The 11 Days of Christmas

AUTHOR: Marshall Michel III
PRICE: $16.95
NOTES: Subtitled "America's Last Vietnam battle"
Encounter Books,
softbound, ISBN 978-1-893554-27-6

This book is a chronicle of operation “Linebacker II”. The operation was for the strategic bombing of North Vietnam by B-52s on the orders of the Nixon Administration. The bombings took place during 11 days in late December, 1972 that spanned the Christmas holiday, hence the title of the book. The author was a 280 combat mission F-4 pilot at the time of “Linebacker II. He offers an impartial and objective telling of the mistakes, successes, losses, and heroics in a pivotal battle that was a “very close run thing”.

By November, 1972 President Richard M. Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger were impatiently seeking to end America's involvement in the Vietnam War. Nixon had recently won re-election to the office of president by a landslide, but he knew that when congress re-convened in January, 1973 they would most likely cut off funding for the war. In addition, the North Vietnamese were giving indications that they were not going to sign the draft peace agreement they had agreed to in October. Without funding to support the American military effort in Southeast Asia, there would be no way to pressure the North Vietnamese into seeking a negotiated peace. Failing to end America's involvement in the war would doom the POWs languishing in North Vietnamese prisons to an uncertain future. In order to force the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table Nixon decided to order a massive bombing campaign against Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam.

The responsibility for executing the bombing campaign fell largely on the shoulders of Strategic Air Command (SAC). SAC saw their primary mission as providing the airborne portion of America's nuclear deterrent and had only reluctantly participated in the Vietnam war. Although SAC B-52 crews had flown missions over South Vietnam since 1965 and had flown some missions over the north as recently as the spring of 1972, they initiated Linebacker II with unrealistic expectations. SAC's insistence on running the operation from their Omaha, Nebraska headquarters, use of outmoded tactics, and underestimation of the enemy's defenses caused heavier than predicted losses, low aircrew morale, and excessive North Vietnamese civilian casualties,

The 11 Days of Christmas provides many insights into the military and political situations leading up to the battle, detailed analyses of the American offensive and North Vietnamese defensive capabilities, the circumstances behind the failings of SAC's leadership, and gripping narratives of combat by participants on both sides. The author also explains how and why the “official” version of Linebacker II differs from what actually happened. The book is well written and a real “page turner” .

I personally would have liked better reproduction of the few photographs provided. I also came away wanting more information about the USAF and USN supporting forces, i.e., jammers, defense suppressors, chaff dispensers, etc., but I suppose that this isn't their story. Recommended to anyone with an interest in military history.

Rob Hart

December 2021

Copyright All rights reserved. No reproduction in part or in whole without express permission.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page

Back to the Previews Index Page