Operation Linebacker II was a US Seventh Air Force and US Navy Task Force 77 aerial bombing campaign, conducted against targets in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) during the final period of US involvement in the Vietnam War. The operation was conducted from 18 to 29 December 1972, leading to several informal names such as "The December Raids" and "The Christmas Bombings". Unlike the Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Linebacker interdiction operations, Linebacker II was to be a "maximum effort" bombing campaign to "destroy major target complexes in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, which could only be accomplished by B-52s". It saw the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the US Air Force since the end of World War II. Linebacker II was a modified extension of the Operation Linebacker bombings conducted from May to October, when the emphasis of the new campaign shifted to attacks by B-52s rather than smaller tactical fighter aircraft.
On 8 October 1972, U.S. National Security Advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese Politburo member Le Duc Tho met in Paris to discuss new proposals by both nations, hoping to reach mutually agreeable terms for a peace settlement for the decade-old Vietnam War. Tho presented a new North Vietnamese plan which included proposals for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of American forces, and an exchange of prisoners of war. All three Vietnamese combatant governments—North Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG)—would remain intact, as would their separate armies. Hanoi no longer demanded that South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu be removed from office, the U.S. did not have to cease its aid to the southern government, and both Washington and Hanoi could continue to resupply their allies or forces on a parity basis. No new North Vietnamese forces were to be infiltrated from the north, and the U.S. agreed to extend post-war reconstruction assistance to North Vietnam.
The new terms on the table also included the establishment of a National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, a loosely defined administrative structure which was to work toward general and local elections within South Vietnam. Political power would be shared by three groups: the Saigon government, the PRG, and a "third force" group to be mutually agreed upon by the other two parties. Since it was to work by consensus, nothing could be accomplished by the new council without the agreement of President Thieu.
When the two sides convened again on 17 October, there were two main areas of disagreement: the periodic replacement of South Vietnam's American weaponry and the release of political prisoners held by the Saigon government. The North Vietnamese had made significant modifications to their past negotiating position and were hurrying to get the agreement signed before November, believing that President Richard Nixon would be more willing to make concessions before, rather than after, the upcoming presidential election. Although there were still some issues to be finalized, Kissinger was generally satisfied with the new terms and so notified Nixon, who gave his approval to the settlement. The finalized agreement was to be signed in Hanoi on 31 October.
Kissinger then flew on to Saigon on the 18th to discuss the terms with Thieu. The South Vietnamese president was not happy with either the new agreement or with Kissinger, who he felt had betrayed him. Although Kissinger knew Thieu's negotiating position, he had not informed him of the changes made in Paris nor had his approval been sought. Kissinger "had negotiated on behalf of the South Vietnamese government provisions that he, Thieu, had already rejected". Thieu completely castigated the agreement and proposed 129 textual changes to the document. He went further, demanding that the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Vietnams be recognized as a true international border and not as a "provisional military demarcation line" (as had been stipulated in the Geneva Accords) and that South Vietnam be recognized as a sovereign state. The supreme irony, in the words of Stanley Karnow, had now arrived: "having fought a war to defend South Vietnam's independence, the United States was now denying its legitimacy."
Thieu then went one step further on 26 October, and publicly released an altered version of the text that made the South Vietnamese provisions look even worse than they actually were. The North Vietnamese leadership, believing that they had been hoodwinked by Kissinger, responded by broadcasting portions of the agreement that gave the impression that the agreement conformed to Washington and Saigon's objectives. Kissinger, hoping to both reassure the Communists of America's sincerity, and convince Thieu of the administration's dedication to a compromise, held a televised press conference at the White House during which he announced "[w]e believe that peace is at hand."
On 20 November, the South Vietnamese revisions, and 44 additional changes demanded by Nixon, were presented to the North Vietnamese delegation by Kissinger. These new demands included: that the DMZ be accepted as a true international boundary; that a token withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops take place; that the North Vietnamese guarantee an Indochina-wide cease fire; and that a strong international peace-keeping force (the ICCS) be created for supervising and enforcing the cease-fire.
Once the North Vietnamese read the new demands, they began to retract their own concessions and wanted to bargain anew, leading Kissinger to proclaim that they were "stalling". The talks, scheduled to last ten days, ended on 13 December, with both parties agreeing to resume negotiations. Teams of experts from each side met to discuss technicalities and protocols on 14 December, during which time the North Vietnamese representatives submitted a Vietnamese-language text of the protocol on prisoners containing several important changes that Hanoi had failed to gain in the main negotiating sessions. At a subsequent meeting of experts on 16 December, the North Vietnamese side "stone-walled from beginning to end". The talks broke down that day, and the Hanoi negotiators refused to set a date for the resumption of negotiations.
Nixon was now working against a January deadline. Kissinger's "peace is at hand" statement had raised expectations of a settlement among the US population. Even weightier on the President's mind was the fact that the new 93rd Congress would go into session on 3 January, and the President feared that the heavily Democratic legislative branch would preempt his pledge of "peace with honor" by legislating an end to the war.
Also prompting the President toward some form of rapid offensive action was the cost of the force mobilization that had accompanied Operation Linebacker. The additional aircraft and personnel assigned to Southeast Asia for the operation was straining the Pentagon's budget. The cost of maintaining this "augmentation force" totaled over $4 billion by mid-autumn and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird insisted that the President request a supplementary defense appropriation from Congress to pay for it. Nixon and Kissinger were convinced that the legislative branch "would seize the opportunity to simply write the United States out of the war".
After returning from Paris on 14 December, and after consultations with Nixon, Kissinger fired off an ultimatum to Hanoi, threatening "grave consequences" if North Vietnam did not return to the negotiating table within 72 hours. On that day, Nixon ordered the reseeding of North Vietnamese ports with air-dropped naval mines and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct the Air Force to begin planning for a bombing campaign (a three-day "maximum effort" operation) which was to begin within 72 hours. Two days after the 16 December deadline had passed, the U.S. bombed Hanoi. Senior Air Force officers James R. Mccarthy and George B. Allison stated years later that the operation had been mainly politically driven, as a negotiation tool to "bring the point home".
Many historians of the Vietnam War follow the lead of President Nixon, who claimed that Hanoi's representatives had walked out of the talks, refusing to continue the negotiations. Both sides had proclaimed their willingness to continue the talks; however, Hanoi's negotiators refused to set a date, preferring to wait for the incoming Congress. The goal of President Nixon was not to convince Hanoi, but to convince Saigon. President Thieu had to be assured that "whatever the formal wording of the cease-fire agreement, he could count on Nixon to come to the defense of South Vietnam if the North broke the cease-fire."
In the wake of Operation Linebacker, the U.S. had a force of 207 B-52 bombers available for use in Southeast Asia. A total of 54 bombers (all B-52Ds) were based at U-Tapao RTAFB, Thailand, while 153 were based at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam (55 B-52Ds and 98 B-52Gs). This deployment, however, utilized nearly half of the Air Force's manned bomber fleet, and Strategic Air Command (SAC) commanders were initially reluctant to risk the expensive aircraft and their highly trained crews in such an operation; in addition, the production line for B-52s had long since been shut down, and losses could not be replaced. The use of large numbers of B-52s was unprecedented in the war and the proposed large-scale attacks on targets within 10 nautical miles (20 km) of Hanoi "represented a dynamic change in the employment of air resources". Many within SAC, however, welcomed the opportunity to fly into the heavily defended airspace of North Vietnam, hoping to finally prove the viability of manned bombers in a sophisticated Soviet-style air defense network of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-aircraft artillery, and MiG interceptors. One purely local reason for utilizing the B-52s instead of tactical aircraft for the planned campaign was the September through May monsoon weather within North Vietnam, which made visual bombing operations by tactical fighter-bombers difficult. The B-52s were equipped with their own radar bomb navigation systems and supporting fighter-bombers would be able to strike targets with either the newly deployed laser-guided bombs (in clear weather) or by utilizing LORAN and radar-guided bombing systems.
The new operation, given the title Linebacker II, was marked by top-down planning by the SAC headquarters at Offutt AFB. Due to the restrictive time frame imposed by President Nixon (only three days) and the experience of Linebacker (in which North Vietnamese fighter aircraft had posed the highest threat to the bombers), SAC's plan called for all of the bombers to approach Hanoi at night in three distinct waves, each using identical approach paths and flying at the same altitude. The aircraft themselves were to fly in three-plane formations known as "cells" for more effective electronic warfare (EW) jamming coverage.
Once the aircraft had dropped their bombs, they were to execute what SAC termed "post-target turns" (PTT) to the west. These turns had two unfortunate consequences for the bombers: the B-52s would be turning into a strong headwind, slowing their ground speed by 100 knots (185 km/h) and prolonging their stay in the target area and the PTT would point the emitter antennas of their EW systems away from the radars they were attempting to jam, degrading the effectiveness of the cells, as well as showing the largest radar cross-section to the missile guidance radars. The aircraft employed, however, had significantly different EW capabilities; the B-52G carried fewer jammers and put out appreciably less power than the B-52Ds, however, they had more efficient engines and larger fuel tanks, hence they were assigned to longer range mission routes. Because of these factors, the campaign would ultimately be conducted in three distinct phases as tactics and plans were altered in response to losses to SAMs.
At the start of the Linebacker II, the air defense missile forces of the Vietnamese People's Army had 36 air defense missile battalions armed with the S-75M Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) missile system, probably one-half were involved this operation. The SA-2 system was first fielded in 1957 and was a fairly obsolete and cumbersome system by 1972 standards.
The VPAF had only 71 aircraft were combat ready. Of these, only 47 aircraft (31 MiG-21s and 16 MiG-17s) could be used for air combat. The MiG-19s were made in China and were not used in combat. Only 13 MiG-21 pilots and five MiG-17 pilots were trained for individual night flight in normal and difficult flying meteorological conditions. Of 194 pilots, 75 (about 40%) were young.
The first three missions of the operation were flown as planned by SAC on three consecutive nights beginning on 18 December 1972. On the first night 129 bombers were launched, 87 of them from Guam. 39 support aircraft of the Seventh Air Force, the Navy's Task Force 77, and the Marine Corps supported the bombers by providing F-4 fighter escorts, F-105 Wild Weasel SAM-suppression missions, Air Force EB-66 and Navy EA-6 radar-jamming aircraft, chaff drops, KC-135 refueling capability, and search and rescue aircraft; the skies were dominated by American airpower to ensure the safety of the aircraft involved in the operation. One B-52 bomber pilot flying out of Guam recalled "We took off one airplane a minute out of Guam for hours. Just on time takeoff after on time takeoff."
The targets of the first wave of bombers were the North Vietnamese airfields at Kép, Phúc Yên and Hòa Lạc and a warehouse complex at Yên Viên while the second and third waves struck targets around Hanoi itself. Three aircraft were shot down by the 68 SAMs launched by North Vietnamese batteries, two B-52Gs from Andersen and a B-52D from U-Tapao. Two D models from Andersen with heavy battle damage managed to limp into U-Tapao for repairs. Only one of the three downed crews could be rescued. That same evening, an Air Force F-111 Aardvark was shot down while on a mission to bomb the broadcasting facilities of Radio Hanoi.
Unlike the initiation of Linebacker, which had been launched in response to a North Vietnamese offensive in South Vietnam, President Nixon did not address the nation on television to explain the escalation. Instead, Kissinger held a press conference at which he accused (at Nixon's behest) Le Duc Tho of having "backed off" on some of the October understandings.
On the second night, 93 sorties were flown by the bombers. Their targets included the Kinh No Railroad and storage area, the Thái Nguyên thermal power plant, and the Yên Viên complex. Although 20 SAMs were launched and a number of the bombers were damaged, none were lost on the mission. SAC expected that the third (and supposedly last) night of the operation would proceed just as well as the previous one.
The targets of the 99 bombers sent in on 20 December included the Yên Viên railyards, the Ai Mo warehouse complex, the Thái Nguyên power plant, a transshipment point at Bắc Giang, the Kinh No Railroad complex, and the Hanoi petroleum products storage area—all in or near Hanoi. The combination of repetitive tactics, degraded EW systems, and limited jamming capability, however, led to dire consequences when, as the official Air Force history of the campaign has stated, "all hell broke loose."
The repetitious nature of the previous evening's strike profiles had allowed North Vietnamese air defense forces to anticipate strike patterns and to salvo 34 missiles into the target area. Four B-52Gs and three B-52Ds were lost in the first and third waves of the mission. A fourth D model, returning to Thailand, crashed in Laos. Only two of the eight downed crews were recovered by search and rescue aircraft.
The repercussions from the mission were fast and furious. SAC headquarters was under pressure from "many external sources" to "stop the carnage ... it has become a blood bath". Of more concern was the position taken by many senior Air Force officers that they "would lose too many bombers and that airpower doctrine would be proven fallacious ... or, if the bombing were stopped, the same thing would occur".
The main problem seemed to lie within the headquarters of SAC, which had based its tactics on a MiG threat that had not materialized during the three missions. The tactics utilized (flight paths, altitudes, formations, timing, etc.) had not varied. The Air Force explanation for this course of events was that the similarity would be helpful to the B-52 crews, who were inexperienced in flying in such high-threat environments. Air Force historian Earl Tilford offered a differing opinion: "Years of dropping bombs on undefended jungle and the routines of planning for nuclear war had fostered a mind-set within the SAC command that nearly led to disaster.... Poor tactics and a good dose of overconfidence combined to make the first few nights of Linebacker nightmarish for the B-52 crews."
It was at this point that President Nixon ordered that the effort be extended past its original three-day deadline. The first change that could be made by local Air Force commanders was divulged by a comparison of the differences between the radar jamming equipment of the B-52 models. The equipment aboard the G models was designed for use in the more sophisticated air defense environment of the Soviet Union, not against the more antiquated SA-2 and Fan Song radar systems utilized by the North Vietnamese. SAC headquarters stipulated that only the aircraft stationed at U-Tapao (equipped with more powerful and sophisticated ECM gear) be allowed over the North. As a result, the attack waves were reduced in size, although the tactics employed did not change.
On the fourth night (21 December) of the operation, 30 of the U-Tapao bombers struck the Hanoi storage area, the Văn Điển storage depot, and Quang Te Airfield. Two more of the D models were lost to SAMs. On the following night, the target area shifted away from Hanoi to the port city of Haiphong and its petroleum storage areas. Once again, 30 aircraft participated in the strikes, but this time there were no losses among the bombers. An F-111, however, was shot down over the Kinh No Railroad complex.
On the 22nd, a wing of the Bach Mai Hospital, located in the southern suburbs of Hanoi, was struck by an errant string of bombs from a single B-52. The civilian deaths were turned into a cause celebre by the North Vietnamese and U.S. peace activists. The hospital sat 1 kilometer from the runway of Bach Mai Airfield and a major fuel storage facility was only 180 metres (200 yd) away. While the patients of the hospital wing had been evacuated from the city, 28 doctors, nurses, and pharmacists were killed.
Two days before Christmas, SAC added SAM sites and airfields to the target list. Air Force F-111s were sent in before the arrival of the bombers in order to strike the airfields and reduce the threat of enemy fighters. The F-111s proved so successful in these operations that their mission for the rest of the campaign was shifted to SAM site suppression.
The bomber missions of the sixth night (23 December) again avoided Hanoi and hit SAM sites northeast of the city and the Lang Dang Railroad yards. There were no losses. On the following night, the run of American good luck (and avoidance of Hanoi) continued. Thirty bombers, supported by 69 tactical aircraft, struck the railyards at Thái Nguyên and Kép and no American aircraft were lost during the mission.
Although the B-52s garnered the lion's share of the publicity during the campaign, the tactical aircraft were also hard at work. While the B-52s and F-111s attacked by night, an average of 69 tactical aircraft of the Air Force, Navy and Marines attacked by day (averaging nearly 100 sorties per day). Losses for these aircraft were extremely light, with fewer than a dozen lost during the entire campaign. It was not difficult for their crews to deduce why. The North Vietnamese air defense forces "simply waited for nightfall and the arrival of more lucrative targets."
The strikes of the 24th were followed by a 36-hour Christmas stand-down, during which Air Force planners went to work to revise their plans for the next phase of operations. Due to aircraft losses during the initial phase, they intended to launch an all-out attack on North Vietnam's air defenses when the operation resumed. This course was also necessary since, by Christmas, most of the strategic targets within North Vietnam were in shambles.
SAC also belatedly turned over tactical mission planning to its subordinate Eighth Air Force headquarters on Guam, which promptly revised the previously costly tactics. Instead of utilizing multiple waves, all of the bombers would be in and out of the target area within 20 minutes and they would approach from multiple directions and at different altitudes. They would exit by varying routes and the steep PTTs were eliminated. Ten targets, in both the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, were to be struck by bombers approaching in seven separate streams, four of which were to come in off the Gulf of Tonkin. Additional jammers were also installed in the B-52Gs, allowing them to return to the operation.
On 26 December 120 bombers lifted off to strike Thái Nguyên, the Kinh No complex, the Duc Noi, Hanoi, and Haiphong Railroads, and a vehicle storage area at Văn Điển. 78 of the bombers took off from Andersen AFB in one time block, the largest single combat launch in SAC history, while 42 others came in from Thailand. The bombers were supported by 113 tactical aircraft which provided chaff corridors, escort fighters, Wild Weasel SAM suppression, and electronic countermeasures support.
The North Vietnamese air defense system was overwhelmed by the number of aircraft it had to track in such a short time period and by a dense blanket of chaff laid down by the fighter-bombers. 250 SAMs had been fired from 18 until 24 December, and the strain on the remaining North Vietnamese inventory showed, since only 68 were fired during the mission. One B-52 was shot down near Hanoi and another damaged aircraft made it back to U-Tapao, where it crashed just short of the runway. Only two members of the crew survived.
On the following night, 60 bombers flew the mission, with some attacking SAM sites while others struck Lang Dang, Duc Noi, the Trung Quang Railroad, and Văn Điển. One B-52 was so heavily damaged that its crew ejected over Laos, where it was rescued. A second aircraft was not so lucky. It took a direct hit and went down while attacking the Trung Quang Railroad yards. During the evening's operations two F-4s and an HH-53 search and rescue helicopter were also shot down.
Day ten (28 December) called for strikes by 60 B-52s–15 Gs and 15 Ds from Andersen and 30 Ds from U-Tapao, The aircraft formed six waves attacking five targets. Four of the waves struck targets in the Hanoi area (including SAM Support Facility #58), while the fifth hit the Lang Dang Railroad yards southwest of Lạng Sơn, a major chokepoint on the supply route from the People's Republic of China. No aircraft were lost on the mission.
By the eleventh and final day (29 December), there were few strategic targets worthy of mention left within North Vietnam. There were, however, two SAM storage areas at Phúc Yên and the Lang Dang yards that could be profitably attacked. A total of 60 aircraft again made the trip North, but the mix was altered; U-Tapao again provided 30 D models but the Andersen force was varied, putting 12 G models and 18 Ds over the North. Total bombing was rounded out by sending 30 G models on Arc Light missions in the southern panhandle of North Vietnam and in South Vietnam. Once again, there were no aircraft losses to anti-aircraft fire, MiGs, or missiles.
On 22 December, Washington asked Hanoi to return to the talks with the terms offered in October. On 26 December, Hanoi notified Washington that it was willing to "impress upon Nixon that the bombing was not the reason for this decision, the VWP Politburo told Nixon that halting the bombing was not a precondition for further talks". Nixon replied that he wanted the technical discussions to resume on 2 January and that he would halt the bombing if Hanoi agreed. They did so and Nixon suspended aerial operations north of the 20th parallel on 30 December. He then informed Kissinger to agree to the terms offered in October, if that was what it took to get the agreement signed. Senator Henry Jackson (D, Wash.), tried to persuade Nixon to make a televised address in order to explain to the American people that "we bombed them in order to get them back to the table." It would, however, have been extremely difficult to get informed observers in the U.S. to believe that he "had bombed Hanoi in order to force North Vietnamese acceptance of terms they had already agreed to".
Now the only stumbling block on the road to an agreement was President Thieu. Nixon tried to placate him by writing on 5 January that "you have my assurance of continued assistance in the post-settlement period and that we will respond with full force should the settlement be violated by North Vietnam." By this time, however, due to congressional opposition Nixon was in no position to make such a promise, since the possibility of obtaining the requisite congressional appropriations was nil. The South Vietnamese president, however, still refused to agree. On the 14th Nixon made his most serious threat: "I have therefore irrevocably decided to proceed to initial the agreement on 23 January 1973...I will do so, if necessary, alone". One day before the deadline, Thieu bowed to the inevitable and consented to the agreement.
On 9 January, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho returned to Paris. The agreement struck between the U.S. and North Vietnam was basically the same one that had been reached in October. The additional demands that had been made by the U.S. in December were generally discarded or went against the U.S. John Negroponte, one of Kissinger's aides during the negotiations, was more caustic: "[w]e bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions." The DMZ was defined as provided for in the Geneva Accords of 1954, and would in no way be recognized as an international boundary. The demanded withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam was not mentioned at all in the text of the agreement. Kissinger did, however, obtain a "verbal agreement" from Tho for a token withdrawal of 30,000 North Vietnamese troops.
However, one very important point to the negotiations was achieved by the United States. For the entirety of the war, North Vietnam had refused to recognize the South Vietnamese government as legitimate. On this point, the North finally agreed officially to recognize their southern counterpart as a legitimate government.
The demand for an inclusive, Indochina-wide cease-fire was simply discarded in the written agreement. Once again, Kissinger had to be satisfied with a "verbal understanding" that a cease-fire would be instituted in Laos simultaneous with, or shortly following, that in South Vietnam. An agreement on Cambodia (where the North Vietnamese had no influence whatsoever over the Khmer Rouge) was out of the question. The size of the ICCS was finally decided by splitting the difference in the number demanded by both parties at 1,160 personnel. The Paris Peace Accords were signed at the Majestic Hotel in Paris on 27 January 1973.
During Operation Linebacker II, a total of 741 B-52 sorties were dispatched to bomb North Vietnam; 729 completed their missions. B-52s dropped a total of 15,237 tons of ordnance on 18 industrial and 14 military targets (including eight SAM sites) while fighter-bombers added another 5,000 tons of bombs to the tally. Another 212 B-52 missions were flown within South Vietnam in support of ground operations during the campaign. Ten B-52s were shot down over the North and five others were damaged and crashed in Laos or Thailand. Thirty-three B-52 crew members were killed or missing in action, another 33 became prisoners of war, and 26 more were rescued.
Over 11 days, North Vietnamese air defenses fired 266 SA-2 missiles downing—according to North Vietnam—34 B-52s and four F-111s. While warding off the massive strike by U.S strategic, tactical and carrier aviation, the North Vietnamese missile air defense forces conducted over 180 engagements, two-thirds of which were against B-52s, fired 266 SA-2 missiles. They claimed 36 aircraft destroyed (31 B-52s and 5 tactical aircraft) with the expenditure of 244 missiles against the B-52s and 22 missiles against tactical aircraft, or 7.9 missiles for every B-52 aircraft shot down, or 4.4 missiles for every tactical aircraft shot down. During the offensive, they overcame various types of interference and obstacles employed by the U.S aircraft to interrupt missile engagement.
The Air Force flew 769 additional sorties and 505 were flown by the Navy and Marine Corps in support of the bombers. Twelve of these aircraft were lost on the missions (two F-111s, three F-4s, two A-7s, two A-6s, an EB-66, an HH-53 rescue helicopter, and an RA-5C reconnaissance aircraft). During these operations, ten American aviators were killed, eight captured, and 11 rescued. Overall US Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, one EB-66 and one HH-53 search-and-rescue helicopter. Navy losses included two A-7s, two A-6s, one RA-5, and one F-4. Seventeen of these losses were attributed to SA-2 missiles, three to daytime MiG attacks, three to antiaircraft artillery, and four to unknown causes. U.S. forces claimed eight MiGs were shot down during the operation, including two by B-52 tail gunners. However, two B-52 tail gunner kills were not confirmed by VPAF, and they admitted to the loss of only three MiGs.
According to Dana Drenkowski and Lester W. Grau, the number of aircraft lost by the USAF is unconfirmed since the USAF figures are also suspect. If a plane was badly damaged, but managed to land, the USAF did not count as a loss, even if it was too damaged to fly again. During the operation, the USAF told the press that 17 B-52s were lost. But later, the USAF told Congress that only 13 B-52s were lost. Nine B-52s that returned to U-Tapao airfield were too badly damaged to fly again. The number of B-52s that managed to return to Guam but were combat losses remains unknown. The overall B-52 loss is probably between 22 and 27.
During this operation, the VPAF launched 31 air sorties of which 27 were flown MiG-21s and four were flown by MiG-17s. They conducted eight aerial engagements, and claimed two B-52s, four F-4s and one RA-5C shot down. Their losses were three MiG-21s. Two B-52s were claimed by North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter pilots; both incidents were attributed to SAMs by the U.S.
The raids inflicted severe damage to North Vietnam's infrastructure. The Air Force estimated the bombs caused 500 rail interdictions, destroyed 372 pieces of rolling stock and three million gallons of petroleum products, and eliminated 80 percent of North Vietnam's electrical power production capability. Logistical imports into North Vietnam, assessed by U.S. intelligence at 160,000 tons per month when the operation began, had dropped by January 1973, to 30,000 tons per month.
But the raids did not break the stalemate in the South, nor halt the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail.
The North Vietnamese government complained that the U.S. had "carpet-bombed hospitals, schools, and residential areas, committing barbarous crimes against our people", citing the bombing of Bach Mai Hospital on 22 December and Kham Thien street on 26 December which they claimed had killed 278, wounded 290, and destroyed more than 2,000 homes. In total, Hanoi claimed that the raids killed 1,624 civilians.
Both the Soviet Union and China denounced the bombing, while some Western countries also criticized the US operation. In a famous speech, Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden, compared the bombings to a number of historical "crimes" including the bombing of Guernica, the massacres of Oradour-sur-glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Sharpeville, and the extermination of Jews and other groups at Treblinka, and said that "now another name can be added to this list: Hanoi, Christmas 1972". In response to his protests, the U.S. withdrew their ambassador from Sweden and told Stockholm not to send a new ambassador to Washington.
The newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, whose country had pushed America to expand the war, angered the Nixon administration by criticizing the bombings in a letter to the U.S. President, chilling United States-Australia relations until Whitlam's dismissal in 1975. In the U.S., Nixon was criticized as a "madman", and some of the people who supported Operation Linebacker I, questioned the necessity and unusual intensity of Operation Linebacker II. Newspaper headlines included: "Genocide", "Stone-Age Barbarism" and "Savage and Senseless".
The USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) made some serious mistakes, suffered serious losses and their campaign came close to failure, yet after the war they launched a massive media and public relations blitz (and internal witch hunt) to prove that Linebacker II was an unqualified success that unfolded as planned. US officials claimed that the operation had succeeded in forcing North Vietnam's Politburo to return to negotiating, citing the Paris Peace Accords signed shortly after the operation. Indeed, much of the American public had the impression that North Vietnam had been "bombed into submission".
But in Paris, the North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the October 1972 agreement. When South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu objected to the terms, Nixon threatened to depose him as Ngo Dinh Diem had been. In January 1973, the U.S. signed the agreement as the Paris Peace Accords. The main effect of the accord was to usher the United States out of the war.
Journalist Bob Woodward later wrote that Richard Nixon thought that previous bombing campaigns against North Vietnam had achieved "zilch". Woodward wrote that in early 1972 Nixon wrote a note to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, which said there was "something wrong" with the way the strategy was being carried out. Other notes, written at the same time, show that Nixon was frustrated with the resistance of the North Vietnamese and wanted to punish them, in an effort to "go for broke".
|23 Dec.||EB-66E||USAF||engine out|
By the conclusion of the Linebacker II campaign, the B-52 loss rate of the sorties was 3.43% (16 B-52s were shot down, 4 B-52s suffered heavy damage, 5 B-52s suffered medium damage for 729 flown sorties). The hit rate of the total strength was 12.75% (25 B-52s were hit for 196 B-52s)
|Carrier Air Wing 8||USS America (CVA-66)||F-4, A-6, A-7|
|Carrier Air Wing 14||USS Enterprise (CVAN-65)||F-4, A-6, A-7|
|Carrier Air Wing 5||USS Midway (CVA-41)||F-4, A-6, A-7|
|Carrier Air Wing 19||USS Oriskany (CVA-34)||F-8, A-7|
|Carrier Air Wing 2||USS Ranger (CVA-61)||F-4, A-6, A-7|
|Carrier Air Wing 3||USS Saratoga (CVA-60)||F-4, A-6, A-7|
|8th Tactical Fighter Wing †||Ubon RTAFB, Thailand||F-4|
|354th Tactical Fighter Wing||Korat RTAFB, Thailand||A-7|
|388th Tactical Fighter Wing||Korat RTAFB, Thailand||F-4, F-105G|
|432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing ‡||Udorn RTAFB, Thailand||F-4, RF-4|
|474th Tactical Fighter Wing||Takhli RTAFB, Thailand||F-111|
|43d Strategic Wing||Andersen AFB, Guam||B-52D|
|72d Strategic Wing (Provisional)||Andersen AFB, Guam||B-52G|
|307th Strategic Wing||U Tapao RTAFB, Thailand||B-52D|
|† additionally, two squadrons from the 4th TFW at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, and one squadron from 33d TFW at Eglin AFB, Florida
‡ additionally, two squadrons from 366th TFW after its departure from Da Nang AB, RVN
Published government documents
The B-52 Victory Museum, Hanoi or Bảo Tàng Chiến Thắng B.52 is located at 157 Đội Cấn, Ba Đình district, Hanoi.
The museum comprises one main building with displays on the history of the Vietnamese revolution, the First Indochina War, the Vietnam War, Operations Rolling Thunder, Linebacker and Linebacker II and the air defense of Hanoi. The outdoor displays include the wreckage of a B-52D or G Stratofortress apparently shot down during Operation Linebacker II (although no specific details are provided) and various air defense equipment.
The museum is open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday from 08:00 to 11:30 and 13:00 to 16:30. Entry is free.
The Museum is located approximately 300m south of the "B-52 lake", Hồ B-52 or Huu Tiep Lake which appears to contain part of the undercarriage section of the B-52 at the Museum. A plaque at the lake states that the aircraft was a B-52G shot down by a Surface-to-air missile (SAM) fired by the 72nd Battalion, 285th Air Defence Missile Regiment on 27 December 1972, however the only B-52s lost that day were two B-52Ds.Bach Mai Airfield
Bach Mai Airfield (Vietnamese: Sân bay Bach Mai) is a disused military airport in Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi, Vietnam, located along modern-day Le Trong Tan street. It was constructed by the French in 1917 and used by French forces until 1954; along with Gia Lam Airbase, it was one of the major logistics bases supporting French operations at Dien Bien Phu. After 1954, it was used by the Vietnamese People's Air Force and served as their air defense command and control center during the Second Indochina War, playing a part in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War as well. It is now the site of the Vietnam People's Air Force Museum, where a number of period military aircraft are on display.Bombing of Vietnam's dikes
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff considered and rejected some additions to strategic bombing campaigns that would include targeting a series of dikes and dams along Vietnam's Red River delta. A classified 1965 USAF report suggested that the Red River flood control system could probably not be destroyed by conventional aerial bombing.In 1966, John McNaughton, Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, proposed the destruction of the Red River Valley dams and dikes in order to flood rice paddies, disrupt the North Vietnamese food supply, and leverage Hanoi during negotiations; then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, however, rejected the idea.President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discussed bombing the dike network in a 1972 conversation on Operation Linebacker II, later published by Daniel Ellsberg:
Nixon: We've got to quit thinking in terms of a three-day strike [in the Hanoi-Haiphong area]. We've got to be thinking in terms of an all-out bombing attack - which will continue until they - Now by all-out bombing attack, I am thinking about things that go far beyond. I'm thinking of the dikes, I'm thinking of the railroad, I'm thinking, of course, the docks.
Kissinger: I agree with you.
President Nixon: We've got to use massive force.Two hours later at noon, H. R. Haldeman and Ron Ziegler joined Kissinger and Nixon:
President: How many did we kill in Laos?
Ziegler: Maybe ten thousand - fifteen?
Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen.
President: See, the attack in the North that we have in mind, power plants, whatever's left - POL [petroleum], the docks. And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
President: No, no, no, I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
President: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?...I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.
The dike and dam system on the Red River had been expanded steadily since independence was declared and by 1972 consisted of nearly 2500 miles of dikes, levees, dams and sluices. Heavy monsoon rains coupled with the preoccupation of the civilian population that normally maintained the water works, led to extensive flooding in 1971. In an attempt to garner international opposition against the newest U.S. strategic bombing campaign, Rolling Thunder, the North Vietnamese Government began a propaganda campaign using images of the flood to allege that the U.S. had begun a strategic bombing campaign against the Red River dikes. Given the North Vietnamese tactic of forcing U.S. aircraft to jettison their bombloads and abort their missions, the dikes undoubtedly were their point of impact on occasion, as well they may have been for some downed U.S. aircraft.U.S. investigation into the North Vietnamese claims revealed that U.S. bombing had caused minor damage to the dikes but none of the damaged structures were part of the system protecting Hanoi, and none of the damage was severe enough to cause a major breach. Further complicating matters was the North Vietnamese placement of anti-aircraft radars, surface to air missiles, and artillery atop dike structures. The dike system was also part of the North Vietnamese transportation network, with roads and rail lines in close proximity to the dikes. Although authorization was given during Operation Linebacker II to attack these sites, only the use of napalm, cluster bombs, and other antipersonnel weapons were permitted to be used in an attempt to minimize structural damage.The North Vietnamese used these incidents as part of their propaganda campaign. Actress Jane Fonda is often credited with helping publicize the bombing, for which then U.S. Ambassador to the UN George H. W. Bush accused her of lying. Columnist Joseph Kraft who was also touring North Vietnam, believed that the damage to the dikes was done in error and was being used as propaganda by Hanoi, and that if the U.S. Air Force were "truly going after the dikes, it would do so in a methodical, not a harum-scarum way." Others, like Jean Thoraval of Agence France-Presse, reported personally witnessing a U.S. bombing raid where a dozen planes had dropped bombs and fired rockets on a nearby dike, concluding that "the attack was aimed at a whole system of dikes." Sweden's Ambassador to Hanoi, Jean-Christophe Öberg, along with two Swedish journalists, described the damage to the dikes as "methodic."In an investigation into the bombing of the dikes carried out by a French geographer, Yves Lacoste, concluded that the bombing was based on a systematic policy to flood the eastern part of the delta. This area was targeted more than the western part which had more military targets (for instance, Hanoi). The overwhelming majority of dike bombing also occurred on the concave sections of dike, the most vulnerable to such bombing. The effects of the bombing were profound, as 'minor damage' actually severely weakened the dike structure through sub-surface cracking, which increased vulnerability during periods of high discharge.Christmas bombings (disambiguation)
The term Christmas bombings usually refers to Operation Linebacker II.
It may also refer to:
Northwest Airlines Flight 253, a 2009 attempt to bomb an airplane over Detroit, Michigan
Christmas Eve 2000 Indonesia bombings
Strasbourg Cathedral bombing plot, a 2000 attempted terrorism incident
December 2011 Nigeria bombingsEleven Days War
The following major military operations have sometimes been unofficially referred as Eleven Days War or Eleven Day War:
Operation Faustschlag, a 1918 Central Powers offensive against Soviet Russia during World War I
Operation Linebacker II, a 1972 United States bombing campaign against North Vietnam during Vietnam War.Girl from Hanoi
Girl from Hanoi (Vietnamese: Em bé Hà Nội) is a 1975 Vietnamese drama film directed by Hải Ninh. It was entered into the 9th Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Diploma. It also won the Golden Lotus at the 3rd Vietnam Film Festival.Hòa Lạc Air Base
Hòa Lạc Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) (Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) military airfield located approximately 24 km (15 mi) west of Hanoi.Kien An Airport
Kien An Airport (Vietnamese language: Sân bay Kiến An) is a military airport, a standby airport for Cat Bi Airport in Haiphong, northern Vietnam. The single runway is 2,400 m, concrete surface. Its ICAO code is VV03.Kien An Airport is located in Kiến An District, Hải Phòng, 10 km from Cat Bi Airport to the west.Kép Air Base
Kép Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) (Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) military airfield located near the town of Kép, Bắc Giang Province approximately 60 km (37 mi) northeast of Hanoi.Linebacker (disambiguation)
A linebacker is a position in American football.
Linebacker may also refer to:
Operation Linebacker, a U.S. military campaign conducted against North Vietnam
Operation Linebacker II, a U.S. military campaign conducted against North Vietnam
Operation Phantom Linebacker, a coalition military operation in Iraq
M6 Linebacker, a fighting vehicleList of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1972–75)
This article is a list of US MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period from 1972–75. No servicemembers or civilians were lost in 1974. In 1973, the United States listed 2,646 Americans as unaccounted for from the entire Vietnam War. By August 2017, 1604 Americans remained unaccounted for, of which 1026 were classified as further pursuit, 488 as no further pursuit and 90 as deferred.Phúc Yên Air Base
Phúc Yên Air Base (also known as Noi Bai Air Base) is a Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) (Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) military airfield located immediately north of Noi Bai International Airport and approximately 30 km (19 mi) north of Hanoi.Phạm Tuân
Phạm Tuân ([faːm˧ˀ˨ʔ twɜn˨˩] born February 14, 1947) is a retired Vietnam Air Force aviator. He became the first Vietnamese citizen and the first Asian in space when he flew aboard the Soyuz 37 mission as an Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut. He was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.Role of the United States in the Vietnam War
The role of the United States in the Vietnam War began after World War II and escalated into full commitment during the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1973. The U.S. involvement in South Vietnam stemmed from 20 long years of political and economic action. These had the common incentive of ending the growing communist domination in Vietnam. At the time, French forces, allies of the U.S., were backed by America — President Harry S. Truman provided progressively increasing amounts of financial and military assistance to French forces fighting in Vietnam. From the spring of 1950, their involvement increased from just assisting French troops to providing direct military assistance to the associated states (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). Eventually, U.S. missions were carried out at a more constant rate by sending out increasing number of military assistance from the United States. Their main intent was to restrict the Communist domination that was present in the government of Vietnam as it would soon lead to a chain of neighbouring countries adopting the same. This would have resulted in a change in balance of power throughout Southeast Asia. The U.S. foreign policy establishment saw national security interests being disturbed due to the rise of this communist expansion and strived to take any measure to end it. Their actions came to be questioned by other segments of government and society, however, including the US congress..
Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3,812,000. The conflict also resulted in 58,318 US soldiers dead.U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield
U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield is a military airfield of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) approximately 140 kilometres (87 mi) southeast of Bangkok in the Ban Chang District of Rayong Province near Sattahip on the Gulf of Thailand. It is serves as the home of the RTN First Air Wing.VFA-97
Strike Fighter Squadron 97 (VFA-97), also known as the "Warhawks", are a United States Navy F/A-18E squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. Their tail code of "NH" and their radio callsign is Warhawk.
The squadron was originally established as Attack Squadron 97 (VA-97) on 1 June 1967 and redesignated VFA-97 on 24 January 1991.Vietnam People's Air Force
The Vietnam People's Air Force (Vietnamese: Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) is the air force of Vietnam. It is the successor of the former North Vietnamese Air Force and absorbed the Republic of Vietnam Air Force following the re-unification of Vietnam in 1975. The Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) is one of three main branches in the Vietnam People's Army which is a part of the Ministry of Defence. The main mission of the VPAF is the defence of Vietnamese airspace and the provision of air cover for operations of the People's Army of Vietnam.Vietnamization
Vietnamization was a policy of the Richard Nixon administration to end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War through a program to "expand, equip, and train South Vietnamese forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops." Brought on by the Viet Cong's Tet Offensive, the policy referred to U.S. combat troops specifically in the ground combat role, but did not reject combat by the U.S. Air Force, as well as the support to South Vietnam, consistent with the policies of U.S. foreign military assistance organizations. U.S. citizens' mistrust of their government that had begun after the offensive worsened with the release of news about U.S. soldiers massacring civilians at My Lai (1968), the invasion of Cambodia (1970), and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers (1971).
The name "Vietnamization" came about accidentally. At a January 28, 1969, meeting of the National Security Council, General Andrew Goodpaster, deputy to General Creighton Abrams and commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, stated that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) had been steadily improving, and the point at which the war could be "de-Americanized" was close. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird agreed with the point, but not with the language: "What we need is a term like 'Vietnamizing' to put the emphasis on the right issues." Nixon immediately liked Laird's word.Vietnamization fit into the broader détente policy of the Nixon administration, in which the United States no longer regarded its fundamental strategy as the containment of communism but as a cooperative world order, in which Nixon and his chief adviser Henry Kissinger were focused on the broader constellation of forces and the bigger world powers. Nixon had ordered Kissinger to negotiate diplomatic policies with Soviet statesman Anatoly Dobrynin. Nixon also opened high-level contact with China. U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and China were of higher priority than South Vietnam.
Nixon said Vietnamization had two components. The first was "strengthening the armed force of the South Vietnamese in numbers, equipment, leadership and combat skills", while the second was "the extension of the pacification program [i.e. military aid to civilians] in South Vietnam." To achieve the first goal, U.S. helicopters would fly in support; however, helicopter operations were too much part of ground operations to involve U.S. personnel. Thus, ARVN candidates were enrolled in U.S. helicopter schools to take over the operations. As observed by Lieutenant General Dave Palmer, to qualify an ARVN candidate for U.S. helicopter school, he first needed to learn English; this, in addition to the months-long training and practice in the field, made adding new capabilities to the ARVN take at least two years. Palmer did not disagree that the first component, given time and resources, was achievable. However: "Pacification, the second component, presented the real challenge...it was benevolent government action in areas where the government should always have been benevolently active...doing both was necessary if Vietnamization were to work."
The policy of Vietnamization, despite its successful execution, was ultimately a failure as the improved ARVN forces and the reduced American and allied component were unable to prevent the fall of Saigon and the subsequent merger of the north and south, to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Easter Offensive (1972)
Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)