Operation Steel Tiger

Operation Steel Tiger was a covert U.S. 2nd Air Division, later Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial interdiction effort targeted against the infiltration of People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) men and material moving south from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV or North Vietnam) through southeastern Laos to support their military effort in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) during the Vietnam War.

The operation was initiated by the 2nd Air Division on 3 April 1965, continued under the direction of the Seventh Air Force when that headquarters was created on 1 April 1966, and had a subsidiary operation code-named Operation Tiger Hound. The purpose of Steel Tiger was to impede the flow of men and materiel on the enemy logistical routes collectively known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Truong Son Strategic Supply Route to the North Vietnamese).

Bombing of the trail system had begun on 14 December 1964 with the advent of Operation Barrel Roll. Due to increasing U.S. intelligence of the build-up of regimental-size PAVN units operating in South Vietnam, the increased American military presence in that country, and the initiation of Operation Rolling Thunder, American planners in Washington and Saigon decided that the bombing in southeastern Laos should be stepped up. On November 11, 1968 Steel Tiger and Tiger Hound were combined and renamed Operation Commando Hunt.[1]

It was estimated by U.S. intelligence analysts that, during 1965, 4,500 PAVN troops were infiltrated through Laos along with 300 tons of materiel each month.[2] From April to June 1966, the U.S. launched 400 B-52 Stratofortress anti-infiltration sorties against the trail system.[2]:55 By the end of 1967 and the absorption of Steel Tiger operations into Commando Hunt, 103,148 tactical air sorties had been flown in Laos. These strikes were supplemented by 1,718 B-52 Arc Light strikes. During the same time frame, 132 U.S. aircraft or helicopters had been shot down over Laos.[3] The actions implemented aircraft of the Air Force, Marines, and Navy flying from carriers in the South China Sea as well as bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. While B-52 bombers accounted for a majority of the strikes, the most effective aircraft were fixed wing gunships, including the AC-47, the AC-119, and the AC-130.[4]

Operation Steel Tiger, Operation Tiger Hound, and Operation Commando Hunt inevitably slowed the flow of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong men and supplies into South Vietnam and required them to divert a multitude of assets to keep the Ho Chi Minh Trail in serviceable condition, however airpower was never able to completely close the trail during the war.[4]:197

Operation Steel Tiger
Part of Vietnam War
Map of Laos showing area of operations for Barrel Roll and Steel Tiger

Barrell Roll/Steel Tiger Areas of Operations
Date3 April 1965 – 11 November 1968
Location
Southeastern Laos
Result Strategic US Failure
Belligerents
 United States
 South Vietnam
 Laos
Vietnam North Vietnam
Commanders and leaders
North Vietnam Đồng Sĩ Nguyên

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. ^ Olson, James S. (2008). In Country: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Metro Books. p. 445. ISBN 9781435111844.
  2. ^ a b Schlight, John (1986). A War Too Long: The History of the USAF in Southeast Asia, 1961-1975 (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Program. p. 53.
  3. ^ Van Staaveren, Jacob (1993). Interdiction in Southern Laos, 1960–1968 (PDF). Center of Air Force History. p. 287. ISBN 9781410220608.
  4. ^ a b Summers, Harry G. (1985). The Vietnam War Almanac. Random House. p. 320. ISBN 0739442902.

Sources

  • Littauer, Raphael and Normon Uphoff, eds, The Air War in Indochina. Boston: Beacon Press, 1972.
Charles Larimore Jones

Charles Larimore Jones (14 May 1932 – 23 November 2006), also known as Charlie Jones, was an architect of the U.S. Air Force's forward air control doctrine, as well as one of its early practitioners during the Laotian Civil War. He was trained in forward air control techniques as a Combat Controller in 1954. In 1962, he was one of the Operation Jungle Jim volunteers who reestablished the Air Commandos. He was the first Combat Controller committed solely to support the U.S. Army Special Forces. Based on his experience, in 1963 he was assigned to Hurlburt Field to write the field manual on forward air control while expanding the Combat Controller curriculum.

Jones deployed frequently in the next few years. On one of these deployments, he was one of the first pair of Combat Controllers clandestinely infiltrated into the Laotian Civil War, under the call sign Butterfly. He and James J. Stanford supplied the first rudiments of forward air control to Operation Steel Tiger and Operation Barrel Roll. When that assignment was superseded by Raven Forward Air Controllers, Jones returned stateside and transferred into the U.S. Army as a warrant officer to finish his military career with U.S. Special Forces in 1969. After retiring from the military, he earned a Ph.D and a J.D., and became a college professor and attorney.

Ho Chi Minh trail

The Hồ Chí Minh trail (also known in Vietnam as the "Trường Sơn trail") was a logistical system that ran from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) through the kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia. The system provided support, in the form of manpower and materiel, to the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (called the Viet Cong or "VC" by its opponents) and the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), or North Vietnamese Army, during the Vietnam War.

It was named by the Americans after North Vietnamese president Hồ Chí Minh. Presumably the origin of the name came from the First Indochina War because there was a Viet Minh logistics line called the Route of Ho Chi Minh, and in 1961, as the present trail developed, Agence France-Presse [AFP] announced on the radio that a North–South trail had now opened, and they named the corridor La Piste de Hồ Chí Minh, or in English the Hồ Chí Minh Trail. The trail ran mostly in Laos, and was called by the communists the Trường Sơn Strategic Supply Route (Đường Trường Sơn), after the Vietnamese name for the Annamite Range mountains in central Vietnam, and the communists further identified the trail as either West Trường Sơn (Laos) or East Trường Sơn (Vietnam). According to the United States National Security Agency's official history of the war, the Trail system was "one of the great achievements of military engineering of the 20th century". The trail was able to effectively supply troops fighting in the south, a military feat unparalleled given it was the site of the single most intense bombing campaign in history, with bombs dropping on average every seven minutes.

James J. Stanford

Senior Master Sergeant James J. "Jim" Stanford (died 25 August 2012) instituted forward air control techniques for directing air strikes during the Vietnam War and the Laotian Civil War. Despite his Combat Controller activities being restricted by his lack of a pilot's license, no access to military aircraft, and a ban on using rocketry to mark targets for strikes, Stanford flew 218 combat missions in Laos. Although his duties were abruptly ended by a decision by General William W. Momyer, Stanford had demonstrated the necessity for forward air control in Laos; his successors were the Raven Forward Air Controllers. The resulting air campaigns would drop about the same tonnage of bombs on Laos as were dropped during the entirety of World War II. After serving 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, Stanford transitioned to an allied civilian job in airfield management for a further 20-year career. He died on 25 August 2012 as a result of surgery.

Laotian Civil War

The Laotian Civil War (1959–79) was fought between the Communist Pathet Lao (including many North Vietnamese of Lao ancestry) and the Royal Lao Government, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict.The Kingdom of Laos was a covert theater for other belligerents during the Vietnam War. The Franco–Lao Treaty of Amity and Association (signed 22 October 1953) transferred remaining French powers to the Royal Lao Government (except control of military affairs), establishing Laos as an independent member of the French Union. However, this government did not include representatives from the Lao Issara anti-colonial armed nationalist movement.The following years were marked by a rivalry between the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right wing under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing Lao Patriotic Front under Prince Souphanouvong and half-Vietnamese future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane. Several attempts were made to establish coalition governments, and a "tri-coalition" government was finally seated in Vientiane.

The actual fighting in Laos involved the North Vietnamese Army, U.S. troops and Thai forces and South Vietnamese army forces directly and through irregular proxies in a struggle for control over the Laotian Panhandle. The North Vietnamese Army occupied the area to use for its Ho Chi Minh Trail supply corridor and as staging area for offensives into South Vietnam. There was a second major theater of action on and near the northern Plain of Jars.

The North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao eventually emerged victorious in 1975, as part of the general communist victory in all of former French Indochina that year. A total of up to 300,000 people from Laos fled to neighboring Thailand following the Pathet Lao takeover.After the communists took power in Laos, Hmong rebels fought the new government. The Hmong were persecuted as traitors and "lackeys" of the Americans, with the government and its Vietnamese allies carrying out human rights abuses against Hmong civilians. The incipient conflict between Vietnam and China also played a role with Hmong rebels being accused of receiving support from China. Over 40,000 people died in the conflict.The Lao royal family were arrested by the Pathet Lao after the war and sent to labor camps, where most of them died in the late 1970s and 1980s, including King Savang Vatthana, Queen Khamphoui, and Crown Prince Vong Savang.

List of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1966–67)

This article is a list of US MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period 1966–67. 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.

List of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1968–69)

This article is a list of U.S. MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period 1968–69. In 1973, the United States listed 2,646 Americans as unaccounted for from the entire Vietnam War. By August 2017, 1,604 Americans remained unaccounted for, of whom 1,026 were classified as further pursuit, 488 as no further pursuit and 90 as deferred.

List of United States servicemembers and civilians missing in action during the Vietnam War (1970–71)

This article is a list of US MIAs of the Vietnam War in the period from 1969–1971. 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.

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.

List of military operations of the Laotian Civil War

The following is a complete list of military operations staged within the Military Regions of Laos during the Laotian Civil War. They are listed in chronological order of their start date. Also listed are the Military Region(s) in which they were staged.

While all the operations listed were part of the Laotian Civil War, not all of them were combat operations or battles. Coups, invasions, civic action projects, military training and procurement, and an opium smuggling incursion are included among the operations.

Martin B-57 Canberra

The Martin B-57 Canberra is an American-built, twinjet tactical bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1953. The B-57 is a license-built version of the British English Electric Canberra, manufactured by the Glenn L. Martin Company. Initial Martin-build models were virtually identical to their British-built counterparts; Martin later modified the design to incorporate larger quantities of US-sourced components and produced the aircraft in several different variants.

The B-57 Canberra holds the distinction of being the first jet bomber in U.S. service to drop bombs during combat. The Canberra was used extensively during the Vietnam War in a bombing capacity; dedicated versions of the type were also produced and served as high-altitude aerial reconnaissance platforms (the Martin RB-57D Canberra), and as electronic warfare aircraft. The B-57 Canberra was also sold to export customers abroad; further combat use was seen by the Pakistani Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

In 1983, the USAF opted to retire the type; the B-57 Canberra's retirement marked the ending of the era of the tactical bomber. The three remaining flightworthy WB-57Fs are technically assigned to the NASA Johnson Space Center, next to Ellington Field in Houston, as high-altitude scientific research aircraft, but are also used for testing and communications in the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group

Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit which conducted covert unconventional warfare operations prior to and during the Vietnam War.

Established on 24 January 1964, the unit conducted strategic reconnaissance missions in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), Laos, and Cambodia; carried out the capture of enemy prisoners, rescued downed pilots, and conducted rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia; and conducted clandestine agent team activities and psychological operations.

The unit participated in most of the significant campaigns of the Vietnam War, including the Gulf of Tonkin incident which precipitated increased American involvement, Operation Steel Tiger, Operation Tiger Hound, the Tet Offensive, Operation Commando Hunt, the Cambodian Campaign, Operation Lam Son 719, and the Easter Offensive. The unit was formally disbanded and replaced by the Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team 158 on 1 May 1972.

Operation Commando Hunt

Operation Commando Hunt was a covert U.S. Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial interdiction campaign that took place during the Vietnam War. The operation began on 11 November 1968 and ended on 29 March 1972. The objective of the campaign was to prevent the transit of People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) personnel and supplies on the logistical corridor known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Truong Son Road to the North Vietnamese) that ran from the southwestern Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) through the southeastern portion of the Kingdom of Laos and into the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

Operation Tiger Hound

Operation Tiger Hound was a covert U.S. 2nd Air Division, later Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial interdiction campaign conducted in southeastern Laos from 5 December 1965 till 11 November 1968, during the Vietnam War. The purpose of the operation was to interdict the flow of People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Truong Son Strategic Supply Route to the North Vietnamese) from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), through southeastern Laos, and into the northern provinces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The missions were originally controlled by the 2d Air Division until that headquarters was superseded by the Seventh Air Force on 1 April 1966.

The geographic boundary of the operation was carved from the area of Laos already under bombardment under Operation Steel Tiger. This was done at the behest of the American commander in South Vietnam, General William C. Westmoreland, who saw the area of Laos that bordered the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam as an extension of his area of operations. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed. Unlike Operation Barrel Roll and Steel Tiger, however, the bombing in the new area would be conducted by aircraft of the Republic of Vietnam Air Force and by U.S. Air Force units based in South Vietnam (aircraft participating in Barrel Roll and Steel Tiger were generally based in Thailand).

By the end of 1968 and the absorption of Tiger Hound operations by Operation Commando Hunt, 103,148 tactical air sorties had been flown over Laos. These missions were supplemented by 1,718 B-52 Stratofortress sorties under Operation Arc Light. During the same time period, 132 U.S. aircraft or helicopters were shot down over Laos.

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.

Special reconnaissance

Special reconnaissance (SR) is conducted by small units of highly trained military personnel, usually from special forces units or military intelligence organizations, who operate behind enemy lines, avoiding direct combat and detection by the enemy. As a role, SR is distinct from commando operations, but both are often carried out by the same units. The SR role frequently includes covert direction of air and missile attacks, in areas deep behind enemy lines, placement of remotely monitored sensors and preparations for other special forces. Like other special forces, SR units may also carry out direct action (DA) and unconventional warfare (UW), including guerrilla operations.

SR was recognized as a key special operations capability by a former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry: "Special Reconnaissance is the conduct of environmental reconnaissance, target acquisition, area assessment, post-strike assessment, emplacement and recovery of sensors, or support of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operations."In international law, SR is not regarded as espionage if combatants are in proper uniforms, regardless of formation, according to the Hague Convention of 1907, or the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. However, some countries do not honor these legal protections, as was the case with the Nazi "Commando Orders" of World War II, which were held to be illegal at the Nuremberg Trials.

In intelligence terms, SR is a human intelligence (HUMINT) collection discipline. Its operational control is likely to be inside a compartmented cell of the HUMINT, or possibly the operations, staff functions. Since such personnel are trained for intelligence collection as well as other missions, they will usually maintain clandestine communications to the HUMINT organization and will be systematically prepared for debriefing. They operate significantly farther than the most forward friendly scouting and surveillance units; they may be tens to hundreds of miles deeper.

VA-153 (U.S. Navy)

VA-153 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy. During a 1949 reorganization of the Naval Air Reserve, a Fighter Squadron at NAS New York (believed to have been VF-718) was redesignated Fighter Squadron VF-831. It was called to active duty on 1 February 1951. The squadron was redesignated as VF-153 on 4 February 1953, and finally as VA-153 on 15 December 1956. It was disestablished on 30 September 1977. The squadron's nickname was the Blue Tail Flies from 1953 onward.

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.

Đồng Sĩ Nguyên

Đồng Sĩ Nguyên, also spelled Đồng Sỹ Nguyên, other name Nguyễn Hữu Vũ (1 March 1923 – 4 April 2019), was a Vietnamese soldier and politician. He was Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam, lieutenant-general of the North Vietnamese Army, and minister of transport of Vietnam. He was born in Quảng Bình Province, home to general Võ Nguyên Giáp and Ngô Đình Diệm, president of the Republic of Vietnam.

Military engagements of the Laotian Civil War

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