Operation Rolling Thunder (1966)

Operation Rolling Thunder (1966)
This photograph, captured on June 14, 1966, shows American pilots bomb a military target through low clouds over the southern panhandle of North Vietnam.

This bombing took place under Operation Rolling Thunder - a gradual and sustained aerial bombardment campaign conducted by the United States 2nd Air Division (later Seventh Air Force), US Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from March 2, 1965 until November 2, 1968, during the Vietnam War.

The four objectives of the operation  were to boost the sagging morale of the Saigon regime in the Republic of Vietnam; to persuade North Vietnam to cease its support for the communist insurgency in South Vietnam without sending ground forces into communist North Vietnam; to destroy North Vietnam’s transportation system, industrial base, and air defences; and to halt the flow of men and material into South Vietnam.

Attainment of these objectives was made difficult by both the restraints imposed upon the US 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, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea.

The operation became the most intense air/ground battle waged during the Cold War period; it was the most difficult such campaign fought by the United States since the aerial bombardment of Germany during World War II. Supported by communist allies, North Vietnam fielded a potent mixture of sophisticated air-to-air and surface-to-air weapons that created one of the most effective air defences ever faced by American military aviators. n