E BOMBI NG 7
A mer i c an hand ; at t hat t i me, ac c or di ng t o K i s s i ng er , only mi nor
det ai ls s t i ll r emai ned t o be s et t led . The mas s i ve bombi ng wi t hou t
mi li t ar y pr ovoc at i on was s een by many as a dang er ou s es c alat i on
t hat c ou ld embr oi l t he Uni t ed St at es wi t h Chi na, t he Sovi et Uni on,
or bot h ; and t her e was wi des pr ead di s appoi nt ment t hat , i ns t ead of
peac e, t he Chr i s t mas s eas on was s eei ng an i nt ens i fi c at i on of t he
hos t i li t i es fr om whi c h t he Uni t ed St at es wi s hed t o wi t hdr aw .
Bac k g r ou nd of t he P r es i dent 's Dec i s i on
To vi ew t he bombi ng i n per s pec t i ve we mu s t look bac k at t he
c ou r s e of t he war du r i ng t he ear li er mont hs of t hat year . The s pr i ng
and s u mmer of 1 9 7 2 had s een t he bi g g es t Nor t h Vi et names e
offens i ve of t he war -i n fac t , t he fi r s t t hat pi t t ed t wo well-
eq u i pped Vi et names e ar mi es ag ai ns t eac h ot her i n " s et pi ec e"
bat t les . (The g u er r i lla c omponent of t he war , whi c h c ont i nu ed, had
been at a r elat i vely low level ever s i nc e t he " Tet " offens i ve i n ear ly
1 9 68 ; a s u bs t ant i al por t i on of t he Vi et Cong i nfr as t r u c t u r e had
been des t r oyed, bot h du r i ng t he Tet offens i ve, when t he Vi et Cong
u ns u c c es s fu lly at t ac k ed t he c i t i es of Sou t h Vi et nam, and du r i ng i t s
aft er mat h, when t he Sou t h Vi et names e g over nment c ondu c t ed i t s
" ac c eler at ed pac i fi c at i on c ampai g n, " 1 9 68-7 0 . ) The Commu ni s t
s pr i ng offens i ve i n 1 9 7 2 i nvolved fou r t een r eg u lar Nor t h Vi et -
names e di vi s i ons and t went y-s i x i ndependent r eg i ment s plu s , s u p-
por t i ng t r oops , i nc lu di ng ar mor and heavy ar t i ller y . I t las t ed,
t hr ou g h s ever al s t ag es , i nt o t he s u mmer .
Thi s offens i ve br ou g ht t he Nor t h Vi et names e only li mi t ed s u c -
c es s es . A lt hou g h t hey over r an t he nor t her nmos t c i t y of Sou t h
Vi et nam, Q u ang Tr i , whi c h was abandoned i n pani c by i t s defen-
der s and a g ood par t of i t s popu lat i on, t hat c i t y was event u ally
r et ak en by Sou t h Vi et names e mar i nes i n an ei g ht y-day bat t le t hat
ended i n Sept ember . The mos t las t i ng s u c c es s for t he Nor t h Vi et -
names e was a wi deni ng of t hei r c ont r ol over t he wes t er n par t of t he
Cent r al H i g hlands , whi c h allowed t hem t o es t abli s h new log i s t i c
c omplexes along t he Cambodi an bor der t hat wou ld be u s efu l i n
fu t u r e oper at i ons . I n t he s ou t her n por t i on of Sou t h Vi et nam,
des pi t e over whelmi ng s u per i or i t y i n ar mor and ar t i ller y, t hr ee
8 MA RTI N F . H E RZ
Nor t h Vi et names e di vi s i ons fai led t o t ak e A n L oc , whos e defen-
der s s howed as t oni s hi ng her oi s m .
On t he whole, t he Nor t h Vi et names e fou g ht wi t h t hei r c u s t om-
ar y t enac i t y and di s r eg ar d for hu man li fe ; bu t t hei r los s es wer e s o
heavy t hat at t he end of t he offens i ve t he Sou t h Vi et names e,
des pi t e t hei r s maller popu lat i on bas e, enj oyed nu mer i c al s u per i or -
i t y over t he at t ac k er s . For t he fi r s t t i me t her e wer e als o s u bs t ant i al
(t hou g h s t i ll s mall) nu mber s of Nor t h Vi et names e des er t er s , and i n
s ome r et r eat s t he at t ac k er s left valu able eq u i pment behi nd .
I n t hes e defens i ve bat t les i n Sou t h Vi et nam du r i ng t he s pr i ng
and s u mmer of 1 9 7 2 , Sai g on's for c es c ou ld no long er c ou nt on
A mer i c an s u ppor t on t he g r ou nd, s i nc e mos t A mer i c an t r oops had
been wi t hdr awn . H owever , t hey r ec ei ved mas s i ve and ver y effec -
t i ve s u ppor t fr om t he ai r , i nc lu di ng s t r i k es by t he g i ant B-52
bomber s . For t he fi r s t t i me t her e wer e c lear bat t le li nes , and t hes e
heavy bomber s c ou ld be u s ed wi t h g ood effec t . For i ns t anc e, t hey
wer e s u ffi c i ent ly ac c u r at e t o be u s ed ag ai ns t t he at t ac k er s of A n
L oc wi t hou t hu r t i ng t he defender s .
The A mer i c an bombi ng of Nor t h Vi et nam, whi c h had been
halt ed, was r es u med on A pr i l 6
. A t t ac k s on mi li t ar y t ar g et s i n t he
Nor t h bec ame s i g ni fi c ant ly mor e ac c u r at e i n 1 9 7 2 bec au s e of t he
i nt r odu c t i on of " s mar t " -TV- and las er -g u i ded-bombs
. For i n-
s t anc e, t he Thanh H oa br i dg e, whi c h had not been hi t des pi t e 800
t o 1 , 000 s or t i es du r i ng pr evi ou s bombi ng offens i ves , was de-
s t r oyed i n t he fi r s t at t ac k
. The B-52 oper at i ons , however , wer e not
c ondu c t ed wi t h " s mar t " bombs bu t i nvolved t ar g et s defi ned wi t hi n
a " box" of c oor di nat es
.
To s how i t s det er mi nat i on t o foi l t he Nor t h Vi et names e effor t ,
t he Uni t ed St at es i n May 1 9 7 2 for t he fi r s t t i me dr opped mi nes i nt o
H ai phong har bor and ot her Nor t h Vi et names e har bor s . P r es i dent
Ni xon dr ew c ons i der able c r i t i c i s m for t hat ac t i on and for t he
r es u med bombi ng of Nor t h Vi et nam (whi c h i nc lu ded bombi ng of
t he H anoi ar ea)
. I t was wi dely pr edi c t ed t hat t hos e at t ac k s wou ld
lead t o r et ali at i on by t he Sovi et Uni on or Chi na or bot h . A t t he
ver y leas t , t he c r i t i c s s ai d, t he s t epped-u p at t ac k s wou ld j eopar di z e
Ni xon's planned May s u mmi t meet i ng wi t h Sovi et leader L eoni d
Br ez hnev i n Mos c ow . Bu t as i t t u r ned ou t t her e was no s u c h
E VE NTS L E A DI NG TO TH E BOMBI NG
9
c ou nt er ac t i on, and t he Mos c ow s u mmi t t ook plac e as planned .
A c c or di ng t o var i ou s r epor t s bas ed on alleg ed leak s , i ndi s c r e-
t i ons , or u nat t r i bu t ed i nt er vi ews , t he Ni xon-Br ez hnev meet i ng i n
May 1 9 7 2 played an i mpor t ant r ole i n advanc i ng t he neg ot i at i ons
bet ween t he Uni t ed St at es and Nor t h Vi et nam . (Ther e i s no men-
t i on of t hi s i n ei t her Ni xon's or K i s s i ng er 's memoi r s . ) I n t he " pu b-
li c " neg ot i at i ons i n P ar i s , t he deleg at i on of t he P r ovi s i onal Gov-
er nment of Sou t h Vi et nam (t he Vi et Cong , i n effec t s peak i ng for
t hei r Nor t h Vi et names e mas t er s ) had pr opos ed a t r i par t i t e " g ov-
er nment of nat i onal c onc or d" i n whi c h t he Commu ni s t s , t he ant i -
Commu ni s t g over nment of Sou t h Vi et nam, and an u ni dent i fi ed
neu t r ali s t " t hi r d for c e" wou ld be r epr es ent ed . Thi s pr opos al had
been c at eg or i c ally r ej ec t ed by t he Uni t ed St at es and Sou t h Vi et -
nam . A t t he Mos c ow s u mmi t , K i s s i ng er i s s u ppos ed t o have let i t be
k nown t hat t he Uni t ed St at es wou ld not be oppos ed t o a t r i par t i t e
body pr ovi ded i t s fu nc t i ons wer e li mi t ed t o t he holdi ng of fr ee
elec t i ons aft er an ag r eed c onc lu s i on of t he hos t i li t i es . K i s s i ng er 's
offi c e has deni ed t o me t hat he r ai s ed t hi s pos s i bi li t y i n Mos c ow .
Whet her or not one fi nds t he deni al c onvi nc i ng , i t i s a fac t t hat t he
i dea of a t r i par t i t e elec t or al c ommi s s i on played an i mpor t ant r ole
i n t he s et t lement t hat was event u ally wor k ed ou t bet ween t he
Uni t ed St at es and Nor t h Vi et nam .
The neg ot i at i ons , whi c h c ont i nu ed i nc onc lu s i vely t hr ou g h t he
s u mmer and ear ly fall, br ou g ht no pr og r es s u nt i l lat e Sept ember ,
when t her e wer e s i g ni fi c ant c hang es i n t he pos i t i ons of t he t wo
s i des . Si nc e t he Nor t h Vi et names e had fai led i n t hei r lar g es t mi li -
t ar y effor t t o dat e, du r i ng whi c h an es t i mat ed 1 30, 000 of t hei r men
had been k i lled or di s abled and vas t q u ant i t i es of t hei r mi li t ar y
s u ppli es had been des t r oyed, t hey wer e i n no pos i t i on t o r es u me
lar g e-s c ale hos t i li t i es for s ome t i me, par t i c u lar ly s i nc e r es u pply
had been g r eat ly hamper ed by t he mi ni ng of t hei r por t s . On t he
Sou t h Vi et names e s i de, t he s u c c es s fu l defens e had r ai s ed t he s t oc k
of P r es i dent Thi eu -as well as hi s det er mi nat i on t o r es i s t A mer i -
c an c onc es s i ons t o hi s Commu ni s t enemi es . Wi t h Senat or Geor g e
Mc Gover n as t he Democ r at i c c andi dat e i n t he for t hc omi ng elec -
t i ons , t he polls s howed an i nc r eas i ng li k eli hood t hat Ni xon wou ld
be r e-elec t ed . I f Ni xon c ou ld t ak e t he c ons i der able r i s k of mi ni ng
1 0 MA RTI N F . H E RZ
H ai phong s i x mont hs befor e t he elec t i on, t her e was no pr edi c t i ng
what he mi g ht do aft er he won r e-elec t i on .
I n t hi s s i t u at i on, t he Nor t h Vi et names e made s ome pr omi s i ng
pr opos als i n ear ly Oc t ober -wi t h t he demand t hat t he ag r eement
be s i g ned on Oc t ober 31 , j u s t befor e t he A mer i c an elec t i on
. Ther e
was ext r aor di nar i ly r api d bar g ai ni ng i n P ar i s , and t he c onc es s i ons
made by t he Nor t h Vi et names e wer e appar ent fr om t hes e feat u r es
of t he dr aft ac c or d t hey annou nc ed on Oc t ober 2 6
: t hey ac c ept ed a
c eas e-fi r e i n plac e, whi c h t hey had hi t her t o oppos ed ; t hey ag r eed
for t he fi r s t t i me t o a s epar at i on bet ween t he c eas e-fi r e and a
poli t i c al s et t lement , t hu s leavi ng t he Thi eu g over nment i n power ;
t hey ag r eed t o i nt er nat i onally s u per vi s ed elec t i ons , whi c h t hey had
r epeat edly r ej ec t ed i n t he pas t ; and t hey wor k ed ou t wi t h t he U. S.
neg ot i at or s t he c onc ept of a " Nat i onal Cou nc i l of Nat i onal Rec on-
c i li at i on and Conc or d" t o i mplement t he ag r eement and t o or g a-
ni z e elec t i ons wi t h t he par t i c i pat i on of t he Thi eu g over nment -a
pale s hadow of t hei r pr evi ou s i ns i s t enc e on a c oali t i on g over nment
.
A ls o, t hey ag r eed t hat t he Sou t h Vi et names e g over nment c ou ld
c ont i nu e t o r ec ei ve A mer i c an ec onomi c and mi li t ar y ai d, t he lat t er
only on a r eplac ement bas i s , wher eas pr evi ou s ly t hey had de-
manded t hat t he A mer i c an wi t hdr awal be followed by a c es s at i on
of all A mer i c an ai d t o Sou t h Vi et nam . Ther e wer e als o ot her
pr ovi s i ons t hat need not be li s t ed i n t hi s s u mmar y .
The P ar i s Neg ot i at i ons Bog Down
Meanwhi le, however , t he Sou t h Vi et names e g over nment of
P r es i dent Thi eu , c au g ht by s u r pr i s e by t he r api d pr og r es s i n t he
neg ot i at i ons , was not r eady t o s et t le . I t obj ec t ed t o any s olu t i on
t hat wou ld per mi t t he c ont i nu ed pr es enc e of Nor t h Vi et names e
t r oops on Sou t h Vi et names e t er r i t or y (even t hou g h t hi s had been
i mpli ed i n all j oi nt U. S. -Sou t h Vi et names e c eas e-fi r e pr opos als
s i nc e Oc t ober 1 9 7 0) . The Sou t h Vi et names e wer e als o i nt ens ely
s u s pi c i ou s of t he i dea of a t r i par t i t e elec t or al c ommi s s i on .
To allay Thi eu 's fear s t hat aft er an ar mi s t i c e t he Nor t h Vi et -
names e wou ld r es u me t hei r mi li t ar y bu i ldu p i n Sou t h Vi et nam i n
defi anc e of t he t er ms of t he ag r eement , t he Uni t ed St at es beg an t o
E VE NTS L E A DI NG TO TH E BOMBI NG 1 1
t r ans fer mi li t ar y eq u i pment t o Sou t h Vi et nam t hat mor e t han
made u p i t s bat t le los s es (" Oper at i on E nhanc e" ) . Thi s bu i ldu p
beg an i n t he ear ly fall and was ac c eler at ed i n Oc t ober . Towar d t he
end of Oc t ober , however , i t bec ame appar ent t hat des pi t e maj or
A mer i c an pr es s u r e and des pi t e t he addi t i onal ar ms , Sou t h Vi et -
nam wou ld r efu s e t o s i g n t he ag r eement on t he pr es c r i bed dat e of
Oc t ober 31
. Wor s e, an embar r as s ed K i s s i ng er lear ned t hat t he
Vi et names e-lang u ag e ver s i on of t he dr aft ag r eement he had
neg ot i at ed di ffer ed i n i mpor t ant r es pec t s fr om t he E ng li s h ver s i on .
The s i t u at i on was exac er bat ed by Nor t h Vi et names e pr opag anda
des c r i bi ng t he (power les s ) t r i par t i t e c ou nc i l as an i nt er i m g over n-
ment .
When i t bec ame c lear t hat t he A mer i c ans c ou ld not per s u ade t he
Sou t h Vi et names e t o s i g n, H anoi pu bli c ly r eleas ed t he t er ms of t he
ag r eement over Radi o H anoi i n t he ear ly mor ni ng of Oc t ober 2 6 .
On t he s ame day (i n hi s " we beli eve peac e i s at hand" s t at ement )
K i s s i ng er ac k nowledg ed t he es s ent i al ac c u r ac y of H anoi 's ac c ou nt
bu t poi nt ed ou t t hat s ome det ai ls r emai ned t o be s et t led
.
Bet ween Oc t ober 2 6 and Dec ember 1 3 t hr ee development s
u nexpec t ed by t he Nor t h Vi et names e made t he s i t u at i on i n Sou t h
Vi et nam les s favor able t o t hem
. Fi r s t , many Vi et Cong u ni t s i n
Sou t h Vi et nam, havi ng been led t o expec t t hat a c eas e-fi r e i n plac e
wou ld be annou nc ed on Oc t ober 31 , r evealed t hems elves pr ema-
t u r ely by s ei z i ng or at t empt i ng t o s ei z e vi llag es and t owns t hat t hey
hoped t o c lai m-only t o be c apt u r ed or k i lled by t he Sou t h Vi et -
names e . Sec ond, t he Uni t ed St at es , i n a fu r t her effor t t o c onc i li at e
Thi eu , s t epped u p i t s " Oper at i on E nhanc e" i nt o an even lar g er
s u pply oper at i on du bbed" E nhanc e-P lu s " (i nvolvi ng , for i ns t anc e,
t he hu r r i ed t r ans fer of A mer i c an war planes fr om t he i nvent or i es of
Tai wan, Sou t h K or ea, and I r an, at Was hi ng t on's u r g ent r eq u es t ) .
A lt og et her , t he Sou t h Vi et names e r ec ei ved abou t $2 bi lli on wor t h
of ar ms and s u ppli es i n les s t han t wo mont hs
. Thi r d, when t he
s ec r et neg ot i at i ons wer e r es u med i n P ar i s on November 2 0, K i s -
s i ng er r ai s ed a lar g e nu mber of poi nt s t hat he had pr omi s ed Thi eu
t o r ai s e, s ome of t hem q u i t e fu ndament al . A lt hou g h t he Nor t h
Vi et names e r ej ec t ed mos t of t hes e poi nt s , t hey i ni t i ally ac c ept ed a
few, i nc lu di ng one abou t r es pec t for t he DMZ (t he demi li t ar i z ed
1 2
MA RTI N F . H E RZ
z one bet ween Nor t h and Sou t h Vi et nam), whi c h made t he ag r ee-
ment les s at t r ac t i ve t o t hem . Fu r t her mor e, s ome of t he di s c r epan-
c i es bet ween t he E ng li s h and Vi et names e t ext s pr oved s i g ni fi c ant
and had t o be r es olved i n ar du ou s neg ot i at i ons .
A not her development , per haps not u nexpec t ed by t he Nor t h
Vi et names e and c er t ai nly not u nwelc ome t o t hem, was t hat t her e
wer e g r owi ng s i g ns t hat a maj or i t y i n t he new U. S. Cong r es s , whi c h
was t o c onvene i n Janu ar y 1 9 7 3, wou ld favor c u t t i ng off all ap-
pr opr i at i ons for t he Vi et nam war . Thi s pr os pec t t ended t o weak en
t he U. S. pos i t i on i n t he neg ot i at i ons
. H anoi 's Oc t ober 2 6 pu bli c a-
t i on of t he near ly c omplet ed peac e t er ms i nc r eas ed U. S
. domes t i c
pr es s u r es on Ni xon t o s et t le, even aft er hi s r e-elec t i on .
By ear ly Dec ember 1 9 7 2 , t he A mer i c an s i de-havi ng pu bli c ly
annou nc ed t hat when i t was s at i s fi ed wi t h t he t er ms i t wou ld s i g n an
ag r eement even i f Thi eu wou ld not -expec t ed t he ag r eement t o be
bu t t oned u p i n a mat t er of days
. H owever , mi dway i n t he fi nal
phas e of t he neg ot i at i ons (or what t he Uni t ed St at es expec t ed t o be
t he fi nal phas e), whi c h beg an on Dec ember 4, L e Du c Tho s eemed
t o have c hang ed hi s mi nd on t he u r g enc y of an ear ly ag r eement
. H e
r efu s ed any di s c u s s i on of t he pr ot oc ols of i mplement at i on and t hen
s u bmi t t ed new pr opos als t hat wer e ent i r ely u nac c ept able t o t he
A mer i c an s i de
. Fu r t her mor e, he wi t hdr ew s ever al c onc es s i ons he
had made du r i ng November and even i n ear ly Dec ember
. I t be-
c ame i nc r eas i ng ly appar ent t hat i f H anoi hadn't c hang ed i t s mi nd
abou t t he des i r abi li t y of an ear ly ag r eement , at leas t i t mu s t have
i ns t r u c t ed i t s neg ot i at or t o play for t i me s o t hat t he P oli t bu r o c ou ld
r eas s es s t he ent i r e mat t er
. A t t he s ame t i me, P r es i dent Thi eu -
who had been war ned t hat t he Uni t ed St at es wou ld pr oc eed wi t h-
ou t hi m i f i t c onc lu ded t hat t he ag r eement was r eas onable-g ai ned
fu r t her c onc es s i ons fr om P r es i dent Ni xon, not ably a per s onal wr i t -
t en c ommi t ment t hat t he Uni t ed St at es wou ld c ome t o hi s ai d i f
Nor t h Vi et nam u nder t ook a wholes ale vi olat i on of t he ag r eement
.
The P ar i s neg ot i at i ons ended wi t hou t ag r eement on Dec ember
1 3 (t he U. S. and Nor t h Vi et names e s t at ement s on t he br eak down
ar e pr i nt ed as A ppendi x A and A ppendi x B of t hi s s t u dy), and t he
U. S. bombi ng c ampai g n i n t he H anoi -H ai phong ar ea beg an fi ve
days lat er .
A P er s onal Vi ew
Thi s s u mmar y of t he event s leadi ng u p t o t he Chr i s t mas bombi ng
has been, I beli eve, fac t u al . What follows i s my own vi ew of t he
s i t u at i on c r eat ed bet ween Oc t ober and Dec ember .
Fi r s t , i t appear s t hat whi le P r es i dent Thi eu 's c ont i nu ed oppos i -
t i on was embar r as s i ng , i t no long er wou ld pr ec lu de t he s i g ni ng of
t he s li g ht ly i mpr oved ag r eement bet ween t he Uni t ed St at es and
Nor t h Vi et nam t hat s eemed wi t hi n r eac h at t he beg i nni ng of De-
c ember . Sec ond, i t s eems ent i r ely r eas onable t hat t he Nor t h Vi et -
names e wer e havi ng s ec ond t hou g ht s abou t s i g ni ng t he ag r eement
as i t had been amended i n November , bec au s e fou r t hi ng s had
happened t o mak e i t les s at t r ac t i ve : t he r edu c t i on of t hei r loc al
for c es i n t he Sou t h br ou g ht abou t by pr emat u r e s u r fac i ng ; t he
r elat i ve s t r eng t heni ng of t he Thi eu g over nment t hr ou g h oper a-
t i ons E nhanc e and E nhanc e-P lu s ; t he pr ec i s i ons i n t he ag r eement
i ns i s t ed on by K i s s i ng er , whi c h had r emoved ambi g u i t i es , not ably
abou t t he nat u r e of t he Nat i onal Cou nc i l of Nat i onal Rec onc i li -
at i on and Conc or d ; and t he pr os pec t i ve c hang es i n t he U . S. Con-
g r es s t hat wou ld mak e i t wor t hwhi le t o play a wai t i ng g ame . A s for
Ni xon, whi le t he elec t i on had s t r eng t hened hi s pos i t i on, he needed
t o c onvi nc e H anoi t hat s t alli ng t he neg ot i at i ons wou ld not be t o i t s
advant ag e . Unable t o pr ovi de i t s adver s ar y wi t h addi t i onal i nc en-
t i ves t o c onc lu de t he ag r eement , t he Uni t ed St at es had t o fi nd
c onvi nc i ng di s i nc ent i ves t o non-c onc lu s i on .
I wi s h t o emphas i z e t hat u nles s a c r edi ble wi t nes s c omes for war d
t o t ell u s , nobody c an s ay wi t h any as s u r anc e what went on i n t he
Nor t h Vi et names e P oli t bu r o du r i ng t he fi r s t half of Dec ember
1 9 7 2 . I t i s pos s i ble t hat i f t he Uni t ed St at es had wai t ed, t he Nor t h
Vi et names e wou ld have c ome bac k t o t he peac e t alk s and s i g ned
t he ag r eement on t he November t er ms . I do not t hi nk s o, bu t t he
r eader need not ag r ee wi t h me .
What I wi s h t o analyz e i n t hi s s t u dy i s whet her t he bombi ng i t s elf
was fai r ly r epor t ed, whet her t he dec i s i on t o bomb was di s c u s s ed on
i t s mer i t s , and whet her r eader s of A mer i c a's pr es t i g e pr es s and
vi ewer s of i t s mos t i nflu ent i al news pr og r ams c ou ld g ai n a balanc ed
pi c t u r e of what was g oi ng on and what was at s t ak e . A ns wer i ng
E VE NTS L E A DI NG TO TH E BOMBI NG
1 3
1 4 MA RTI N F
. H E RZ
t hos e q u es t i ons does not r eq u i r e a par t i c u lar pos i t i on on t he i s s u es
;
one need only be awar e of t he var i ou s alt er nat i ves
.
Si nc e we wi ll be di s c u s s i ng t he q u ali t y of t he r epor t i ng and
debat e, one mor e poi nt mu s t be br ou g ht
u p at t he r i s k of fu r t her
c ompli c at i ng an alr eady t ang led s t or y
. On Dec ember 1 7 , j u s t
befor e t he bombi ng beg an, t he Nor t h Vi et names e i n t wo br oad-
c as t s c alled for a r et u r n t o t he Oc t ober dr aft -i
. e . , for a j et t i s oni ng
of all t he i mpr ovement s and c lar i fi c at i ons t hat had been ag r eed on
i n t he November neg ot i at i ons
. Thi s was not new, bu t i t c ou ld have
been s i g ni fi c ant
. Reas onable men c an di ffer on whet her t hi s offer
was s er i ou s and whet her i t s hou ld have been ac c ept ed
. A r et u r n t o
t he Oc t ober dr aft wou ld have br ou g ht an open br eak bet ween
Was hi ng t on and Sai g on (and t her e wer e t hos e who t hou g ht s u c h a
br eak des i r able and nec es s ar y)
. The A dmi ni s t r at i on wou ld have
vi ewed i t as a t r ag edy not only for Sou t h Vi et nam bu t als o for t he
Uni t ed St at es
: i t wou ld have i nvolved t he bet r ayal of an ally and a
s u r r ender of t he i mpr ovement s t hat had been ar du ou s ly won
. The
debat e on t he li k ely c os t s ver s u s t he pr es u med benefi t s of s u c h a
c ou r s e of ac t i on wou ld have been i nt er es t i ng and wor t hwhi le-had
s u c h a debat e t ak en plac e i n t he A mer i c an pr es t i g e medi a
.
Ver y li t t le of t he i nfor mat i on s u mmar i z ed i n t hi s c hapt er was
u nk nown or i nac c es s i ble t o t he r epor t er s , edi t or s , edi t or i al wr i t er s ,
and TV anc hor men and r epor t er s who wer e pr es ent i ng t he news
and expr es s i ng opi ni ons on i t du r i ng t he per i od of t he Chr i s t mas
bombi ng
. Bu t r emar k ably li t t le was s ai d or wr i t t en t o pr es ent a
c lear r at i onale for what t he Uni t ed St at es was
. doi ng i n Nor t h
Vi et nam . Fu r t her mor e, t he U. S
. g over nment di d ver y li t t le t o war d
off or mi ni mi z e t he t i de of adver s e c omment t hat was abou t t o r oll
over i t . Thi s was not u nu s u al
. A c er t ai n r es i g ned let har g y t owar d
doi ng bat t le wi t h t he opi ni on-mak er s had s et i n
. Du r i ng t he las t
few year s of t he war , i n t he fac e of what mu s t have s eemed t he
u nalt er able oppos i t i on of t he pr es t i g e medi a, t he Uni t ed St at es
g over nment never g ear ed i t s elf u p adeq u at ely t o explai n i t s pos i -
t i ons and poli c i es and t o r ebu t c r i t i c i s m on a s ys t emat i c bas i s
.
CH A P TE R TWO
Repor t i ng by
t he P r es t i g e P r es s
Mar t i n F. H er z and L es li e Ri der
ON DE CE MBE R 1 6, 1 9 7 2 , t wo days befor e t he Chr i s t mas
bombi ng beg an, H enr y K i s s i ng er g ave a det ai led explanat i on of
t he br eak down of t he P ar i s neg ot i at i ons . H e di d not for ec as t t he
bombi ng . Thi s was t he las t det ai led offi c i al U . S . s t at ement -
exc ept for a li s t of t ar g et s r eleas ed by t he U . S. c ommand i n Sai g on
on Dec ember 2 8-made u nt i l aft er t he bombi ng ended on De-
c ember 2 9 .
The fi r s t news of t he bombi ng c ame fr om H anoi . A mer i c an
offi c i als wer e t i g ht -li pped on t he s u bj ec t . On Dec ember 1 8, Sec r e-
t ar y of Defens e Melvi n L ai r d was q u es t i oned abou t t he mat t er
du r i ng a phot og r aphi c s es s i on wher e he was pr epar i ng t o t u r n over
hi s du t i es t o E lli ot t Ri c har ds on . " A ft er at t empt i ng t o avoi d t he
q u es t i on, " ac c or di ng t o t he New Yor k Ti mes (Dec . 1 9 ), L ai r d s ai d :
" ` A i r oper at i ons ar e bei ng c ondu c t ed t hr ou g hou t Nor t h Vi et nam
at t he pr es ent t i me . ' H e dec li ned t o di s c u s s t he mat t er fu r t her ,
s ayi ng i t mi g ht j eopar di z e pi lot s ' li ves . " The A dmi ni s t r at i on's
s i lenc e was all bu t deafeni ng
. The Dec ember 1 9 CBS r epor t on t he
bombi ng was bas ed on Vi et names e r epor t s . " Fr om t he A mer i c an
s i de t her e wer e few det ai ls on t he bombi ng , " s ai d t he r epor t .
" Mi li t ar y s ou r c es i n Was hi ng t on and Sai g on s ay P r es i dent Ni xon
has c lamped a li d on any i nfor mat i on . Sai d one offi c er , ` We've
never been u nder s u c h t i g ht r es t r i c t i ons . " ' On Dec ember 2 2 ,
Rober t P i er pont of CBS r epor t ed t hat " pr es s ed t o c omment on or
explai n t he mas s i ve bombi ng of Nor t h Vi et nam, Z i eg ler [ t he pr es i -
dent i al pr es s s pok es man] wou ld nei t her c onfi r m nor deny t hat i t i s
1 5
1 6 MA RTI N F
. H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
ai med at for c i ng H anoi t o ac c ept t he U . S. ver s i on of a fai r s et t le-
ment . " L at er , Whi t e H ou s e pr es s s pok es men ans wer ed s u c h q u es -
t i ons wi t h " no c omment . "
Ther e was a r eas on for t hi s , bu t i t bec ame k nown only mu c h
lat er . K i s s i ng er had r ec ommended fr om P ar i s t hat t he P r es i dent g o
on nat i onal t elevi s i on t o annou nc e and explai n t he bombi ng , bu t
t he P r es i dent had r efu s ed c at eg or i c ally
. Ni xon's t eleg r aphed r e-
s pons e t o K i s s i ng er was
: " The t hi ng t o do her e i s t o t ak e t he heat
fr om t he Was hi ng t on es t abli s hment , who k now t he di ffer enc e, for
s t eppi ng u p t he bombi ng whi c h wi ll oc c u r for a few days , and
s i mply ac t s t r ong ly wi t hou t es c alat i ng pu bli c i t y abou t ou r ac t i ons
by what we s ay abou t t hem" (RN: The Memoi r s of Ri c har d Ni xon,
New Yor k : Gr os s et and Du nlap, 1 9 7 8, p . 7 30) . Ni xon's r eas oni ng
and t he det er i or at i ng r elat i ons bet ween hi m and K i s s i ng er at t hat
t i me wi ll be exami ned i n c hapt er 4 .
Not s u r pr i s i ng ly, t he ver y s i lenc e of t he A dmi ni s t r at i on was u s ed
as an ar g u ment ag ai ns t t he bombi ng . News di s pat c hes r epeat edly
r efer r ed t o t he " s ec r et i venes s " of t he Whi t e H ou s e, t he St at e
Depar t ment , and t he P ent ag on . E ven explanat i ons for t he s ec r ec y,
when t hey wer e g i ven, c ont r i bu t ed t o t he i mpr es s i on t hat fac t s
wer e bei ng needles s ly wi t hheld . For i ns t anc e, a r epor t dat eli ned
Sai g on t hat appear ed i n t he Was hi ng t on P os t as lat e as Dec ember
2 8 q u ot ed an A i r For c e maj or , Gi lber t Whi t eman, as s ayi ng t hat
i nfor mat i on was bei ng " t empor ar i ly wi t hheld t o pr ot ec t t he s ec u -
r i t y of ong oi ng oper at i ons and pr ot ec t t he s afet y of t he c r ews . "
Thi s lac k ed plau s i bi li t y .
The one Whi t e H ou s e explanat i on only made mat t er s wor s e
.
On Dec ember 1 9 , P r es s Sec r et ar y Ronald Z i eg ler s ai d : " The
P r es i dent wi ll c ont i nu e t o or der what ever ac t i on he c ons i der s
nec es s ar y, by ai r or by s ea, t o pr event any bu i ldu p t hat c ou ld lead
t o t he openi ng of a new offens i ve i n t he Sou t h . We ar e not g oi ng t o
allow t he peac e t alk s t o be u s ed as a c over t o bu i ld u p anot her
offens i ve . " Thi s i mpli ed t hat t he bombi ng was pr i mar i ly for mi li -
t ar y r eas ons . Z i eg ler 's annou nc ement was i mmedi at ely followed
by a s pat e of r epor t s t hat when U
. S. mi li t ar y offi c er s wer e as k ed
whet her t her e had been a c hang e i n t he r ec ent mi li t ar y as s es s ment
t hat i t wou ld t ak e Nor t h Vi et nam ei g ht een mont hs t o r ec over fr om
RE P ORTI NG BY TH E P RE STI GE P RE SS 1 7
i t s los s es du r i ng t he s pr i ng -s u mmer offens i ve, t hey expr es s ed s u r -
pr i s e and di s beli ef .
Met hod of A nalys i s
The fac t u al medi a c over ag e of t he bombi ng c an be g r ou ped
u nder s even headi ng s
: (1 ) Who Cau s ed t he Br eak down of Neg ot i -
at i ons ? (2 ) Wi ll t he Bombi ng A c hi eve I t s P u r pos e? (3) Ci vi li an
Damag e i n Nor t h Vi et nam
. (4) Us e of t he B-52 Bomber
. (5)
For ei g n Reac t i on t o t he Bombi ng
. (6) Chi na : A Spec i al Cas e
. (7 )
Reac t i on i n t he Uni t ed St at es . I t was es pec i ally di ffi c u lt t o di s t i n-
g u i s h bet ween fac t u al r epor t i ng and c omment i n t he per i od we ar e
analyz i ng (Dec ember 1 9 t o 31 ), bot h bec au s e of t he s elec t i vi t y of
t he medi a i n r epor t i ng fac t s and bec au s e s o mu c h c omment was
r epor t ed i n t he news c olu mns , i n effec t g i vi ng t hat c omment a fr ee
r i de as news
. Bu t ot her people's c omment s ar e news , ac c or di ng t o
es t abli s hed c u s t om, and i t i s har d t o s ee wher e els e s u c h c omment s
c ou ld have been plac ed .
We di s t i ng u i s h her e bet ween (a) c omment i n t he edi t or i al c ol-
u mns and on t he op-ed (oppos i t e t he edi t or i als ) pag e, and (b) all
mat er i al i n t he news c olu mns
. I n t he analys i s of Ti me and News -
week ,
mak i ng t hi s di s t i nc t i on i s di ffi c u lt and i nvolves s ome ar bi t r ar -
i nes s , s i nc e i n t hos e pu bli c at i ons news and c omment ar e oft en
i nt er t wi ned (as i ndeed t hey ar e i n t elevi s i on news pr og r ams ) .
The di ffi c u lt y i s c ompou nded when s t r ai g ht edi t or i al c omment
fr om abr oad i s c ar r i ed i n t he news c olu mns
. For i ns t anc e, i n what
c at eg or y s hou ld one plac e a fai r ly t ypi c al r epor t i n t he
Was hi ng t on
P os t q u ot i ng t he L ondon Dai ly Mi r r or
as s ayi ng t he bombi ng was
" an ac t of i ns ane fer oc i t y, a c r u de exer c i s e i n t he poli t i c s of t er r or , a
blu nder of t r ag i c mag ni t u de" ? Was t hi s c omment or news ? I t was
c omment r epor t ed as news , s o we t r eat i t as news
. (A s i ng le c ou n-
t er vai li ng q u ot e fr om t he L ondon
Dai ly Teleg r aph, als o r epor t ed i n
t he P os t , s ai d mer ely t hat U. S
. ac t i ons " may well be r i g ht " ; t hi s
i llu s t r at es how one-s i ded t he debat e was i f one c ompar es t he pas -
s i on ar ou s ed i n opponent s of t he bombi ng t o t he pai ned s obr i et y of
i t s few s u ppor t er s . )
A not her di ffi c u lt y i s t he " news analys i s " t hat appear s i n t he
1 8 MA RTI N F
. H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
news c olu mns
. For i ns t anc e, Car r oll K i r k pat r i c k as s er t ed i n t he
Was hi ng t on P os t
(Dec . 31 ) t hat " s ec r ec y has bec ome a pr es i dent i al
weapon and only t he t i p of t he i c eber g i s ever appar ent t o t he
vot er s i n t hi s democ r ac y
. " A lt hou g h t hi s was c omment , i t was not
pr es ent ed as edi t or i al opi ni on, s o we c ou nt ed i t as par t of t he news
c over ag e .
We had avai lable c omplet e t r ans c r i pt s of t he CBS eveni ng news
br oadc as t s bu t only s u mmar i es of t he c or r es pondi ng br oadc as t s of
t he ot her net wor k s (as pu bli s hed i n t he Vander bi lt Uni ver s i t y
Televi s i on News I ndex and A bs t r ac t s ) .
We t her efor e di d not at t empt
a q u ant i t at i ve analys i s of t he NBC and A BC news br oadc as t s
. For
CBS, we analyz ed c over ag e by li nes i n t he fu ll t r ans c r i pt s , wher eas
for t he news paper s and mag az i nes we u s ed t he ac t u al nu mber of
pr i nt ed li nes
. " L i nes " i n t he fi ve s t u di ed s ou r c es ar e not s t r i c t ly
c ompar able, s i nc e t he nu mber of wor ds per li ne depends on t he
c olu mn wi dt h and t ype s i z e . Nonet heles s , we t hi nk ou r analys i s
pr ovi des t he r ou g h c ompar abi li t y we s ou g ht .
Who Cau s ed t he Br eak down of Neg ot i at i ons ?
The q u es t i on of whom t o blame r os e i mmedi at ely . Cons i der i ng
t hat t he pr es s had abu ndant ant i -U
. S. ac c u s at i ons fr om H anoi and
only s par s e i nfor mat i on fr om Was hi ng t on-exc ept for K i s s i ng er 's
det ai led pr es s br i efi ng on Dec ember 1 6 and one " bac k g r ou nd"
s es s i on on Dec ember 2 0-t he balanc e i n t he news s t or i es i s bet t er
t han mi g ht be expec t ed
; s ee t able 1 .
L i ne A of t he t able i nc lu des r epor t s t hat ac c u s ed t he Nor t h
Vi et names e of havi ng made a fu ndament al dec i s i on ag ai ns t peac e
* Ther e i s a mar g i nal i nexac t i t u de i n t he t alli es for t he
New Yor k Ti mes and t he
Was hi ng t on P os t .
We c ou nt ed li nes of t ype bu t t hen dec i ded t o c onver t li nes i nt o
c olu mn i nc hes
. To do t hi s we u s ed t he P os t meas u r e-a c olu mn i nc h eq u als fi ve
li nes -for bot h news paper s and r ou nded off t o t he near es t fu ll i nc h
. By t he t i me
we di s c over ed t hat t he
Ti mes c olu mn i nc h i s c alc u lat ed di ffer ent ly, L es li e Ri der
had di s c ar ded t he or i g i nal li ne c ou nt s . Si nc e we had di vi ded by fi ve t o g et c olu mn
i nc hes , we mu lt i pli ed by fi ve t o r ever t t o li nes . Bu t s i nc e we had r ou nded off t he
c olu mn-i nc h fi g u r es , t he r ec ons t r u c t ed li ne t alli es may be one or t wo li nes off .
(Thi s explai ns , of c ou r s e, why ou r fi g u r es for t he
Ti mes and t he P os t ar e always
mu lt i ples of fi ve . )
RE P ORTI NG BY TH E P RE STI GE P RE SS 1 9
TA BL E 1
A SSI GNI NG BL A ME FOR TH E BRE A K DOWN OF NE GOTI A TI ONS
(By li nes of t ext )
or a dec i s i on t o s t all t he t alk s . Repor t s fr om Sou t h Vi et nam t hat
r efer r ed t o Nor t h Vi et names e " per fi dy" c ome i n t hi s c at eg or y . So
do r epor t s r ec alli ng K i s s i ng er 's as s er t i on t hat t he enemy was pu t -
t i ng new obs t ac les i n t he way of r eleas e of A mer i c an pr i s oner s of
war , r efu s i ng t o di s c u s s t he t ec hni c al mac hi ner y of t he c eas e-fi r e
(u nt i l t he day befor e he was t o r et u r n t o Was hi ng t on), and t r yi ng t o
weak en t he alr eady weak s u per vi s or y for c e . Ther e wer e als o r ec ol-
lec t i ons of K i s s i ng er 's c har g e t hat t he Nor t h Vi et names e had wi t h-
dr awn ear li er c onc es s i ons and had r efu s ed t o ac c ept lang u ag e
abou t t he DMZ and even a vag u e r efer enc e t o s ome k i nd of
c oexi s t enc e bet ween Nor t h and Sou t h Vi et nam . Thi s c at eg or y
i nc lu des als o t he r epor t t hat t he Nor t h Vi et names e g over nment
had " di r ec t ed an evac u at i on of women and c hi ldr en fr om H anoi on
Dec ember 4, t he day t he mos t r ec ent r ou nd of pr i vat e t alk s beg an
i n P ar i s " (New Yor k Ti mes , Dec . 1 9 ), whi c h c ou ld be i nt er pr et ed t o
mean t hat t he enemy mu s t have k nown, or at leas t c ons i der ed i t
li k ely, t hat t he neg ot i at i ons i n Dec ember wer e g oi ng t o fai l or be
s t alemat ed . (A c t u ally t he evac u at i on had c over ed mor e t han
women and c hi ldr en ; i t appar ent ly had not been c omplet ed by t he
t i me t he bombi ng beg an . ) I n a s i mi lar and mor e expli c i t i t em on
A BC eveni ng news Dec ember 2 1 , H owar d K . Smi t h, r efer r i ng t o
i nt elli g enc e r epor t s abou t t he evac u at i on, added t hat " U. S. offi -
c i als t heor i z e t hat H anoi may, have dec i ded t o s t all for one or all of
t hr ee r eas ons : t he expec t at i on t hat Cong r es s may c u t off mi li t ar y
ai d t o Sou t h Vi et nam ; t he pr os pec t of fu r t her di s pu t es bet ween
N. Y.
TI ME S
WA SH .
P OST
TI ME
NE WS-
WE E K
CBS
A . Blame H anoi 480
2 30
1 34
9 1 43
B . Neu t r al 2 7 0 31 0 44 1 00 1 3
C . Blame U. S . 52 5 42 5 58 33 2 7
2 0 MA RTI N F
. H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
Sai g on and Was hi ng t on ; or t he need for t i me t o pr epar e a new
mi li t ar y offens i ve . " Ther e was no s i mi lar t heor i z i ng abou t t he
r eas on for t he bombi ng on t he CBS eveni ng news .
L i ne B u s es " neu t r al" t o mean, not bei ng i mpar t i al t owar d
H anoi and Was hi ng t on, bu t mak i ng no valu e j u dg ment s abou t t he
behavi or of t he t wo s i des . Thi s c at eg or y i nc lu des , for i ns t anc e, bot h
Vi et names e and A mer i c an deni als of t he ac c u s at i ons ag ai ns t t hem,
c har g es t hat Sou t h Vi et nam was t o blame, at t empt s t o r ec onc i le
c onfli c t i ng c lai ms , and s pec u lat i ve mat er i al abou t t he neg ot i at i ons .
A mong t he lat t er wer e at t empt ed explanat i ons of what went wr ong
i n P ar i s t hat r efer r ed t o s u c h s t i c k i ng poi nt s as Sou t h Vi et names e
s over ei g nt y, t he s u per vi s or y for c e, and t he DMZ .
L i ne C i nc lu des mat er i al t hat ac c u s ed t he Uni t ed St at es of t r yi ng
t o alt er t he es s ent i al pr i nc i ples of t he ag r eement u nder t he g u i s e of
t ec hni c al c hang es and c lar i fi c at i ons . A mong t he examples ar e
Nor t h Vi et names e c ont ent i ons t hat t he Uni t ed St at es had r efu s ed
t o ac c ept t he pr i nc i ple t hat t her e wer e t wo g over nment s and t wo
mi li t ar y for c es i n Sou t h Vi et nam and had at t empt ed, i ns t ead, t o
have t he ar mi s t i c e ag r eement es t abli s h t he s over ei g nt y of Sou t h
Vi et nam. A Was hi ng t on P os t (Dec . 31 ) " news analys i s " s u m-
mar i z ed H anoi 's c omplai nt t hat among ot her t hi ng s K i s s i ng er t r i ed
t o " mak e t he r eleas e of t he poli t i c al det ai nees i n Sou t h Vi et nam
c ont i ng ent u pon t he wi t hdr awal of Nor t h Vi et names e for c es , t o
" r edu c e t he t as k " of t he pr opos ed t r i par t i t e Nat i onal Cou nc i l, and
t o " c anc el" all ment i on of t he P r ovi s i onal Revolu t i onar y Gover n-
ment (Vi et Cong ) i n t he ag r eement , and t hat he i ns i s t ed on mai n-
t ai ni ng U. S. mi li t ar y advi s er s i n Sou t h Vi et nam u nder t he g u i s e of
c i vi li an per s onnel . The Nor t h Vi et names e c har g ed t hat t he Uni t ed
St at es had pr opos ed 1 2 6 c hang es i n t he dr aft ag r eement -whi c h
eli c i t ed a deni al-and had t hr eat ened " on a dai ly bas i s " t o r es u me
t he bombi ng nor t h of t he t went i et h par allel . Ti me (Janu ar y 1 ,
whi c h was on t he news t ands abou t Dec ember 2 6) r epor t ed t hat
" t he las t s t r aw" c ame when t he Uni t ed St at es r eopened a pr evi -
ou s ly s et t led i s s u e by at t empt i ng t o es t abli s h t he DMZ as an
i nt er nat i onal fr ont i er , and H anoi " exploded . "
A ll t hi s i s s t r ai g ht for war d enou g h, and t he t able allows u s t o not e
an i nt er es t i ng di s par i t y, whi c h we s hall c hec k i n t he s u bs eq u ent
c at eg or i es t o s ee i f i t i s a pat t er n . The r at i o of mat er i al c r i t i c al of
RE P ORTI NG BY TH E P RE STI GE P RE SS 2 1
H anoi t o mat er i al c r i t i c al of Was hi ng t on i s : New Yor k Ti mes ,
1 (c r i t i c al of H anoi ) t o 1 (c r i t i c al of Was hi ng t on) ; P os t , 1 t o 2 ;
Ti me, 2 . 5 t o 1 ; News week , 3
t o 1 ; CBS, 3 t o 2 . CBS had t he
s malles t pr opor t i on of neu t r al i t ems ; Ti me's , t oo, was r elat i vely
s mall . I t s hou ld be emphas i z ed ag ai n t hat i n t hi s s ec t i on we ar e
analyz i ng news , not edi t or i al c omment .
Wi ll t he Bombi ng A c hi eve I t s P u r pos e?
A s s er t i ons t hat t he bombi ng wou ld be c ou nt er pr odu c t i ve wer e
r epor t ed wi dely : i t wou ld pr olong r at her t han end t he war , i t wou ld
for c e H anoi t o s t i ffen i t s s t and, i t wou ld j eopar di z e det ent e wi t h
Mos c ow or P ek i ng or bot h . Thes e wer e not c ou nt er balanc ed by
r epor t s abou t t he pr es u med r at i onale of t he bombi ng , nor even
by r epor t s t hat c r edi t ed t he A dmi ni s t r at i on wi t h a plau s i ble
s t r at eg y whi le expr es s i ng dou bt s t hat i t wou ld wor k
. Somehow t he
news -g at her er s s eemed able t o fi nd only obt u s e and u nc onvi nc i ng
explanat i ons of what t he U . S . g over nment was doi ng . One r epor t
c i t ed a " k nowledg eable s ou r c e" t o t he effec t t hat P r es i dent Ni xon
was hopi ng t o " s how H anoi t hat he c ou ld t ak e t he heat at home and
abr oad" (New Yor k Ti mes , Dec . 2 6), i . e . , t hat he c ou ld affor d t o
c ont i nu e t he war . Ot her s s ai d Ni xon was demons t r at i ng t hat he
wou ld k eep hi s wor d by followi ng t hr ou g h on t hr eat s made du r i ng
t he t alk s and by r es u mi ng ac t i ons pr evi ou s ly halt ed i n t he hope t hat
H anoi wou ld di s play g ood wi ll and r eas onablenes s i n t he t alk s . A s
a s t or y i n t he Ti mes (Dec . 2 4) pu t i t , " [ as ] s pec u lat ed by s ome, t he
P r es i dent may have or der ed t he B-52 r ai ds as mor e of a blu nt
mau li ng oper at i on, t o s how Nor t h Vi et nam t hat he has t he det er -
mi nat i on t o i nt ens i fy pr es s u r e
. " Ther e wer e no r epor t s , or almos t
none, of t he offi c i al vi ew t hat t he bombi ng mi g ht has t en t he c omi ng
of peac e .
Vi ews t hat t he bombi ng was not only c r u el and i mmor al bu t als o
fu t i le and s elf-defeat i ng wer e r epor t ed fr om X an Thu y, t he Nor t h
Vi et names e neg ot i at or ; a s t u dy by a g r ou p of leadi ng U . S. s c i en-
t i s t s u nder t he au s pi c es of t he I ns t i t u t e of Defens e A nalys i s ;
Ng u yen Tr i nh L e, t he s pok es man for H anoi 's deleg at i on i n P ar i s ;
ant i -war ac t i vi s t Tom H ayden ; Davi d L i vi ng s t on, a New Yor k
labor leader ; Mme Ng u yen Thi Bi nh, t he Vi et c ong neg ot i at or ; " a
2 2
MA RTI N F . H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
nu mber of di plomat s i n Sai g on" ; " one offi c i al" and " an i nfor med
i nt elli g enc e s ou r c e" i n Was hi ng t on ; t he Sovi et ambas s ador t o
Fr anc e ; H anoi r adi o ; Gener al Vo Ng u yen Gi ap of Nor t h Vi et nam ;
" many A mer i c an exper t s " who " do not i dly di s mi s s Gi ap's c lai m" ;
t he I ndi an depu t y for ei g n mi ni s t er ; Senat or Jac ob Javi t s of New
Yor k ; t hr ee L abor par t y member s (fr om Covent r y) i n t he Br i t i s h
H ou s e of Commons ; A r t hu r Gals t on, a Yale bi olog i s t ; and ot her s .
A g r eat deal of at t ent i on-per haps des er vedly-was g i ven t o a
s t at ement made by a lar g e g r ou p of A mer i c an s c i ent i s t s u nder t he
au s pi c es of t he A mer i c an A s s oc i at i on for t he A dvanc ement of
Sc i enc e ; i nc lu ded i n t he g r ou p, i n addi t i on t o P r ofes s or Gals t on,
wer e t hr ee Nobel lau r eat es
: Geor g e Wald of H ar var d, Salvador e
L u r i a of MI T, and A lber t Sz ent -Gyor g yi of t he Mar i ne Bi olog y
L abor at or y at Wood's H ole . Ther e was a pr eponder anc e of
bi olog i s t s i n t he g r ou p, and no appar ent r epr es ent at i on fr om
among exper t s i n poli t i c s , s t r at eg y, or i nt er nat i onal affai r s .
The di s par at enes s of t hes e s ou r c es s u g g es t s t hat r epor t er s
s ou g ht neg at i ve vi ews mor e as s i du ou s ly t han pos i t i ve ones . The
New Yor k Ti mes , Ti me, and CBS feat u r ed abou t 2 5 per c ent mor e
neg at i ve t han pos i t i ve c omment s abou t t he effi c ac y of t he bombi ng
for pr es s u r i ng Nor t h Vi et nam t o neg ot i at e, whi le t he Was hi ng t on
P os t and News week devot ed t hr ee t i mes as mu c h s pac e t o s u c h
ar g u ment s as t o t he r ever s e c lai m t hat t he bombi ng wou ld or c ou ld
s u c c eed i n alt er i ng t he Nor t h Vi et names e s t anc e
.
L ook i ng at t hes e dat a ver y t ent at i vely t o s ee i f any pat t er n
emer g es , we fi nd t hat for
News week
and CBS t he pat t er n fou nd i n
t he " Who Cau s ed t he Br eak down?" s ec t i on s eems t o be r ever s ed .
The
Was hi ng t on P os t t ends t o be mor e c ons i s t ent : we s aw t hat
t wi c e as mu c h of i t s news t ended t o blame Was hi ng t on as t o blame
H anoi for t he br eak down of neg ot i at i ons , and we now s ee t hat i t
g ave t hr ee t i mes as mu c h s pac e t o vi ews t hat t he bombi ng wou ld be
i neffec t i ve as t o t he oppos i t e vi ew .
Ci vi li an Damag e i n Nor t h Vi et nam
What was s ai d abou t c i vi li an damag e c au s ed by t he bombi ng i s
t he mos t i mpor t ant as pec t of t hi s s t u dy . I t was t he mos t c ont r over -
s i al i s s u e . " Balanc e" i n r epor t i ng on t hi s poi nt was i mpos s i ble t o
RE P ORTI NG BY TH E P RE STI GE P RE SS
2 3
at t ai n, s i nc e t he Nor t h Vi et names e and ot her nat i onals i n H anoi
who s ympat hi z ed wi t h Nor t h Vi et nam had a vi r t u al monopoly on
fac t u al i nfor mat i on and H anoi u nder s t andably emphas i z ed c i vi li an
r at her t han mi li t ar y damag e . The U. S. g over nment 's deni als t hat i t
t ar g et ed any c i vi li an s i t es s eemed i mplau s i ble i n t he fac e of an
avalanc he of i nfor mat i on t hat s eemed t o es t abli s h t hat t he Uni t ed
St at es was eng ag ed i n i ndi s c r i mi nat e " c ar pet -bombi ng . "
Thr ou g hou t t he t wo-week bombi ng t he A dmi ni s t r at i on mai n-
t ai ned t hat i t was t ar g et i ng only fac i li t i es of mi li t ar y valu e . Ten days
i nt o t he bombi ng t he mi li t ar y c ommand i n Sai g on i s s u ed a pr es s
r eleas e as s es s i ng t he damag e done t o mi li t ar y t ar g et s i n t he H anoi
and H ai phong ar eas . The li s t i nc lu ded ai r bas es , r ai lyar ds and s hi p-
yar ds , SA M (s u r fac e-t o-ai r mi s s i le) and ot her ant i -ai r c r aft s i t es ,
fac i li t i es for c ommand and c ont r ol, for c ommu ni c at i ons , and for
vehi c le r epai r , war ehou s es , power plant s , r ai lway br i dg es , t r u c k
par k s , and ai r -defens e r adar . A mer e li s t i ng of t hes e t ar g et s c ou ld
not offs et t he c har g es t hat A mer i c an ai r c r aft , es pec i ally B-52 s ,
wer e s owi ng pat hs of des t r u c t i on t hr ou g hou t c i vi li an ar eas , k i lli ng
and mai mi ng on a s c ale r ec alli ng t he mos t i nt ens e ai r r ai ds of Wor ld
War I I . For i ns t anc e, t he s t at ement by t he s c i ent i s t s led by t hr ee
Nobel P r i z e-wi nner s as s er t ed t hat t he Uni t ed St at es
i s lau nc hi ng t hos e at t ac k s ag ai ns t c onc ent r at ed c ent er s of c i vi li an
popu lat i on, whi le blandly annou nc i ng li s t s of mi li t ar y t ar g et s t hat
u nder t hes e c i r c u ms t anc es i ns u lt t he i nt elli g enc e of ever y t hi nk i ng
per s on
. Nor t h Vi et nam har dly c ont ai ns mi li t ar y t ar g et s ; and a
B-52 bombi ng pat t er n, one and one-half mi les long by one-half
mi le br oad, dr opped fr om an alt i t u de of 30, 000 feet c annot pi c k
ou t t ar g et s . Yet s u c h bombi ng s ar e now c r i s s -c r os s i ng s ome of
t he mos t dens ely popu lat ed c i t i es of t he wor ld, i n an u npr ec e-
dent ed or g y of k i lli ng and des t r u c t i on t hat hor r i fi es people
ever ywher e-as Gu er ni c a, Covent r y, and Dr es den onc e hor r i -
fi ed t hem [ s t at ement by t he A mer i c an A s s oc i at i on for t he
A dvanc ement of Sc i enc e, Dec ember 2 8, 1 9 7 2 ] .
Su bs eq u ent i nfor mat i on has es t abli s hed t hat t he bombi ng was
s u r pr i s i ng ly ac c u r at e and t hat t he nu mber of c i vi li ans k i lled was
mu c h s maller t han, for example, t he nu mber of c i vi li ans k i lled by t he
Nor t h Vi et names e i n mer ely t he i ni t i al s t ag es of t hei r s pr i ng offen-
s i ve, when t hey had deli ber at ely ai med ar t i ller y fi r e at t hou s ands of
r efu g ees t r yi ng t o flee s ou t hwar d fr om Q u ang Tr i . (Thes e mat t er s
2 4 MA RTI N F
. H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
wi ll be di s c u s s ed i n c hapt er 4, " What Really H appened . " ) Bu t
i nfor mat i on abou t t he ac c u r ac y of t he B-52 when u s ed as i t was u s ed
over H anoi was wi t hheld fr om t he pr es s , as was t he fac t t hat mi li t ar y
t ar g et s near c i vi li an c onc ent r at i ons -for i ns t anc e, t he H anoi power
plant -wer e bombed wi t h " s mar t " bombs deli ver ed by fi g ht er -
bomber s and not s u bj ec t ed t o B-52 bombi ng at all . * A n i nq u i s i t i ve
j ou r nali s t c ou ld have dedu c ed t hi s fr om t he pu bli s hed t ar g et li s t by
not i ng t he c at eg or y of ai r c r aft as s i g ned t o par t i c u lar t ar g et s . Bu t t hat
i nfor mat i on, pu bli s hed Dec ember 2 8, was lar g ely i g nor ed
.
A blu nder by Jer r y Fr i edhei m, t he P ent ag on s pok es man, at a pr es s
c onfer enc e Dec ember 2 0 i llu s t r at es bot h t he pau c i t y of i nfor mat i on
abou t t he bombi ng s t r at eg y and t he haples s nes s of mi li t ar y s pok es -
men i n t he fac e of pr es s q u es t i oni ng . Fr i edhei m s ai d fi r s t t hat t he
Uni t ed St at es di d not " s t r i k e c i vi li an t ar g et s " bu t i mmedi at ely c or -
r ec t ed hi ms elf by s ayi ng t hat i t di d not " t ar g et c i vi li an t ar g et s . " (A
New Yor k Ti mes
edi t or i al-s ee A ppendi x D-s u bli mi nally t r ans -
for med t hi s r emar k t o apply t o c i vi li an " c ent er s . " ) Under q u es t i on-
i ng , he c onc eded t hat one c ou ld not " r u le ou t " t he pos s i bi li t y of
c ollat er al damag e . When t he li s t of t ar g et s was i s s u ed i n Sai g on on
Dec ember 2 8, Fr i edhei m " s t r es s ed t hat all t he t ar g et s on t he li s t of
s i xt y-ei g ht t hat he r eleas ed wer e mi li t ar y ones and t hat he ` has no
r epor t s of any c ollat er al damag e' t o c i vi li an i ns t allat i ons . H e c on-
c eded, however , t hat H anoi i s a c i t y li k e any ot her , wi t h mi li t ar y and
c i vi li an fac i li t i es i nt er s per s ed . Wher e mi li t ar y s i t es wer e t ar g et ed, he
s ai d, he c ou ld not ` r u le ou t t he pos s i bi li t y of ot her t hi ng s happen-
* Ther e wer e t wo appar ent exc ept i ons
. One was t he " H anoi c ommu ni c at i ons
fac i li t y" li s t ed as a B-52 t ar g et . I t was als o bombed by F-1 1 1 s and F-4s
. A c c or di ng
t o ou r r eadi ng of mi li t ar y and c i vi li an maps , i t i s loc at ed i n t he nor t hwes t c or ner of
downt own H anoi . (We ar e as s u mi ng t hat t he " H anoi c ommu ni c at i ons fac i li t y" i s
i dent i c al wi t h t he " H anoi c ommu ni c at i ons offi c e" s hown on ou r maps bu t c ou ld not
g et t hi s c onfi r med by mi li t ar y s ou r c es . The New Yor k Ti mes i n a s c hemat i c map
pu bli s hed on Dec ember 2 8, 1 9 7 2 , as s u med t hey wer e i dent i c al
. ) A not her exc ept i on
was t he pet r oleu m pr odu c t s ar ea i n a s ou t her n s u bu r b of H anoi t hat was among t he
B-52 t ar g et s ; i t was 2 00 yar ds fr om t he Bac h Mai hos pi t al . A ls o c los e t o t he hos pi t al
wer e t he Bac h Mai ai r fi eld, a fi g ht er -bomber t ar g et , and t he " c o-loc at ed" Bac h Mai
mi li t ar y s t or ag e c omplex, a B-52 t ar g et . A n u nexplai ned as pec t of t he damag e t o t he
Bac h Mai hos pi t al i s t hat , ac c or di ng t o ou r r eadi ng of t he aer i al phot og r aphs
r eleas ed i n A pr i l 1 9 7 3, t he damag e oc c u r r ed i n t he par t of t he hos pi t al c omplex t hat
was far t hes t away fr om t he Bac h Mai ai r fi eld and fr om t he pet r oleu m pr odu c t s ar ea .
RE P ORTI NG BY TH E P RE STI GE P RE SS 2 5
i ng " ' (Was hi ng t on P os t ,
Dec . 2 8) . One c an i mag i ne t he q u es t i oni ng
t hat r es u lt ed i n hi s " c onc edi ng " t hat c i vi li ans c an g et hu r t when
mi li t ar y t ar g et s near c i vi li an habi t at i ons ar e bombed
.
The pr edi c ament of t he P ent ag on s pok es man, obvi ou s ly u nder
or der s not t o di s c u s s c i vi li an c as u alt i es , c an be s ens ed i n t he follow-
i ng r epor t :
To r epor t er s who as k ed r epeat edly abou t for ei g n r epor t s of
heavy damag e and c as u alt i es i n nonmi li t ar y s ec t i ons of t he c api -
t al, Mr . Fr i edhei m s ai d
: " You 'll have t o j u dg e t he s ou r c es of t hat
i nfor mat i on
. " P r es s ed on r epor t s of " c ar pet -bombi ng " of c i vi l-
i an ar eas by B-52 s he s ai d
: " The adj ec t i ves you 'll have t o c hoos e
for you r s elves
. I f t he i mpli c at i on of you r q u es t i on i s t hat we ar e
bombi ng c i vi li an ar eas , t he ans wer i s no
. . . . " A r epor t er as k ed
:
" I s i t you r pos i t i on t hat you don't want t o di s c u s s c i vi li an c as u al-
t i es , and you don't want t o t ell u s t he r eas ons you
don't want t o
di s c u s s t he t opi c , and t hat any c omment i s t hat t he Nor t h Vi et -
names e oft en u s e s u c h s i t u at i ons for pr opag anda pu r pos es ?"
" I 'll ac c ept t hat s u mmat i on, " Mr
. Fr i edhei m r epli ed
[ New Yor k
Ti mes , Dec . 30] .
The news c omi ng fr om H anoi s t r es s ed damag e done t o c i vi li an
fac i li t i es . Ther e wer e u ndeni able Wes t er n eyewi t nes s r epor t s t hat
t he Gi a L am c i vi li an ai r por t had been hi t , t hou g h i t was not on t he
li s t of t ar g et s . Ther e wer e r epor t s t hat Sovi et , Chi nes e, and P oli s h
s hi ps had been hi t i n H ai phong and t hat t he Cu ban, E g ypt i an,
I ndi an, E as t Ger man, Bu lg ar i an, Cambodi an, and A lbani an em-
bas s i es and t he H u ng ar i an t r ade mi s s i on had been hi t i n H anoi
.
(Mu c h lat er i n t he bombi ng , mi li t ar y s ou r c es beg an t o s u g g es t t hat
downed A mer i c an ai r c r aft and s pent Nor t h Vi et names e ant i -
ai r c r aft mi s s i les hi t t i ng t he g r ou nd c ou ld have c au s ed s ome of t hi s
damag e
. ) Ther e wer e r epor t s , even alleg ed eyewi t nes s r epor t s ,
whi c h lat er t u r ned ou t t o be vas t ly exag g er at ed, t hat U
. S. bombs
had damag ed t he pr i s oner -of-war fac i li t y t hat t he pr es s
had
du bbed t he " H anoi H i lt on
. " The Nor t h Vi et names e c har g ed t hat
t he Bac h Mai hos pi t al had been " des t r oyed" ; t hen t he A mer i c an
c ommand deni ed havi ng " hi t " t he hos pi t al
. A s i t t u r ned ou t ,
nei t her t he c har g e nor t he deni al was ac c u r at e . The hos pi t al, whi c h
i s loc at ed next t o a mi li t ar y ai r fi eld and mi li t ar y s t or ag e fac i li t i es ,
had i ndeed been hi t , bu t i t was far fr om bei ng c omplet ely de-
2 6 MA RTI N F
. H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
s t r oyed
. The fals e deni al fu eled t he fi r es of exag g er at ed damag e
c lai ms .
The r epor t by t he Nor t h Vi et names e News A g enc y des c r i bi ng
t he alleg ed des t r u c t i on of t he Bac h Mai hos pi t al had c i r c u ms t ant i al
det ai l t hat made i t q u i t e plau s i ble, es pec i ally i n t he abs enc e of
phot og r aphi c evi denc e t o t he c ont r ar y, whi c h bec ame avai lable
only mu c h lat er :
The fi r s t bombi ng at t ac k des t r oyed a c ons u lt at i on s ec t i on of t he
Bac h Mai hos pi t al, wr ec k ed t he ear -nos e-t hr oat i ns t i t u t e, and
" c omplet ely demoli s hed" a r es ear c h s ec t i on, H anoi s ai d
. A
s ec ond B-52 r ai d Sat u r day " lai d a c ar pet of bombs of di ffer ent
c ali ber s on a long s t r et c h g oi ng fr om t he g at e of t he hos pi t al t o
di ffer ent s ec t i ons and pat i ent war ds , " t he ag enc y r epor t ed .
Thi s s t r i k e damag ed ever y u nt ou c hed r oom, i nc lu di ng u nder -
g r ou nd s ec t i ons of t he hos pi t al, and des t r oyed t he depar t ment s
of der mat olog y, i nt er nal medi c i ne, phar mac olog y, admi ni s t r a-
t i on, k i t c hens , r epai r s hops , and lau ndr i es , H anoi s ai d [ Was h-
i ng t on P os t , Dec . 2 4]
.
Thi s r epor t was " c or r obor at ed" i n an alleg ed eyewi t nes s ac -
c ou nt by Telfor d Taylor , t he famou s Yale j u r i s t who had been t he
pr os ec u t or at t he Nu r ember g war c r i me t r i als . A ppar ent ly u n-
awar e t hat t he hos pi t al was a vas t c omplex c ons i s t i ng of many
bu i ldi ng s and wi ng s of bu i ldi ng s , he s ai d flat ly t hat t he ent i r e
hos pi t al was " blown t o s mi t her eens , blown t o bi t s , c omplet ely
des t r oyed"
(Was hi ng t on P os t , Dec . 31 ) . Walt er Cr onk i t e (CBS,
Dec
. 2 2 ) r epor t ed H anoi 's c har g e t hat t he hos pi t al had been de-
s t r oyed and many doc t or s and nu r s es had been k i lled
. Taylor als o
des c r i bed t he " r emai ns of a lar g e low-c os t hou s i ng development i n
t he A n Du ong di s t r i c t of H anoi
. Some t hi r t y mu lt i ple-dwelli ng
u ni t s c over i ng s ever al ac r es had s u ffer ed t went y or mor e hi t s
leavi ng fr es h bomb c r at er s fi ft y feet i n di amet er and vi r t u ally t ot al
des t r u c t i on of t he homes
. " The Fr enc h r epor t er Jean L ec ler c de
Sablon (A g enc e Fr anc e P r es s e) pr ovi ded anot her eyewi t nes s r e-
por t on t he des t r u c t i on of t he " onc e bu s y s t r eet " of K ham
Thi en-near whi c h, he s ai d, t he " only" mi li t ar y t ar g et was a
r ai lway yar d t hat had been " fi ni s hed off" t he week befor e . The
i mpli c at i on was t hat bomber s had t ar g et ed a c i vi li an ar ea whos e
near nes s t o a r ai lway yar d was no long er r elevant .
RE P ORTI NG BY TH E P RE STI GE P RE SS
2 7
Nu mer ou s ot her c lai ms of hi g h c i vi li an los s es made by Radi o
H anoi , Fr enc h r epor t er s , and t he Sovi et news ag enc y Tas s wer e
wi dely di s s emi nat ed by t he A mer i c an medi a . (A Nor t h Vi et -
names e s t at ement br oadc as t on Dec ember 2 7 t hat c alled t he
bombi ng r ai ds " br u t al ac t s ai med at mas s ac r i ng c i vi li ans " i s r e-
pr i nt ed as A ppendi x C . ) I t i s not s u r pr i s i ng t hat i n t he abs enc e of
r eli able wi t nes s es t o t he over all ac c u r ac y of t he bombi ng , t he
medi a r es or t ed t o eyewi t nes s ac c ou nt s c omi ng ou t of H anoi , even
when t hey wer e pat ent ly bi as ed . On Dec ember 2 9 , Ber t Q u i nt of
CBS i nt er vi ewed an I ndi an di plomat , Mr . Shas hank (pr es u med
s pelli ng ), who had j u s t ar r i ved i n Vi ent i ane fr om H anoi , and
anot her I ndi an offi c er . The i t ali c s ar e added t o c all at t ent i on t o t he
s i mi lar i t y bet ween what t hes e " neu t r al" obs er ver s wer e s ayi ng
and what H anoi had c lai med .
Q UI NT : Why ar e t hey [ Shas hank 's fami ly] leavi ng ?
SH A SH A NK : Si mply we have s een a s t at e of bombi ng whi c h was
almos t u ni mag i nable i n t he beg i nni ng , and t hi ng s ar e bei ng
bombed wi t hou t any s or t of [ u ni nt elli g i ble]
. The c i vi li an t ar g et s
ar e bei ng bombed, and what I 'm s u r pr i s ed at , many of t hes e
t ar g et s ar e ver y c los e t o t he heavi ly popu lat ed ar eas of t he c i t i es .
I have been i n H anoi for t he las t s even mont hs , bu t I t hi nk fi r s t
t i me t hat I 'm s eei ng t hi s s or t of i ndi s c r i mi nat e . . .
Q UI NT : A not her I ndi an, a member of t he Cont r ol Commi s -
s i on, s ai d t he bombi ng i s wor s e t han ever . H ow bad i s t he
bombi ng ?
I NDI A N OFFI CE R : Well, you s ee, ever y eveni ng aft er t he bomb-
i ng i s over , you g o t o t he r oof of t he hot el i n H anoi and you s ee
fi r e ar ou nd t he t own, at leas t [ u ni nt elli g i ble] . . .
Q UI NT : What abou t c i vi li ans ?
I NDI A N OFFI CE R : Ver y many, ver y many . They've been dyi ng
li k e anyt hi ng bec au s e I s aw one c u s t om offi c er , i n t he mor ni ng I
s aw hi m and i n t he eveni ng he had di ed .
P hi l Br ady of NBC i nt er vi ewed Shas hank and hi s wi fe along wi t h
t he s on of an I ndi an offi c i al i n H anoi . Bot h t he li ne of q u es t i oni ng
and t he ans wer s ar e i nt er es t i ng .
SH A SH A NK : The Bac h Mai H os pi t al, t he bi g g es t hos pi t al i n t he
Repu bli c of Vi et nam, has been r az ed t o t he g r ou nd . I don't
k now, people ar e s ayi ng t hat i t has not been hi t . Bu t I have s een
wi t h my own eyes t hat i t has been hi t and di r ec t ly hi t .
2 8
MA RTI N F . H E RZ A ND L E SL I E RI DE R
MRS. SH A SH A NK : I t 's been t he wor s t exper i enc e I 've ever had
i n my li fe I t hi nk . I was ver y s c ar ed and I was hor r i fi ed at i t
all . . .
BRA DY: H ow bad i s t he bombi ng ?
MRS. SH A SH A NK : I t 's awfu l . I t hi nk all t he mi li t ar y t ar g et s have
alr eady been t ak en and now t he only t hi ng t hat i s left i s t he li ves of
t he people, and I t hi nk t hat wi ll be g one as well . . .
BRA DY: A mi r 's fat her r u ns I ndi a's embas s y i n H anoi , whi c h
has alr eady been hi t t wi c e by A mer i c an bombs .
A MI R : I t 's ver y bad . They've been c omi ng fou r or fi ve t i mes a
day ver y r eg u lar ly . They have s i x t i mes been c omi ng .
BRA DY: Only mi li t ar y t ar g et s bei ng hi t ?
A MI R : No, t her e i s u nr es t r i c t ed bombi ng , t hey'r e bombi ng at
ever y t ar g et .
BRA DY:
H ow abou t t he Nor t h Vi et names e? H as t hi s s lowed
t hem down? A r e t hey g oi ng t o g i ve i n?
A MI R : No . The Nor t h Vi et names e have been fi g ht i ng for t hi r t y
year s . They'r e not di s c ou r ag ed at all . A nd t hey'r e g oi ng t o pr ove
t hat now t o t he A mer i c an people .
Some r es olu t i on of t he di s par i t y bet ween t he ac c ou nt s of t he
U
. S
. c ommand and t hos e of t he eyewi t nes s es was at t empt ed by
Ti me,
whi c h r ec ommended t hat a c i vi li an map and a mi li t ar y map
be vi ewed one at op t he ot her :
Then i t i s at onc e evi dent t hat many of t hos e t ar g et s lay s mac k i n
t he mi ddle of t he mos t popu lou s met r opoli t an and s u bu r ban
ar eas i n t he Nor t h . The H anoi t her mal power plant , for i ns t anc e,
was only 1 , 000 yar ds fr om t he ver y c ent er of t he c i t y . A mai n
pet r oleu m s t or ag e ar ea was only 2 00 yar ds fr om t he Bac h Mai
hos pi t al . The t own of Thai Ng u yen lay r i g ht next t o one of t he
k ey power plant s .
Bu t Ti me di d not explai n t hat a map over lay s howi ng t he t ar g et s of
t he ei g ht -mot or ed B-52 s t r at os pher i c bomber , wi t h i t s pr es u med
les s er ac c u r ac y, wou ld have s hown t hat t hos e t ar g et s (wi t h one or
t wo exc ept i ons , as i ndi c at ed ear li er ) lay ei t her ou t s i de H anoi or i n
i t s ou t s k i r t s and t hat t hi s bombi ng c ou ld not have i nvolved ei t her
t he H anoi power plant or c i vi li an dwelli ng ar eas exc ept by s ome
u ni nt ended mi s hap .
Only one s t or y, t he
Was hi ng t on P os t
(Dec . 30), c ame c los e t o
r eveali ng t he t r u e di s pos i t i on of t he aer i al weapons for di ffer ent
t ar g et c at eg or i es :










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