January 1965-January 1966;
September 1972-February 1973
“We bombed Hanoi with B-52’s for the first time in December 1972. It was called, Operation Linebacker II and it was eleven days of bombing. I led the third attack. A lot of people, me included, think that’s what basically ended the war because up until then the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese were dragging their feet. They had been arguing in Paris over the size of the table and all this kind of crap but a few days into the bombing of Hanoi, North Vietnam finally agreed to get together and talk.
We took off from Guam after the usual pre-takeoff briefings. We went northwest up through South Vietnam off into Laos until we were due west of Hanoi then we cut east and ran down Thud Ridge. From the time we took off from Guam until we were over Hanoi was about 5 hours. I started off from Guam with maybe thirty B-52’s and I picked up twenty more based in Thailand after refueling off the coast of Vietnam. So by the time we got up to Hanoi we had fifty-some birds, plus fighter support and such like. As Airborne Commander I was in charge of all that.
It was a night mission. It was black-all you could see were a few lights on the ground. We came in at 35000 feet. There was a hell of a tail wind. We were going lickity-split down Thud Ridge into downtown Hanoi then releasing and making a hard right, turning southwest into Laos. We believed that Hanoi was the best-defended city in the world at that time.
We weren’t sure how many MiG fighters were going to be attacking and how many were measuring our altitude. We were doing a good job jamming the command and control of the Surface-to-Air Missiles. Normally SAM’s have a proximity fuse so when the warhead goes by at a certain distance it’s programmed to go off-it has it’s own radar. But we had them jammed so they didn’t go off. Then the North Vietnamese set them to go off at a certain altitude. I counted thirty of these SAM’s fired just at our cell. They were coming up all over the place. The idea was to be in the lethal SAM ring for the minimum amount of time. A lot of guys would get hit in that post-target turn. I lost one B-52 on my mission. We lost a total of thirteen or fifteen B-52’s during Linebacker II.
Our targets were railroads, military installations like army bases, radar sites, airfields and so forth. The enemy was running out of SAM’s. By the last night of the eleven-night operation it was damn near a milk run.
After eleven days of this, the North Vietnamese told the U.S. they wanted to resume the peace negotiations. Linebacker II gave everybody a good excuse to restart the talks. It was obvious that Hanoi was on its knees militarily. After the third or fourth night things were looking pretty good for us. One of our guys called the B-52, ‘God’s avenging dump truck.’ I think it’s a pretty good label.”