1972 - Operation Linebacker II

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Operation Linebacker II operations were initiated on 18 December 1972 and were directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to continue until further notice. The primary objective of the bombing operation would be to force the North Vietnamese government to enter into purposeful negotiations concerning a cease-fire agreement. The operation employed air power to its maximum capabilities in an attempt to destroy all major target complexes such as radio stations, railroads, power plants, and airfields located in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas. Unlike previous bombing campaigns, Linebacker II provided the Air Force and U.S. Naval forces with specific objectives and removed many of the restrictions that had previously caused frustration within the Pentagon.

During these operations, Air Force and Navy tactical aircraft and B-52s commenced an around-the-clock bombardment of the North Vietnamese heartland. The B-52s struck Hanoi and Haiphong during hours of darkness with F-111s and Navy tactical aircraft providing diversionary/suppression strikes on airfields and surface-to-air missile sites. Daylight operations were primarily carried out by A-7s and F-4s bombing visually or with long-range navigation (LORAN) techniques, depending upon the weather over the targets. In addition, escort aircraft such as the Air Force EB-66s and Navy EA-6s broadcast electronic jamming signals to confuse the radar-controlled defenses of the North. The Strategic Air Command also provided KC-135s to support the in-flight refueling requirements of the various aircraft participating in Linebacker II operations. The impact of the bombing was obvious in the severe damage to the North Vietnamese logistic and war-support capability. By 29 December 1972, the 700 nighttime sorties flown by B-52s and 650 daytime strikes by fighter and attack aircraft persuaded the North Vietnamese government to return to the conference table.

The United States paid a price for the accomplishments of Linebacker II. During bombing raids, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft encountered intense enemy defensive actions that resulted in the loss of twenty-six aircraft in the twelve-day period. Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, 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 three to unknown causes.

See these AFHSO publications

Linebacker II: A View From the Rock by James R. McCarthy and George B. Allison

To Hanoi and Back by Wayne Thompson.

For additional information see the National Museum of the USAF.