Air War

Between 1965 and 1975, more than 7.5 million tons of bombs were dropped by the United States and its allies on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This doubles the amount dropped on Europe and Asia during the Second World War. By tonnage, it stands as the largest aerial bombardment in history. The bombing of North Vietnam is divided into the Rolling Thunder campaign of the Johnson administration and the Linebacker operations of the Nixon years. The Linebacker campaigns pierced self-imposed boundaries set by Johnson, although by that time the U.S. was already on the way out of Vietnam.

Capable of reaching Mach 2 at high altitudes, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber carried out the majority of U.S. bombing missions during the early years of the Vietnam War. Victor Vizcarra flew 59 combat missions in Southeast Asia in the F-105D, nicknamed by its crews "Thud" for obscure reasons. Vizcarra gives gripping, play-by-play descriptions of bombing missions over North Vietnam. One attention-grabbing episode recounts his rescue by a U.S. Navy helicopter after he experienced engine failure over North Vietnam, bailed out and hid in a cave. He has words of harsh criticism for President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara over their management of the war, arguing that their ill-conceived policies caused loss of life for many American servicemen.

Capable of reaching Mach 2 at high altitudes, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber carried out the majority of U.S. bombing missions during the early years of the Vietnam War. Victor Vizcarra flew 59 combat missions in Southeast Asia in the F-105D, nicknamed by its crews "Thud" for obscure reasons. Vizcarra gives gripping, play-by-play descriptions of bombing missions over North Vietnam. One attention-grabbing episode recounts his rescue by a U.S. Navy helicopter after he experienced engine failure over North Vietnam, bailed out and hid in a cave. He has words of harsh criticism for President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara over their management of the war, arguing that their ill-conceived policies caused loss of life for many American servicemen.

Combat Skyspot was a ground-directed bombing operation that used radars to direct B-52s, tactical fighters and bombers to their targets at nighttime and in poor weather conditions. Commando Club was a Combat Skyspot initiative to guide American warplanes to targets in the Hanoi / Haiphong region or for covert operations in Laos, using a specialized radar emplaced at Lima Site 85 in the mountains of Laos. Since Laos was officially neutral, this operation was clandestine in every aspect. On March 10, 1968, a little more than four months after going operational, LS-85 was attacked and overwhelmed by the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao. "One Day Too Long" is the story of the program, the construction and operation of the facility, the attack and efforts by families to discover what ever happened to the American staff who perished there.

Combat Skyspot was a ground-directed bombing operation that used radars to direct B-52s, tactical fighters and bombers to their targets at nighttime and in poor weather conditions. Commando Club was a Combat Skyspot initiative to guide American warplanes to targets in the Hanoi / Haiphong region or for covert operations in Laos, using a specialized radar emplaced at Lima Site 85 in the mountains of Laos. Since Laos was officially neutral, this operation was clandestine in every aspect. On March 10, 1968, a little more than four months after going operational, LS-85 was attacked and overwhelmed by the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao. "One Day Too Long" is the story of the program, the construction and operation of the facility, the attack and efforts by families to discover what ever happened to the American staff who perished there.

Richard Hallion lays out in impressive detail this critical review of President Lyndon Johnson's bombing campaign against North Vietnam, which was initially conceived to force the enemy to stand down within the first couple of months. It is demonstrated that the U.S. Air Force and Navy were not prepared for a conventional air campaign, having been organized and inventoried for a nuclear war against the Soviet Union. The ineffective management and execution of the air war by America's political leaders is highlighted and contrasted with the surprising effectiveness of North Vietnam's integrated air defense system and their surprising ability to marshal civilian manpower to repair and maintain vital transportation infrastructure.

Richard Hallion lays out in impressive detail this critical review of President Lyndon Johnson's bombing campaign against North Vietnam, which was initially conceived to force the enemy to stand down within the first couple of months. It is demonstrated that the U.S. Air Force and Navy were not prepared for a conventional air campaign, having been organized and inventoried for a nuclear war against the Soviet Union. The ineffective management and execution of the air war by America's political leaders is highlighted and contrasted with the surprising effectiveness of North Vietnam's integrated air defense system and their surprising ability to marshal civilian manpower to repair and maintain vital transportation infrastructure.

Ed Cobleigh served two one-year tours of duty in the late 1960s with the U.S. Air Force, based at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Ubon, Thailand. He logged 375 combat sorties over more than 1,000 hours, flying the F-4D Phantom II fighter-bomber. Cobleigh simply wants to retell his most interesting combat experiences during the Vietnam War and does not attempt to explain the strategic significance of any of his engagements and is not interested in politics. The book is a series of brief accounts organized in standalone chapters. Events are not organized chronologically but instead are sequenced to help the reader can gain appreciation for what it was like to be a fighter pilot at that time and place.

Ed Cobleigh served two one-year tours of duty in the late 1960s with the U.S. Air Force, based at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Ubon, Thailand. He logged 375 combat sorties over more than 1,000 hours, flying the F-4D Phantom II fighter-bomber. Cobleigh simply wants to retell his most interesting combat experiences during the Vietnam War and does not attempt to explain the strategic significance of any of his engagements and is not interested in politics. The book is a series of brief accounts organized in standalone chapters. Events are not organized chronologically but instead are sequenced to help the reader can gain appreciation for what it was like to be a fighter pilot at that time and place.

When President Richard Nixon unleashed America's B-52 bomber fleet on Hanoi, he assured commanders that, unlike before, the bombing of North Vietnam would not be micromanaged from the White House. As the carrier fleet for America's strategic nuclear deterrent, the B-52s were under the authority of the Strategic Air Command. The SAC was organized as a strict hierarchy with zero tolerance for improvisation and where every mission was planned with exact precision, from start to finish. Operation Linebacker II was micromanaged, not from the White House, but from SAC headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. This honest, balanced and accurate account reviews the conduct of this final battle between Washington and Hanoi, zeroing in on what went wrong due to a systemic inflexibility which resulted in surprising levels of loss of pilots and aircraft.

When President Richard Nixon unleashed America's B-52 bomber fleet on Hanoi, he assured commanders that, unlike before, the bombing of North Vietnam would not be micromanaged from the White House. As the carrier fleet for America's strategic nuclear deterrent, the B-52s were under the authority of the Strategic Air Command. The SAC was organized as a strict hierarchy with zero tolerance for improvisation and where every mission was planned with exact precision, from start to finish. Operation Linebacker II was micromanaged, not from the White House, but from SAC headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. This honest, balanced and accurate account reviews the conduct of this final battle between Washington and Hanoi, zeroing in on what went wrong due to a systemic inflexibility which resulted in surprising levels of loss of pilots and aircraft.

The Vietnam Air War: First Person

By Col. Dennis M. (Mike) Ridnouer

Dennis Ridnouer flew 333 combat missions in Southeast Asia for the U.S. Air Force. His book avoids questions of policy and national objective. Rather, his aim is to gather and retell the experiences of the pilots, crew and support personnel who risked their lives for their country, as they believed they were doing. The result is an impressive collection of over one hundred stories that is highly recommended for anyone curious to know what the air war in Vietnam was like, from the point of view of those who waged it. Ridnouer minces no words when criticism of strategy and tactics is called for, showing how unqualified leaders compromised the lives of airmen and the success of their missions.

Dennis Ridnouer flew 333 combat missions in Southeast Asia for the U.S. Air Force. His book avoids questions of policy and national objective. Rather, his aim is to gather and retell the experiences of the pilots, crew and support personnel who risked their lives for their country, as they believed they were doing. The result is an impressive collection of over one hundred stories that is highly recommended for anyone curious to know what the air war in Vietnam was like, from the point of view of those who waged it. Ridnouer minces no words when criticism of strategy and tactics is called for, showing how unqualified leaders compromised the lives of airmen and the success of their missions.

Karl Eschmann served as a maintenance officer during Richard Nixon's Linebacker and Linebacker II bombing campaigns. His book offers day-by-day coverage of both, presented at a relatively fine level of detail and enhanced by the personal recollections of participating flight crew members. Criticism is not withheld where it is called for. Operation Linebacker involved the use of tactical aircraft to degrade the flow of North Vietnamese supplies reinforcing their Spring 1972 invasion of South Vietnam. Operation Linebacker II represented a severe escalation, involving around-the-clock bombing including the use of B-52 strategic bombers, intended to completely shut down North Vietnamese supplies at their sources.

Karl Eschmann served as a maintenance officer during Richard Nixon's Linebacker and Linebacker II bombing campaigns. His book offers day-by-day coverage of both, presented at a relatively fine level of detail and enhanced by the personal recollections of participating flight crew members. Criticism is not withheld where it is called for. Operation Linebacker involved the use of tactical aircraft to degrade the flow of North Vietnamese supplies reinforcing their Spring 1972 invasion of South Vietnam. Operation Linebacker II represented a severe escalation, involving around-the-clock bombing including the use of B-52 strategic bombers, intended to completely shut down North Vietnamese supplies at their sources.

Marshall L. Michell III is a retired Air Force colonel who is a veteran of the Linebacker bombing campaigns over North Vietnam. HIs extensively researched volume is presented in two parts: The first covers the Johnson administrations's Rolling Thunder bombing campaign and the second covers the Nixon administration's Linebacker campaigns. The Air Force and Navy made drastically different attempts to correct for problems encountered during the earlier campaign, such as impressive performance by enemy MiG-21s and the dismal accuracy of American air-to-air missiles. The U.S. Navy responded much more effectively to these challenges than the U.S. Air Force did, for reasons explained in the book.

Marshall L. Michell III is a retired Air Force colonel who is a veteran of the Linebacker bombing campaigns over North Vietnam. HIs extensively researched volume is presented in two parts: The first covers the Johnson administrations's Rolling Thunder bombing campaign and the second covers the Nixon administration's Linebacker campaigns. The Air Force and Navy made drastically different attempts to correct for problems encountered during the earlier campaign, such as impressive performance by enemy MiG-21s and the dismal accuracy of American air-to-air missiles. The U.S. Navy responded much more effectively to these challenges than the U.S. Air Force did, for reasons explained in the book.