Strike Fighters 2 Vietnam Campaign Background

Operation Rolling Thunder

On March 2, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson commences Operation Rolling Thunder, a sustained but restricted aerial bombardment campaign against North Vietnam.

The objective of the campaign is to deliver a message to Hanoi that a negotiated settlement is preferable to continuing the conflict. Using the doctrine of "gradual escalation," U.S. warplanes are ordered to strike limited targets selected to bring North Vietnamese government to the negotiating table.

Operation Linebacker I

March 1972, after building up its military during the three years of bombing halt, North Vietnam had launched a massive invasion of the South using their regular troops, tanks and artillery.

On May 8, 1972, President Nixon authorizes Operation Linebacker I in response. The objectives of the campaign are to destroy the supply chain supporting the invasion and to force North Vietnam to resume peace talks. In contrast to Rolling Thunder where the White House had handpicked all the individual targets, operational commanders are allowed to select targets.

Operation Linebacker II

On December 18, 1972, President Nixon orders Operation Linebacker II, a maximum-effort bombing of Hanoi. It has become clear that North Vietnam is simply using the peace meetings as propaganda tool to buy more time while engaging in a massive military buildup.

The objectives of this campaign are to decisively destroy the military-industrial targets in North Vietnam, to force North Vietnam to resume the delayed peace negotiations, and to end the war in terms acceptable to the U.S.

Historical Epilogue

The "gradual escalation" policy used by President Johnson in Rolling Thunder campaign did eventually bring the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table, but it took over 3 years of fighting and at a cost of almost 1,000 U.S. aircraft lost.

In contrast, decisive use of U.S. air power during the Linebacker II campaign by President Nixon forced the North Vietnamese to resume peace talks in only 11 days and with only 27 U.S. aircraft lost.

The peace agreement was signed in Paris on January 23, 1973. Most of the U.S. ground combat troops had already left the region by mid-1972, and any remainder of the U.S. forces were removed following the peace agreement.

Removal of the US forces, however, did not end the war in the region.

By October 1973, Viet Cong had already broken the ceasefire agreement and resumed its offensive, while North Vietnam was busy re-building its military with aids from Soviet Union and China.

South Vietnamese military, on the other hand, slowly went into decline as the shell-shocked U.S. Congress placed an arms embargo on South Vietnam to prevent any further U.S. involvement in the region.

On spring 1975, North Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of the South. With very little media coverage and no U.S. support, the South quickly surrendered, forcing the U.S. to evacuate the Saigon Embassy under hostile fire.

Neighboring Laos and Cambodia were also overrun by the Communist troops the same year...