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Air War Over North Vietnam: Operation Rolling Thunder, 1965 1968
Published by Pen and Sword Military
Operation Rolling Thunder was a disastrous and wasteful attempt in terms of men and material by the Johnson administration to micromanage an air campaign to achieve specific diplomatic goals, but in the end achieved neither military nor political victory.
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 conflagration, Washington policymakers 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 nearly 650,000 tons of ordnance on North Vietnam - 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.
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 and his siblings grew up on various Navy bases during the Vietnam War. His father served two combat tours in Vietnam flying both the A-4 Skyhawk and the A-7 Corsair II and participated in Operation Rolling Thunder while flying off the U.S.S. Midway in 1965 with Attack Squadron 22. Steve worked as intelligence analyst covering political-military affairs in Africa and the Middle East before embarking on an academic career. 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. 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 PhD in International Relations/Comparative Politics from the University of Florida and currently resides in Orlando, Florida.
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