Operation Rolling Thunder

Operation Rolling Thunder was the sustained United States aerial bombing campaign that was carried out by USAF’s 2nd Air Division, the US Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force against North Vietnam from February 24, 1965, to November 1, 1968, during the Vietnam War. Although the main rationale for this campaign was to force Ho Chi Minh to abandon his ambition to take over South Vietnam, Operation Rolling Thunder had four other objectives.

1) To interdict the flow of men and material into South Vietnam; 2) to persuade North Vietnam to cease its support for the communist insurgency in South Vietnam without actually taking any ground forces into communist North Vietnam; 3) to destroy North Vietnam’s transportation system, industrial base, and air defenses; 4) To boost the sagging morale of the Saigon regime in the Republic of Vietnam. Attainment of these objectives was made difficult by both the restraints imposed upon the U.S and its allies by Cold War exigencies and by the military aid and assistance received by North Vietnam from its communist allies, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The Operation Rolling Thunder was the most intense air/ground battle waged during the Cold War period, indeed, it was the most difficult such campaign fought by the US Air Force since the aerial bombardment of Nazi Germany during World War II. Due to the high-tech arms supplies provided by its communist allies, North Vietnam fielded a potent mixture of sophisticated air-to-air and ground-to-air weapons that created one of the most effective air defense environments ever faced by American military aviators.

On March 31, 1968, President Lyndon B Johnson restricted the bombing of North Vietnam to the southern part of the country, bringing Operation Rolling Thunder to an end on November 1, 1968. Preliminary discussions began in Paris in May but bogged down over trivial issues. In November, Johnson made another concession, ending the bombing throughout the north, and serious negotiations began in January 1969.

Operation Rolling Thunder

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