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Operation Linebacker

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Operation Linebacker


1. What do you think of when you drive by that big B-52 at the museum? Being the history buff that I am, I think about Vietnam, where that old 'Buff' was used the most. 'Why should I care about Vietnam?' you ask yourself. Well, last time I checked there's a history section in the PFE guide, so there might be a test later! The intent of this paper is to inform you about Operation Linebacker II. I'll explain the events leading up to the operation, discuss the strategy, and finally I'll sum up the results of a bombing campaign Sir Michael Knight characterized In the book Strategic Offensive Air Operation as '...may have played a role not unlike two B-29s over Japan 27 years earlier'. (Knight: 77) I'll start by explaining why President Richard Nixon gave the order to begin this new bombing campaign.

2. The primary goal of Linebacker II was to force North Vietnam to return to the Paris peace talks and sign a treaty agreement. Negotiations stalled in December 1972 after Hanoi's chief negotiator, Le Duc Tho submitted unreasonable demands concerning the definition of the demilitarized zone and refused to withdraw troops from South Vietnam. Furthermore, he wouldn't accept the installation of an international peacekeeping force. National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, believed these demands were just a smokescreen intended to put off the talks long enough for the new United States Congress to come into session. He and Nixon feared, as written in Earl Tilford's book Setup-What the Air Force did in Vietnam and Why, that the Democratic controlled congress would 'legislate the United States out of the war... and give Hanoi a better peace agreement by default'. (Tilford: 253) Nixon wanted to wrap up the peace talks before that happened. How could the United States accomplish in two months what it hadn't in almost 12 years?

3. The tactics and aircraft used for Linebacker II were not new, but they were used differently than they'd ever been before. President Nixon pulled out all the stops, effectively untying the military's hands. He gave permission to bomb areas that had previously been off limits. Hanoi, Haiphong harbor, major military airfields, and other key objectives vital to the economy were now on the top of the hit list. On December 18, 1972 Operation Linebacker II began. Many different types of aircraft were used but the B-52 bomber played the biggest role. This was the first time the massive airplane was used over Hanoi. The Stratofortress was chosen because it could deliver 30 tons of bombs with pinpoint accuracy from high altitudes, at night, in any kind of weather, and for one other notable reason. According to Henry Kissinger the B-52 brought another aspect ...

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