Ignorance and Air Power: The Failure of U. S. Leadership to Properly Utilize Air Power in Vietnam

4192 WordsJun 22, 201817 Pages
Ignorance and Air Power: The Failure of U. S. Leadership to Properly Utilize Air Power in Vietnam Major Ted Tolman’s F-105 Thud fighter/bomber streaked through the air at just under the speed of sound. His aircraft performed modestly at best, struggling to maintain its speed and altitude under the heavy load of ordinance and fuel it carried under its wings (Patrick). Tolman, and his wingman Major Lonnie Ferguson, were en route to a rail line that served to distribute supplies from Cam Pha Harbor to enemy troops throughout North Vietnam. The harbor itself was protected from attack by orders coming directly from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, meaning the only way to neutralize supplies coming through the harbor was to…show more content…
Named Operation Rolling Thunder, it had three main goals. First, it was intended to reduce the flow of men and material from North Vietnam to the insurgents in the South; second, to send a message to the North Vietnamese, showing them that their support of the Viet Cong would be very costly; and third, to raise the morale of South Vietnamese troops (Dorschel 3). Rolling Thunder was based on the theory of strategic interdiction, which simply stated uses air power to reduce the enemy’s logistical abilities to a level below what is necessary to sustain combat operations (Dorschel 4). The most effective way to do this is to use overwhelming force to attack those targets most vital to the operation of the enemy’s military forces, including production and distribution facilities, military bases, and defense systems (Dorschel 4). When President Johnson decided that the US would take action against North Vietnam, US Air Force planners quickly put together a plan that called for the bombing of 94 targets over two weeks. The majority of the North’s industry would be destroyed in the campaign, and the distribution and transportation systems used by the North would be left in shambles (Rendall 129). Regrettably, the Air Force did not have the last word in this matter, and the plans were changed by Robert S. McNamara (Boyne 150). Johnson and McNamara vetoed the Air Force plan, choosing instead to use a concept of “flexible response” (Boyne

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