Operation Pierce Arrow

Operation Pierce Arrow was a U.S. bombing campaign at the beginning of the Vietnam War.

In response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident when the destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy of the United States Navy engaged North Vietnamese ships, sustaining light damage[1] as they gathered electronic intelligence while in the international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered Operation "Pierce Arrow" which was conducted on 5 August 1964.[2]

A-4C Skyhawks of VA-146 fly past USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) in the South China Sea on 12 August 1964 (USN 1107965)
VA-146 A-4Cs from USS Constellation a week after Operation Pierce Arrow.

The operation consisted of 64 strike sorties of aircraft from the aircraft carriers USS Ticonderoga and USS Constellation against the torpedo boat bases of Hon Gai, Loc Chao, Quang Khe, and Phuc Loi, and the oil storage depot at Vinh. The U.S. lost two aircraft to anti-aircraft fire, with one pilot killed, Lieutenant Richard Sather. Another, Lt. (jg) Everett Alvarez Jr.[3] an A-4 Skyhawk pilot, became the first U.S. Navy Prisoner of War in Vietnam.[4]

Pilots estimated that the Vinh raid destroyed 10 percent of North Vietnam's entire petroleum storage, together with the destruction of or damage to 29 P-4 torpedo boats or gunboats.[5]

This was the start of U.S. air operations over North Vietnam and Southeast Asia, attempting to destroy the infrastructure, war material, and military units needed by North Vietnam to prosecute the guerrilla war in the South. The air operations following Pierce Arrow would swell so that by war's end, the United States bombing campaign was the longest and heaviest in history. The 7,662,000 tons of bombs dropped in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War nearly quadrupled the 2,150,000 tons the U.S. had dropped during World War II.[6]

Operation Pierce Arrow
Part of the Vietnam War
Map of Operation Pierce Arrow in Vietnam 1964

Targets of Operation Pierce Arrow
Date5 August 1964
 United States  North Vietnam


  1. ^ Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Doubleday, 2007), p. 241.
  2. ^ Robert Bruce Frankum, Like Rolling Thunder: The Air War in Vietnam, 1964-1975. Rowland & Littlefield, 2005), p. 15.
  3. ^ Interview with Everett Alvarez, 1981
  4. ^ Michael Clodfelter, Vietnam in Military Statistics: A History of the Indochina Wars, 1792-1991 (Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1995), p. 56.
  5. ^ Michael Clodfelter, Vietnam in Military Statistics: A History of the Indochina Wars, 1792-1991 (Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 56-57.
  6. ^ Michael Clodfelter, Vietnam in Military Statistics: A History of the Indochina Wars, 1792-1991 (Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1995), p. 225.
1964 in the United States

Events from the year 1964 in the United States.

August 5

August 5 is the 217th day of the year (218th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 148 days remain until the end of the year.

Douglas A-1 Skyraider

The Douglas A-1 Skyraider (formerly AD Skyraider) is an American single-seat attack aircraft that saw service between the late 1940s and early 1980s. The Skyraider had a remarkably long and successful career; it became a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age, and was nicknamed "Spad", after the French World War I fighter.It was operated by the United States Navy (USN), the United States Marine Corps (USMC), and the United States Air Force (USAF), and also saw service with the British Royal Navy, the French Air Force, the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF), and others. It remained in U.S. service until the early 1970s.

Everett Alvarez Jr.

Everett Alvarez Jr. (born December 23, 1937) is a former United States Navy officer who endured one of the longest periods as a prisoner of war (POW) in U.S. military history. Alvarez was the first U.S. pilot to be downed and detained during the Vietnam War and spent over eight years in captivity, making him the second longest-held U.S. POW, after U.S. Army Colonel Floyd James Thompson.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or the Southeast Asia Resolution, Pub.L. 88–408, 78 Stat. 384, enacted August 10, 1964, was a joint resolution that the United States Congress passed on August 7, 1964, in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

It is of historical significance because it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Specifically, the resolution authorized the President to do whatever necessary in order to assist "any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty". This included involving armed forces.

It was opposed in the Senate only by Senators Wayne Morse (D-OR) and Ernest Gruening (D-AK). Senator Gruening objected to "sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated". (Tonkin Gulf debate 1964) The Johnson administration subsequently relied upon the resolution to begin its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in South Vietnam and open warfare between North Vietnam and the United States.

Gulf of Tonkin incident

The Gulf of Tonkin incident (Vietnamese: Sự kiện Vịnh Bắc Bộ), also known as the USS Maddox incident, was an international confrontation that led to the United States engaging more directly in the Vietnam War. It involved either one or two separate confrontations involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The original American report blamed North Vietnam for both incidents, but eventually became very controversial with widespread belief that at least one, and possibly both incidents were false, and possibly deliberately so. On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox, while performing a signals intelligence patrol as part of DESOTO operations, was pursued by three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron. Maddox fired three warning shots and the North Vietnamese boats then attacked with torpedoes and machine gun fire. Maddox expended over 280 3-inch (76.2 mm) and 5-inch (127 mm) shells in a sea battle. One U.S. aircraft was damaged, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged, and four North Vietnamese sailors were killed, with six more wounded. There were no U.S. casualties. Maddox "was unscathed except for a single bullet hole from a Vietnamese machine gun round."It was originally claimed by the National Security Agency that a Second Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred on August 4, 1964, as another sea battle, but instead evidence was found of "Tonkin ghosts" (false radar images) and not actual North Vietnamese torpedo boats. In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened. In 1995, McNamara met with former Vietnam People's Army General Võ Nguyên Giáp to ask what happened on August 4, 1964, in the second Gulf of Tonkin Incident. "Absolutely nothing", Giáp replied. Giáp claimed that the attack had been imaginary.The outcome of these two incidents was the passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by "communist aggression". The resolution served as Johnson's legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.

In 2005, an internal National Security Agency historical study was declassified; it concluded that Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese Navy on August 2, but that there were no North Vietnamese naval vessels present during the incident of August 4. The report stated, regarding the first incident on August 2:

at 1500G, Captain Herrick ordered Ogier's gun crews to open fire if the boats approached within ten thousand yards (9,150 m). At about 1505G, Maddox fired three rounds to warn off the communist [North Vietnamese] boats. This initial action was never reported by the Johnson administration, which insisted that the Vietnamese boats fired first.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1964)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1964, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their allies.

List of bombing campaigns of the Vietnam War

The bombing campaigns of the Vietnam War were the longest and heaviest aerial bombardment in history. The United States Air Force, the U. S. Navy, and U. S. Marine Corps aviation dropped 7,662,000 tons of explosives. By comparison, U. S. forces dropped a total of 2,150,000 tons of bombs in all theaters of World War II.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force, and by the mid-1960s had become a major part of their air arms.The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It can carry more than 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The F-4, like other interceptors of its time, was initially designed without an internal cannon. Later models incorporated an M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. Beginning in 1959, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record, and an absolute altitude record.The F-4 was used extensively during the Vietnam War. It served as the principal air superiority fighter for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps and became important in the ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance roles late in the war. During the Vietnam War, one U.S. Air Force pilot, two weapon systems officers (WSOs), one U.S. Navy pilot and one radar intercept officer (RIO) became aces by achieving five aerial kills against enemy fighter aircraft. The F-4 continued to form a major part of U.S. military air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s, being gradually replaced by more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon in the U.S. Air Force, the F-14 Tomcat in the U.S. Navy, and the F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

The F-4 Phantom II remained in use by the U.S. in the reconnaissance and Wild Weasel (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) roles in the 1991 Gulf War, finally leaving service in 1996. It was also the only aircraft used by both U.S. flight demonstration teams: the USAF Thunderbirds (F-4E) and the US Navy Blue Angels (F-4J). The F-4 was also operated by the armed forces of 11 other nations. Israeli Phantoms saw extensive combat in several Arab–Israeli conflicts, while Iran used its large fleet of Phantoms, acquired before the fall of the Shah, in the Iran–Iraq War. Phantom production ran from 1958 to 1981, with a total of 5,195 built, making it the most produced American supersonic military aircraft. As of 2018, 60 years after its first flight, the F-4 remains in service with Iran, Japan, South Korea, Greece, and Turkey. The aircraft has most recently been in service against the Islamic State group in the Middle East.

Outline of the Vietnam War

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:

Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

USS Constellation (CV-64)

USS Constellation (CV-64), a Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the "new constellation of stars" on the flag of the United States. One of the fastest ships in the Navy, as proven by her victory during a battlegroup race held in 1985, she was nicknamed "Connie" by her crew and officially as "America's Flagship".

The contract to build Constellation was awarded to the New York Naval Shipyard Brooklyn, New York, on 1 July 1956, and her keel was laid down 14 September 1957 at the New York Navy Yard. She was christened and launched 8 October 1960, sponsored by Mary Herter (wife of Secretary of State Christian Herter). Constellation was delivered to the Navy 1 October 1961, and commissioned on 27 October 1961, with Captain T. J. Walker in command. At that time, she had cost about US$264.5 million. Constellation was the last U.S. aircraft carrier (as of 2016) to be built at a yard other than Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company. Constellation was scrapped at Brownsville, Texas, in 2015–2017.

VA-144 (U.S. Navy)

VA-144 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy, nicknamed the Roadrunners. It was established as VA-116 on 1 December 1955, and redesignated VA-144 on 23 February 1959. The squadron was disestablished on 29 January 1971.

VA-145 (U.S. Navy)

Attack Squadron 145 (VA-145) was an aviation unit of the United States Navy, nicknamed the Rustlers from 1951-1954, and the Swordsmen thereafter. The squadron was established as Reserve squadron VA-702 on 1 December 1949, and called to active duty on 20 July 1950. It was redesignated VA-145 on 4 February 1953, and disestablished on 1 October 1993.

VA-52 (U.S. Navy)

VA-52 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established as U.S. Navy Reserve Fighter Squadron VF-884 on 1 November 1949, and called to active duty on 20 July 1950. It was redesignated VF-144 on 4 February 1953, and VA-52 on 23 February 1959. The squadron was nicknamed the Bitter Birds from about 1951–1953, and the Knightriders from about 1960 onward. Its insignia evolved through several versions from 1951–1960. VA-52 was decommissioned on 31 March 1995.

VA-55 (U.S. Navy)

VA-55 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established as Torpedo Squadron VT-5 on 15 February 1943, redesignated VA-6A on 15 November 1946, and finally designated VA-55 on 16 August 1948. The squadron was disestablished on 12 December 1975. It was the first squadron to be designated VA-55, the second VA-55 was established on 7 October 1983 and disestablished on 1 January 1991.The squadron's nickname was the Torpcats from 1943-1955, and the Warhorses from 1955 onward. Its insignia changed several times over its lifetime, ending up as a winged seahorse. They were established in 1943.

VA-56 (U.S. Navy)

VA-56 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established on 4 June 1956, and disestablished thirty years later, on 31 August 1986. The squadron's nickname was the Boomerangs from 1957 to 1958, and the Champions thereafter.


Strike Fighter Squadron 146 (VFA-146) also known as the "Blue Diamonds" is a United States Navy operational fleet strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Lemoore California. They fly the F/A-18E Super Hornet and are attached to Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW 11), deployed aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt. Their tailcode is NH and their radio callsign is Diamond.

Wesley L. McDonald

Wesley L. McDonald (July 6, 1924 – February 8, 2009) was a United States Navy admiral and naval aviator. He led the first air strike against North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and was the commander in charge of Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada to rescue American citizens.

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