|Richard P. Hallion|
96 pages, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, softcover
The Vietnam War was one that the United States had no real intention of winning. It was started under what was later discovered to be false pretenses based on an attack that never happened. But worst of all, it was bungled from the very start, being run by politicians half a planet away who were pretty much inept and clueless as to the situation in theater. In fact, if you want to put the blame on one person, that would be Robert McNamara, who was the Secretary of Defense at the time. Sadly, it is a formula that we have seen repeated over and over again in some extent or another in America's military operations since. It is as if no one learned anything from the experience.
That formula was a gradual stepping up of the bombing campaign in the north. It was felt that by limiting what was attacked, that it would show the government of North Vietnam that it was in their best interest to stop infiltrating South Vietnam and to stop supporting the Viet Cong. The cities of Hanoi and Haiphong along with the surrounding air bases were considered off limits and only specific targets could be attacked. What that did was to allow the North to concentrate all of its anti-air weapons (guns and later SAMs) in specific areas, increasing their chances of shooting down American planes. They were actually quite successful at this and the number of planes shot down by anti-aircraft was in the several hundreds by the time the campaign ended.
It also allowed the North Vietnamese Air Force the time it needed to train pilots to fly the MiG fighters it had received from the Soviet Union and China. Air to air combat is what gets the most press, but actually, it was a very minor part of the air war in Vietnam. It was bombers (F-105s, A-4s, A-6s etc) that took the brunt of the North's anti-aircraft. This was not helped by the rather lightweight munitions being used at the time. Bridge busting became a real challenge, especially those that were well built. It wasn't until much later in the war that guided munitions were able to destroy these targets. Prior to this, the hit ratio with 'dumb' bombs was very low. This meant repeated attacks on the same target, which meant higher losses.
This book covers the campaign from the start until there was a bombing halt against North Vietnam in 1968 that did not start up again until nearly four years later, by which time, the job was so much more difficult. Not surprisingly, it goes into the politics of the situation as much as it does the evolving tactics used by both sides during this time. Thanks to great period photos and the excellent art work and diagrams of Adam Tooby, we get a very clear picture of what was then a rather muddled situation. A book that will probably open your eyes and one that definitely makes you think. Well worth picking up.
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