Air War Over North Vietnam

Operation Rolling Thunder, 1965–1968

Stephen Emerson

Date Published :
March 2018
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Series :
Cold War 1945–1991
Illustration :
80 b/w & 40 color images
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781526708229
Pages : 128
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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In early 1965 the United States unleashed the largest sustained aerial bombing campaign since World War II, against North Vietnam. Through an ever escalating onslaught of destruction, Operation Rolling Thunder intended to signal America’s unwavering commitment to its South Vietnamese ally in the face of continued North Vietnamese aggression, break Hanoi’s political will to prosecute the war, and bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict. It was not to be. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and fears of widening the conflict into a global confrontation, Washington policy makers micromanaged and mismanaged the air campaign and increasingly muddled strategic objectives and operational methods that ultimately sowed the seeds of failure, despite the heroic sacrifices by U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots and crews

Despite flying some 306,000 combat sorties and dropping 864,000 tons of ordnance on North Vietnam – 42 per cent more than that used in the Pacific theater during World War II – Operation Rolling Thunder failed to drive Hanoi decisively to the negotiating table and end the war. That would take another four years and another air campaign. But by building on the hard earned political and military lessons of the past, the Nixon Administration and American military commanders would get another chance to prove themselves when they implemented operations Linebacker I and II in May and December 1972\. And this time the results would be vastly different.

About The Author

Stephen Emerson was born in San Diego, California into a U.S. Navy family: his father was a career naval aviator and his mother a former Navy nurse. Steve grew up on various Navy bases during the Vietnam War. His father served two combat tours as an attack pilot in Vietnam flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder while flying off the USS Midway in 1965 with VA-22 and later as commanding officer of VA-146 flying the A-7 Corsair II while embarked on the USS Enterprise in 1969. Steve worked as intelligence analyst covering political-military affairs in Africa and the Middle East. He served as Security Studies Chair at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies and previously as an associate professor of National Security Decision-making at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. As the author of more than 100 classified and unclassified publications, Steve has written widely on subjects from American national security affairs and political instability to terrorism, African conflicts, and counter-insurgency. Chief among these are his critical assessment of U.S. counter-terrorism policy in Africa, ‘The Battle for Africa’s Hearts and Minds’, and his comprehensive military history of the Mozambican civil war in The Battle for Mozambique. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations/Comparative Politics from the University of Florida and currently resides in Orlando, Florida.


“I strongly recommend Emerson’s book to everyone from military member, to policy maker, to anyone interested in history. As always, there are lessons to be learned that can be applied to present conflicts as well as those in the future.”

- Roger H. Ducey, Colonel, US Air Force (ret.)

"Stephen Emerson does an outstanding job of outlining the complicated flashpoint of Vietnam that lasted for more than 30 years and culminated with the height of the Vietnam War... well-written and articulates to history buffs and novices alike by remaining focused on Operation Rolling Thunder and the fight for air supremacy."

- Air & Space Power Journal

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