Operation Linebacker II
Operation Linebacker II was a US Seventh Air Force
Seventh Air Force
The Seventh Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces . It is headquartered at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea....

 and US Navy Task Force 77
Task Force 77
Task Force 77 has been the aircraft carrier battle/strike force of the Seventh Fleet in the United States Navy since the Seventh Fleet was formed....

 aerial bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 campaign, conducted against targets in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) during the final period of US involvement in the Vietnam War. The operation was conducted from 18–29 December 1972, leading to several of informal names such as "The December Raids" and "The Christmas Bombings". It saw the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the US Air Force since the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Linebacker II was a resumption of the Operation Linebacker
Operation Linebacker
Operation Linebacker was the title of a U.S. Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial interdiction campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 9 May to 23 October 1972, during the Vietnam War....

 bombings conducted from May to October, with the emphasis of the new campaign shifted to attacks by B-52 Stratofortress
B-52 Stratofortress
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber operated by the United States Air Force since the 1950s. The B-52 was designed and built by Boeing, who have continued to provide maintainence and upgrades to the aircraft in service...

 bombers rather than tactical fighter aircraft. 1,600 civilians died in Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

 and Haiphong
, also Haiphong, is the third most populous city in Vietnam. The name means, "coastal defence".-History:Hai Phong was originally founded by Lê Chân, the female general of a Vietnamese revolution against the Chinese led by the Trưng Sisters in the year 43 C.E.The area which is now known as Duong...

 in the raids.

"Peace is at hand"

On 8 October 1972, U.S. National Security Advisor
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

 Dr. Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

 and North Vietnamese Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 member Le Duc Tho
Le Duc Tho
Lê Đức Thọ , born Phan Đình Khải in Ha Nam province, was a Vietnamese revolutionary, general, diplomat, and politician, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973, although he declined it....

 met in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. They were there to discuss new proposals by both nations, hoping to reach mutually agreeable terms for a peace settlement for the decade-old Vietnam war
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict 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 and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Tho presented a new North Vietnamese plan which included proposals for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of American forces, and an exchange of prisoners of war. All three Vietnamese combatant governments: North Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG) would remain intact, as would their separate armies. Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

 no longer demanded that South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu
Nguyen Van Thieu
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was president of South Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. He was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam , became head of a military junta, and then president after winning a fraudulent election...

 be removed from office, the U.S. did not have to cease its aid to the southern government and both Washington
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 and Hanoi could continue to resupply their allies or forces on a parity basis. No new North Vietnamese forces were to be infiltrated from the north and the U.S. agreed to extend post-war reconstruction assistance to North Vietnam.

The new terms on the table also included the establishment of a National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, a loosely defined administrative structure which was to work toward general and local elections within South Vietnam. Political power would be shared by three groups, the Saigon government, the PRG, and a "third force" group to be mutually agreed upon by the other two parties. Since it was to work by consensus, nothing could be accomplished by the new council without the agreement of President Thieu.

When the two sides convened again on 17 October, there were two main areas of disagreement: the periodic replacement of South Vietnam's American weaponry, and the release of political prisoners held by the Saigon government. The North Vietnamese had made significant modifications to their past negotiating position and were hurrying to get the agreement signed before November, believing that President Richard M. Nixon would be more willing to make concessions before, rather than after, the upcoming presidential election. Although there were still some issues to be finalized, Kissinger was generally satisfied with the new terms and so notified Nixon, who gave his approval to the settlement. The finalized agreement was to be signed in Hanoi on 31 October.
Kissinger then flew on to Saigon on the 18th to discuss the terms with Thieu. The South Vietnamese president was not happy with either the new agreement or with Kissinger, who he felt had betrayed him. Although Kissinger knew Thieu's negotiating position, he had not informed him of the changes made in Paris nor had his approval been sought. Kissinger "had negotiated on behalf of the South Vietnamese government provisions that he, Thieu, had already rejected." Thieu completely castigated the agreement and proposed 129 textual changes to the document. He went further, demanding that the Demilitarized Zone
Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone
The Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone was established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam as a result of the First Indochina War.During the Second Indochina War , it became important as the battleground demarcation separating North Vietnamese territory from South Vietnamese territory.-...

 separating the two Vietnams be recognized as a true international border and not as a "provisional military demarcation line" (as had been stipulated in the Geneva Accords) and that South Vietnam be recognized as a sovereign state. The supreme irony, in the words of Stanley Karnow, had now arrived: "having fought a war to defend South Vietnam's independence, the United States was now denying its legitimacy."

Thieu then went one step further on 26 October and publicly released an altered version of the text that made the South Vietnamese provisions look even worse than they actually were. The North Vietnamese leadership, believing that they had been hoodwinked by Kissinger, responded by broadcasting portions of the agreement that gave the impression that the agreement conformed to Washington and Saigon's objectives. Kissinger, hoping to both reassure the communists of America's sincerity and convince Thieu of the administration's dedication to a compromise, held a televised press conference at the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 during which he announced "We believe that peace is at hand."

On 20 November, the South Vietnamese revisions and 44 additional changes demanded by Nixon were presented to the North Vietnamese delegation by Kissinger (who personally considered them "preposterous"). These new demands included: That the DMZ be accepted as a true international boundary; that a token withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops take place; that the North Vietnamese guarantee an Indochina-wide cease fire and; that a strong international peace-keeping force (the ICCS) be created for supervising and enforcing the cease-fire.

Once the North Vietnamese read the new demands, they began to retract their own concessions and wanted to bargain anew, leading Kissinger (who fully understood their position) to proclaim that they were "stalling." The talks, scheduled to last ten days, ended on 13 December with both parties agreeing to resume negotiations. Teams of experts from each side met to discuss technicalities and protocols on 14 December, during which the North Vietnamese representatives submitted a Vietnamese-language text of the protocol on prisoners containing several important changes that Hanoi had failed to gain in the main negotiating sessions. At a subsequent meeting of experts on 16 December, the North Vietnamese side "stone-walled from beginning to end." The talks broke down that day, and the Hanoi negotiators refused to set a date for the resumption of negotiations.


Nixon was now working against a January deadline. Kissinger's "peace is at hand" statement had raised expectations of a settlement among the US population. Even weightier on the president's mind was the fact that the new Ninety-third Congress would go into session on 3 January, and the president feared that the heavily Democratic legislative branch would preempt his pledge of "peace with honor" by legislating an end to the war.

Also prompting the president toward some form of rapid offensive action was the cost of the force mobilization that had accompanied Operation Linebacker. The additional aircraft and personnel assigned to Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 for the operation was straining the Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

's budget. The cost of maintaining this "augmentation force" totaled over $4 billion by mid-autumn and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird insisted that the president request a supplementary defense appropriation from Congress to pay for it. Nixon and Kissinger were convinced that the legislative branch "would seize the opportunity to simply write the United States out of the war."

After returning from Paris on 14 December, and after consultations with Nixon, Kissinger fired off an ultimatum to Hanoi, threatening "grave consequences" if North Vietnam did not return to the negotiating table within 72 hours. On that day, Nixon ordered the reseeding of North Vietnamese ports with air-dropped naval mines and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

 direct the Air Force to begin planning for a bombing campaign (a three-day "maximum effort") which was to begin within 72 hours. Two days after the 16 December deadline had passed, the U.S. bombed Hanoi. Senior Air Force officers James R. Mccarthy and George B. Allison stated years later that the operation had been mainly politically driven, as a negotiation tool to "bring the point home".

Many historians of the Vietnam War follow the lead of President Nixon, who claimed that Hanoi's representatives had walked out of the talks, refusing to continue the negotiations. Both sides had proclaimed their willingness to continue the talks; however, Hanoi's negotiators refused to set a date, preferring to wait for the incoming Congress. The goal of President Nixon was not to convince Hanoi, but to convince Saigon. President Thieu had to be convinced that "whatever the formal wording of the cease-fire agreement, he could count on Nixon to come to the defense of South Vietnam if the North broke the cease-fire."


In the wake of Operation Linebacker, the U.S. had a force of 207 B-52 bombers available for use in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

. 54 bombers (all B-52Ds) were based at U-Tapao RTAFB, Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, while 153 were based at Andersen Air Force Base
Andersen Air Force Base
Andersen Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located approximately northeast of Yigo in the United States territory of Guam....

, Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

 (55 B-52Ds and 98 B-52Gs). This deployment, however, utilized nearly half of the Air Force's manned bomber fleet and Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 (SAC) commanders were initially reluctant to risk the highly expensive aircraft and their highly trained crews in such an operation. The use of large numbers of B-52s was unprecedented in the war and the proposed large-scale attacks on targets within 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) of Hanoi "represented a dynamic change in the employment of air resources." Many within SAC, however, welcomed the opportunity to fly into the heavily defended airspace of North Vietnam, hoping to finally prove the viability of manned bombers in a sophisticated Soviet-style air defense network of surface-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

s (SAMs), anti-aircraft artillery and MiG
-Industry:*MiG, now Mikoyan, a Russian aircraft corporation, formerly the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau*Metal inert gas welding or MIG welding, a type of welding using an electric arc and a shielding gas-Business and finance:...


One purely local reason for utilizing the B-52s instead of tactical aircraft for the planned campaign was the September through May monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

 weather within North Vietnam, which made visual bombing operations by tactical fighter-bombers difficult. The B-52s were equipped with their own radar bomb navigation systems and supporting fighter-bombers would be able to strike targets with either newly-deployed laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

-guided bombs in clear weather or by utilizing LORAN
LORAN is a terrestrial radio navigation system using low frequency radio transmitters in multiple deployment to determine the location and speed of the receiver....

 and radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

-guided bombing systems.

The new operation, given the title Linebacker II, was marked by top-down planning by the SAC headquarters at Offutt AFB, Omaha
Omaha may refer to:*Omaha , a Native American tribe that currently resides in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Nebraska-Places:United States* Omaha, Nebraska* Omaha, Arkansas* Omaha, Georgia* Omaha, Illinois* Omaha, Texas...

, Nebraska
Nebraska is a state on the Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. The state's capital is Lincoln and its largest city is Omaha, on the Missouri River....

. Due to the restrictive time frame imposed by Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 (only three days) and the experience of Linebacker (in which North Vietnamese fighter aircraft had posed the highest threat to the bombers), SAC's plan called for all of the bombers to approach Hanoi at night in three distinct waves, each using identical approach paths and flying at the same altitude. The aircraft themselves were to fly in three-plane formations known as "cells" for more effective electronic warfare
Electronic warfare
Electronic warfare refers to any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum or directed energy to control the spectrum, attack an enemy, or impede enemy assaults via the spectrum. The purpose of electronic warfare is to deny the opponent the advantage of, and ensure friendly...

 (EW) jamming coverage.

Once the aircraft had dropped their bombs, they were to execute what SAC termed "post-target turns" (PTT) to the west. These turns had two unfortunate consequences for the bombers: the B-52s would be turning into a strong headwind, slowing their ground speed by 100 knots (185 km/h) and prolonging their stay in the target area and the PTT would point the emitter antennas of their EW systems away from the radars they were attempting to jam, degrading the effectiveness of the cells, as well as showing the largest radar cross-section to the missile guidance radars. The aircraft employed, however, had significantly different EW capabilities; the B-52G carried fewer jammers and put out appreciably less power than the B-52Ds, however had they had more efficient engines and larger fuel tanks, hence they were assigned to longer range mission routes. Because of these factors, the campaign would ultimately be conducted in three distinct phases as tactics and plans were altered in response to losses to SAMs.

Initial phase

The first three missions of the operation were flown as planned by SAC on three consecutive nights beginning on 18 December. On the first night 129 bombers were launched, 87 of them from Guam. 39 support aircraft of the Seventh Air Force, the Navy's Task Force 77, and the Marine Corps
Marine corps
A marine is a member of a force that specializes in expeditionary operations such as amphibious assault and occupation. The marines traditionally have strong links with the country's navy...

 supported the bombers by providing F-4
F-4 Phantom II
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engined, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/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,...

 fighter escorts, F-105 Wild Weasel
Wild Weasel
A Wild Weasel is an aircraft specially equipped with radar seeking missiles, and tasked with destroying the radars and SAM installations of enemy air defence systems....

 SAM-suppression missions, Air Force EB-66
B-66 Destroyer
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Baugher, Joe. USAAC/USAAF/USAF Bomber Aircraft: Third Series of USAAC/USAAF/USAF Bombers, 2001. Retrieved: 27 July 2006....

 and Navy EA-6 radar-jamming aircraft, chaff drops, KC-135 refueling capability, and search and rescue aircraft; the skies were dominated by American airpower to ensure the safety of the aircraft involved in the operation.
The targets of the first wave of bombers were the North Vietnamese airfields at Kep, Phuc Yen, and Hoa Lac and a warehouse complex at Yen Vien while the second and third waves struck targets around Hanoi itself. Three aircraft were shot down by the 68 SAMs launched by North Vietnamese batteries, two B-52G's from Andersen and a B-52D from U-Tapao. Two D models from Andersen with heavy battle damage managed to limp into U-Tapao for repairs. Only one of the three downed crews could be rescued. That same evening, an Air Force F-111 Aardvark was shot down while on a mission to bomb the broadcasting facilities of Radio Hanoi.

Unlike the initiation of Linebacker, which had been launched in response to a North Vietnamese offensive in South Vietnam, President Nixon did not address the nation on television to explain the escalation. Instead, Kissinger held a press conference at which he accused (at Nixon's behest) Le Duc Tho of having "backed off" on some of the October understandings.

On the second night, 93 sorties were flown by the bombers. Their targets included the Kinh No Railroad and storage area, the Thai Nguyen thermal power plant, and the Yen Vien complex. Although an 20 SAMs were launched and a number of the bombers were damaged, none were lost on the mission. SAC expected that the third (and supposedly last) night of the operation would proceed just as well as the previous one.

The targets of the 99 bombers sent in on 20 December included the Yen Vien Railroad yards, the Ai Mo warehouse complex, the Thai Nguyen power plant, a transhipment point at Bac Giang, the Kinh No Railroad complex, and the Hanoi petroleum products storage area–all in or near Hanoi. The combination of repetitive tactics, degraded EW systems, and limited jamming capability, however, led to dire consequences when, as the official Air Force history of the campaign has stated, "all hell broke loose."

The repetitious nature of the previous evening's strike profiles had allowed North Vietnamese air defense forces to anticipate strike patterns and to salvo 34 missiles into the target area. Four B-52Gs and three B-52Ds were lost in the first and third waves of the mission. A fourth D model, returning to Thailand, crashed in Laos. Only two of the eight downed crews were recovered by search and rescue aircraft.
The repercussions from the mission were fast and furious. SAC headquarters was under pressure from "many external sources" to "stop the carnage...it has become a blood bath." Of more concern was the position taken by many senior Air Force officers "that we would lose too many bombers and that airpower doctrine would be proven fallacious...or, if the bombing were stopped, the same thing would occur."

The main problem seemed to lie within the headquarters of SAC, which had based its tactics on a MiG threat that had not materialized during the three missions. The tactics utilized (flight paths, altitudes, formations, timing, etc.) had not varied. The Air Force explanation for this course of events was that the similarity would be helpful to the B-52 crews, who were inexperienced in flying in such high-threat environments. Air Force historian Earl Tilford offered a differing opinion: "Years of dropping bombs on undefended jungle and the routines of planning for nuclear war had fostered a mind-set within the SAC command that nearly led to disaster...Poor tactics and a good dose of overconfidence combined to make the first few nights of Linebacker nightmarish for the B-52 crews."


It was at this point that President Nixon ordered that the effort be extended past its original three-day deadline. The first change that could be made by local Air Force commanders was divulged by a comparison of the differences between the radar jamming equipment of the B-52 models. The equipment aboard the G models was designed for use in the more sophisticated air defense environment of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, not against the more antiquated SAM-2 and FAN-SONG radar systems utilized by the North Vietnamese. SAC headquarters in Omaha stipulated that only the aircraft stationed at U-Tapao (equipped with more powerful and sophisticated ECM gear) be allowed over the North. As a result the attack waves were reduced in size, although the tactics employed did not change.

On the fourth night (21 December) of the operation, 30 of the U-Tapao bombers struck the Hanoi storage area, the Van Dien storage depot, and Quang Te Airfield. Two more of the D models were lost to SAMs. On the following night, the target area shifted away from Hanoi to the port city of Haiphong and its petroleum storage areas. Once again, 30 aircraft participated in the strikes, but this time there were no losses among the bombers. An F-111, however, was shot down over the Kinh No Railroad complex.
On the 22nd, a wing of the Bach Mai Hospital, located in the southern suburbs of Hanoi, was struck by an errant string of bombs from a single B-52. The civilian deaths were turned into a cause celebre by the North Vietnamese and U.S. peace activists. The hospital sat 1 kilometer from the runway of Bach Mai Military Airfield and a major fuel storage facility was only 200 yards away. Fortunately, the patients of the hospital wing had been evacuated from the city, but 28 doctors, nurses, and pharmacists were killed.

Two days before Christmas, SAC added SAM sites and airfields to the target list. Air Force F-111s were sent in before the arrival of the bombers in order to strike the airfields and reduce the threat of enemy fighters. The Aardvarks proved so successful in these operations that their mission for the rest of the campaign was shifted to SAM site suppression.

The bomber missions of the sixth night (23 December) again avoided Hanoi and hit SAM sites northeast of the city and the Lang Dang Railroad yards. There were no losses. On the following night, the run of luck (and avoidance of Hanoi) continued. Thirty bombers, supported by 69 tactical aircraft, struck the railyards at Thai Nguyen and Kep and no American aircraft were lost during the mission.

Although the Stratofortresses garnered the lion's share of the publicity during the campaign, their "little brothers", the tactical aircraft, were also hard at work. While the B-52s and F-111s attacked by night, an average of 69 tactical aircraft of the Air Force, Navy and Marines attacked by day (averaging nearly 100 sorties per day). Losses for these aircraft were extremely light, with fewer than a dozen lost during the entire campaign. It was not difficult for their crews to deduce why. The North Vietnamese air defense forces "simply waited for nightfall and the arrival of more lucrative targets."

Final phase

The strikes of the 24th were followed by a 36-hour Christmas stand-down, during which Air Force planners went to work to revise their plans for the next phase of operations. Due to aircraft losses during the initial phase, they intended to launch an all-out attack on North Vietnam's air defenses when the operation resumed. This course was also necessary since, by Christmas, most of the strategic targets within North Vietnam were in shambles.

SAC also belatedly turned over tactical mission planning to its subordinate Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 headquarters on Guam, which promptly revised the previously costly tactics. Instead of utilizing multiple waves, all of the bombers would be in and out of the target area within 20 minutes and they would approach from multiple directions and at different altitudes. They would exit by varying routes and the steep PTTs were eliminated. Ten targets, in both the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, were to be struck by bombers approaching in seven separate streams, four of which were to come in off the Gulf of Tonkin
Gulf of Tonkin
The Gulf of Tonkin is an arm of the South China Sea, lying off the coast of northeastern Vietnam.-Etymology:The name Tonkin, written "東京" in Hán tự and Đông Kinh in romanised Vietnamese, means "Eastern Capital", and is the former toponym for Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam...

. Additional jammers were also installed in the B-52Gs, allowing them to return to the operation.

On 26 December, 120 bombers lifted off to strike Thai Nguyen, the Kinh No complex, the Duc Noi, Hanoi, and Haiphong Railroads, and a vehicle storage area at Van Dien. 78 of the bombers took off from Andersen in one time block, the largest single combat launch in SAC history, while 42 others came in from Thailand. The bombers were supported by 113 tactical aircraft which provided chaff corridors, escort fighters, Wild Weasel
Wild Weasel
A Wild Weasel is an aircraft specially equipped with radar seeking missiles, and tasked with destroying the radars and SAM installations of enemy air defence systems....

 SAM suppression, and electronic countermeasures
Electronic countermeasures
An electronic countermeasure is an electrical or electronic device designed to trick or deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems, like infrared or lasers. It may be used both offensively and defensively to deny targeting information to an enemy...


The North Vietnamese air defense system, though still capable, was overwhelmed by the number of aircraft it had to track in such a short time period and by a dense blanket of chaff laid down by the fighter-bombers. 250 SAMs had been fired, and the strain on the remaining North Vietnamese inventory showed, since only 68 were fired during the mission. One B-52 was shot down near Hanoi and another damaged aircraft made it back to U-Tapao, where it crashed just short of the runway. Only two members of the crew survived.

On the following night, 60 bombers flew the mission, with some attacking SAM sites while others struck Lang Dang, Duc Noi, the Trung Quang Railroad, and Van Dien. One B-52 was so heavily damaged that its crew ejected over Laos, where it was rescued. A second aircraft was not so lucky. It took a direct hit and went down while attacking the Trung Quang Railroad yards. During the evening's operations two F-4s and an HH-53 search and rescue helicopter were also shot down.

Day ten (28 December) called for strikes by 60 B-52s–15 Gs and 15 Ds from Andersen and 30 Ds from U-Tapao, The aircraft formed six waves attacking five targets. Four of the waves struck targets in the Hanoi area (including SAM Support Facility #58), while the fifth hit the Lang Dang Railroad yards southwest of Lang Son, a major chokepoint on the supply route from the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. No aircraft were lost on the mission.

By the eleventh and final day (29 December), there were few strategic targets worthy of mention left within North Vietnam. There were, however, two SAM storage areas at Phuc Yen and the Lang Dang yards that could be profitably attacked. A total of 60 aircraft again made the trip north, but the mix was altered; U-Tapao again provided 30 D models but the Andersen force was varied, putting 12 G models and 18 Ds over the north. Total bombing was rounded out by sending 30 G models on Arclight missions in southern panhandle of North Vietnam and in South Vietnam. Once again, there were no aircraft losses to anti-aircraft fire, MiGs, or missiles.


On 22 December, Washington asked Hanoi to return to the talks with the terms offered in October. On 26 December, Hanoi notified Washington that it was willing to "impress upon Nixon that the bombing was not the reason for this decision, the VWP Politburo told Nixon that halting the bombing was not a precondition for further talks." Nixon replied that he wanted the technical discussions to resume on 2 January and that he would halt the bombing if Hanoi agreed. They did so and Nixon suspended aerial operations north of the 20th parallel on 29 December. He then informed Kissinger to accept the terms offered in October, if that was what it took to get the agreement signed. Senator Henry Jackson
Henry M. Jackson
Henry Martin "Scoop" Jackson was a U.S. Congressman and Senator from the state of Washington from 1941 until his death...

 (D, Wash.), tried to persuade Nixon to make a televised address in order to explain to the American people that "we bombed them in order to get them back to the table." It would, however, have been extremely difficult to get informed observers in the U.S. to believe that he "had bombed Hanoi in order to force North Vietnamese acceptance of terms they had already agreed to."

Now the only stumbling block on the road to an agreement was President Thieu. Nixon tried to placate him by writing on 5 January that "you have my assurance of continued assistance in the post-settlement period and that we will respond with full force should the settlement be violated by North Vietnam." By this time, however, (due to congressional opposition) Nixon was in no position to make such a promise, since the possibility of obtaining the requisite congressional appropriations was nil. The South Vietnamese president, however, still refused to agree. On the 14th Nixon made his most serious threat: "I have therefore irrevocably decided to proceed to initial the agreement on January 23, 1973...I will do so, if necessary, alone. One day before the deadline, Thieu bowed to the inevitable and consented to the agreement.

On 9 January Kissinger and Le Duc Tho returned to Paris. The agreement struck between the U.S. and North Vietnam was basically the same one that had been reached in October. The additional demands that had been made by the U.S. in December were generally discarded or went against the U.S. John Negroponte, one of Kissinger's aides during the negotiations, was more caustic: "We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions." The DMZ was defined as provided for in the Geneva Accords
Geneva accords
The Geneva Accords, known formally as the agreements on the settlement of the situation relating to Afghanistan, were signed on 14 April 1988 between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the United States and the Soviet Union serving as guarantors....

 of 1954, and would in no way be recognized as an international boundary. The demanded withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam was not mentioned at all in the text of the agreement. Kissinger did, however, obtain a "verbal agreement" from Tho for a token withdrawal of 30,000 North Vietnamese troops.

The demand for an inclusive, Indochina-wide cease-fire was simply discarded in the written agreement. Once again, Kissinger had to be satisfied with a "verbal understanding" that a cease-fire would be instituted in Laos simultaneous with, or shortly following, that in South Vietnam. An agreement on Cambodia (where the North Vietnamese had no influence whatsoever over the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

) was out of the question. The size of the ICCS was finally decided by splitting the difference in the number demanded by both parties at 1,160 personnel. The Paris Peace Accords
Paris Peace Accords
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 intended to establish peace in Vietnam and an end to the Vietnam War, ended direct U.S. military involvement, and temporarily stopped the fighting between North and South Vietnam...

 were signed at the Majestic Hotel in Paris on 27 January 1973.


During operation Linebacker II a total of 741 B-52 sorties had been dispatched to bomb North Vietnam and 729 had actually completed their missions. 15,237 tons of ordnance were dropped on 18 industrial and 14 military targets (including eight SAM sites) while fighter-bombers added another 5,000 tons of bombs to the tally. 212 additional B-52 missions were flown within South Vietnam in support of ground operations during the same time period. Ten B-52s had been shot down over the North and five others had been damaged and crashed in Laos or Thailand. 33 B-52 crew members were killed or missing in action, another 33 became prisoners of war, and 26 more were rescued. North Vietnamese air defense forces claimed that 34 B-52s and four F-111s had been shot down during the campaign.

769 additional sorties were flown by the Air Force and 505 by the Navy and Marine Corps in support of the bombers. 12 of these aircraft were lost on the missions (two F-111s, three F-4s, two A-7
A-7 Corsair II
The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II is a carrier-based subsonic light attack aircraft introduced to replace the United States Navy's Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, initially entering service during the Vietnam War...

s, two A-6
A-6 Intruder
The Grumman A-6 Intruder was an American, twin jet-engine, mid-wing attack aircraft built by Grumman Aerospace. In service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps between 1963 and 1997, the Intruder was designed as an all-weather medium attack aircraft to replace the piston-engined A-1 Skyraider...

s, an EB-66
B-66 Destroyer
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Baugher, Joe. USAAC/USAAF/USAF Bomber Aircraft: Third Series of USAAC/USAAF/USAF Bombers, 2001. Retrieved: 27 July 2006....

, an HH-53 rescue helicopter, and an RA-5C
A-5 Vigilante
The North American A-5 Vigilante was a carrier-based supersonic bomber designed for the United States Navy. Its service in the nuclear strike role to replace the A-3 Skywarrior was very short; however, as the RA-5C, it saw extensive service during the Vietnam War in the tactical strike...

 reconnaissance aircraft). During these operations, ten American aviators were killed, eight captured, and 11 rescued. Overall US Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, one EB-66 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 four to unknown causes. A total of eight MiGs were shot down during the operation, including two by B-52 tail gunners.

Damage to North Vietnam's infrastructure was severe. The Air Force estimated 500 rail interdictions had taken place, 372 pieces of rolling stock and three million gallons of petroleum products were destroyed, and 80 percent of North Vietnam's electrical power production capability had been eliminated. Logistical inputs into North Vietnam were assessed by U.S. intelligence at 160,000 tons per month when the operation began. By January 1973, those imports had dropped to 30,000 tons per month. The North Vietnamese government criticized the operation stating that the U.S. had "carpet-bombed hospitals, schools, and residential areas, committing barbarous crimes against our people", citing the bombing of Bach Mai Hospital
Bach Mai Hospital
Bach Mai Hospital is a multi-field medical facility in Hanoi and is considered one of the largest in Vietnam. The hospital was established in 1911 during the French colonial rule. It played important role in the health system of Vietnam and is one of three high specialized medical centers,...

 and Kham Thien street on 26 December which they claimed had resulted in 278 dead and 290 wounded, and over 2,000 homes destroyed. In total, Hanoi claimed that 1,624 civilians had been killed by the bombing.

Both the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 denounced the bombing, while some Western countries also criticized the US operation. Olof Palme
Olof Palme
Sven Olof Joachim Palme was a Swedish politician. A long-time protegé of Prime Minister Tage Erlander, Palme led the Swedish Social Democratic Party from 1969 to his assassination, and was a two-term Prime Minister of Sweden, heading a Privy Council Government from 1969 to 1976 and a cabinet...

, the Prime Minister of Sweden
Prime Minister of Sweden
The Prime Minister is the head of government in the Kingdom of Sweden. Before the creation of the office of a Prime Minister in 1876, Sweden did not have a head of government separate from its head of state, namely the King, in whom the executive authority was vested...

, compared the operation to a number of historical atrocities including the bombing of Guernica, the massacres of Oradour-sur-Glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Sharpeville, and the extermination of Jews and other groups at Treblinka, which resulted in a cooling of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In America, Nixon was criticized as a "madman", and some of the people who supported Operation Linebacker I, questioned the necessity and unusual intensity of the operation.

U.S. aircraft lost

Date Type Service Cause
Dec. 18 F-111A USAF unk.
Dec. 20 B-52D USAF SA-2
Dec. 21 B-52D USAF SA-2
Dec. 22 F-111A USAF unk.
Dec. 23 EB-66C USAF engine out
Dec. 26 B-52D USAF SA-2
Dec. 27 F-4E USAF MiG-21
F-4E USAF MiG-21
HH-53 USAF small arms
Dec. 28 RA-5C USN MiG-21

U.S. air order of battle

United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 – Task Force 77
Air Wing Ship Aircraft
Carrier Air Wing 8 USS America
USS America (CV-66)
The USS America was one of four Kitty Hawk-class super carriers built for the United States Navy in the 1960s. Commissioned in 1965, she spent most of her career in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, but did make three Pacific deployments serving in the Vietnam War. She also served in operations...

F-4, A-6, A-7
Carrier Air Wing 14 USS Enterprise
USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
USS Enterprise , formerly CVA-65, is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the eighth US naval vessel to bear the name. Like her predecessor of World War II fame, she is nicknamed the "Big E". At , she is the longest naval vessel in the world...

F-4, A-6, A-7
Carrier Air Wing 5 USS Midway
USS Midway (CV-41)
USS Midway was an aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, the lead ship of her class, and the first to be commissioned after the end of World War II...

F-4, A-7
Carrier Air Wing 19 USS Oriskany
USS Oriskany (CV-34)
USS Oriskany – nicknamed Mighty O, The O-boat, and Toasted O – was one of 24 s completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy. The ship was the third US Navy ship to bear the name, and was named for the Revolutionary War Battle of Oriskany.The history of...

F-8, A-7
Carrier Air Wing 2 USS Ranger
USS Ranger (CV-61)
The seventh USS Ranger is one of four Forrestal-class supercarriers built for the US Navy in the 1950s. Commissioned in 1957, she served extensively in the Pacific, especially the Vietnam War, for which she earned 13 battle stars. Near the end of her career she also served in the Indian Ocean and...

F-4, A-6, A-7
Carrier Air Wing 3 USS Saratoga
USS Saratoga (CV-60)
USS Saratoga , was one of four Forrestal- class supercarriers built for the US Navy in the 1950s. Saratoga was the sixth US Navy ship, and the second aircraft carrier, to be named for the Battle of Saratoga in the American Revolutionary War.Commissioned in 1956, she spent most of her career in...

F-4, A-6, A-7

United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 – Seventh Air Force
Seventh Air Force
The Seventh Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces . It is headquartered at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea....

Wing Station Aircraft
8th Tactical Fighter Wing † Ubon RTAFB, Thailand F-4
354th Tactical Fighter Wing Korat RTAFB, Thailand A-7
388th Tactical Fighter Wing Korat RTAFB, Thailand F-4, F-105G
432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing ‡ Udon RTAFB
Udon Thani International Airport
Udonthani International Airport is an airport located near the city of Udon Thani in Udon Thani Province in the northeast region of Thailand. It is approximately 280 miles northeast of Bangkok...

, Thailand
F-4, RF-4
474th Tactical Fighter Wing
474th Tactical Fighter Wing
The 474th Air Expeditionary Group is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to Air Combat Command. It may be activated or inactivated at any time....

Takhli RTAFB, Thailand F-111
43d Strategic Wing Andersen AFB, Guam B-52D
72d Strategic Wing (Provisional) Andersen AFB, Guam B-52G
307th Strategic Wing U Tapao RTAFB, Thailand B-52D

† additionally, two squadrons from the 4th TFW at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, and one squadron from 33d TFW at Eglin AFB, Florida

‡ additionally, two squadrons from 366th TFW after its departure from Da Nang AB, RVN

External links

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