The Christmas Bombing

In December 1972, B-52 bombers that North Vietnamese missile crews had been waiting for came to Hanoi. Night after night. Over virtually the same track.

A munitions specialist prepares a bomb to be used during Operation Linebacker over North Vietnam. (USAF)
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The Vietnamese, however, said the bombing had a different aim. They insist that the bombing was meant to force them to capitulate and to withdraw their troops from South Vietnam. Thus, when the Paris agreement allowed the North Vietnamese troops to stay in the south, they were able to claim that Linebacker II had "failed," a belief reinforced when the North Vietnamese troops that had stayed in the south led the final unification offensive in 1975. But to completely understand the difference in interpretation, I had to realize that, in the Vietnamese view, Linebacker II was simply another victory in a string of victories in a 30-year war of independence. The proof that the battle was a victory was the final unification of their country.

This article appeared in the December 2000/January 2001 issue of Air&Space/Smithsonian. It was adapted from Marshall Michel's book, The Eleven Days of Christmas: America's Last Vietnam Battle, published by Encounter Books.


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