Congress to Cut Aid to War Effort
By December 1972, America's patience had worn thin with an enemy unwilling to sustain meaningful negotiations to resolve the conflict in Vietnam. President Nixon was faced with the task of resolving the withdrawal of US troops, and somehow obtaining the release of over 500 Prisoners of War held in North Vietnam. The US Congress would, after their Christmas recess, cut off funding for the military effort, creating a very uncertain future for the fate of the POWs and the legacy of America's involvement in the war.
"He says to me...don't let the politicians get you killed."
- Jim Pieczko, F-4 pilot
"We'd been flying with our hands tied behind our back for so long."
- B.C. Connelly, F-4 pilot
"We knew that this was going to get the POWs out."
- Nick Holoviak, F-4 EWO
President Nixon decided that a "maximum effort" was needed to bring the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. The operation known as Linebacker II was about to begin.
"This was the greatest air show on earth"
- Dick Rynearson, B-52 pilot
"Let me tell you, 3 miles of B-52s ...is an impressive sight"
- Terry Geloneck, B-52 pilot
"No B-52 had ever gone into Pac 6... It was the symphony of fireworks."
- Ed Rasimus, F-4 pilot
"I was as confident as any 25 year old, I was not going to die."
- Bob Certain, B-52 Navigator
On December 18, 1972 the strategic bombing campaign of North Vietnam began. During the 12 days that followed, over 1300 air strike sorties, including 729 by B-52s, pounded North Vietnam day and night. Unleashing the massive power of the B-52s was the key element of the campaign, but it was not without cost. Most of the targets were within 10 nautical miles of Hanoi, who many said was the "most heavily defended city in the world."
"We're either going to get out now... or wi'll never get out."
- Paul Kari, POW
"We were exactly on target, when the SAM from below kissed us on the cheek and we lost the plane and half the crew"
- Bob Certain, B-52 Navigator
Fifteen B-52s were shot down by over 1000 Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs). Of the 92 B-52 crew members involved in the losses, 33 died, 34 were captured and 26 were rescued.
"We underestimated the North Vietnamese from day one to day last."
-Joe Guilmartin, PhD Ohio State University
"It's a Coney Island duck shoot"
- Nick Hinch, B-52 Radar Navigator
"We're coming in on the same routes, the same altitudes and the same turning points as the guys on day one."
- Terry Geloneck, B-52 Pilot
During the first three days of the operation, the North Vietnamese downed nine of the B-52s, shocking not only to crew members, but to staff and planners as well. It was obvious the tactical planning done by the Strategic Air Command (SAC) from Omaha, Nebraska, was seriously flawed and changes needed to be made. Interestingly, the changes came from input from crew members in the field and the staff at Utapao, Thailand, which resulted in an important message sent directly to SAC headquarters. Changes were made and the battle plan evolved into a very effective force bearing down on the North Vietnamese.
The damage to targets in the North was severe, both militarily and psychologically. More importantly, it brought the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table and ultimately obtained the release of the POWs held in Vietnam