Skip to comments.The B-52's Psychological impact
Posted on 11/06/2001 8:54:14 AM PST by BobP
In Dec '72 I was at Utapao Royal Thai AFB for Linebacker II, where we had 54 B-52D's. Andersen AB on Guam had 99 B-52G's and 53 B-52D's, for a grand total of 206 "Buffs".
Wrenches cranked overtime here as we built the bombs that B-52s flying Linebacker II missions dropped on Hanoi. Building bombs was our business, and in those days, business was good.
We ammo airmen say the most satisfying feeling comes when we see a Buff that departs fully loaded, then returns with nothing aboard but a smiling pilot.
Here's some stuff I have researched and saved on disk:
The B-52's Psychological impact
The most dramatic illustration of generalized interdiction is provided by the use of B-52 strategic bombers for this mission.
The B-52 is in a class by itself. Originally designed to deliver nuclear weapons, it was adapted for conventional munitions early during the Indochina war and has since been in very extensive use there, including some activity in each of the 5 theaters. Its enormous cargo capacity suggested a new concept in the conduct of the Indochina air war. Outfitted with racks to carry conventional bombs, a B-52D can carry eighty-four 500-pound bombs internally and twenty-four 750-pound bombs under its wings and will release them rapidly to lay down a saturation pattern of explosives on the ground.
The B-52s flew in formation of three aircraft referred to as a cell. Each cell was identified by an assigned call sign, usually a color; that is, Red One, Two, and Three. The aircraft flew in a two-mile trail with one mile between each plane, with the formation stacked up to provide a 500-foot-altitude separation from the preceding aircraft.
A typical mission will saturate an area of more than a square mile with bombs. Everything within this area is demolished. To witness such a raid is to witness a disaster of major proportions.
If a target required greater firepower than three B-52s could deliver, then a "wave" or "compression" was formed by adding cells to get the desired number of bombs on target.
More than half of the tonnage of aerial munitions dropped on RVN was delivered by B-52s.
The first B-52 strike was carried out by 27 bombers in June 1965.
When ground troops afterwards penetrated the target area they did not find evidence of any NLF casualties, nor significant damage to facilities. However, these raids continued and were intensified. The NLF probably had advance warning in many cases through security leaks; but the purpose of the bombing was not so much its direct military effectiveness as its psychological and strategic impact:
The B-52's mission would be to harass the enemy, disrupt his normal activities, permit aim to respite from act even in his jungle redoubts, and wear him down psychologically.
It seems reasonable to suggest that the main contribution of B-52s has been the constricting effect the bombings have had on the enemy's freedom of movement and range of action. Emphasis then focuses on the psychological effect on the enemy of being bombed--or what is perhaps almost as disturbing, the threat of being bombed--and its debilitating effect on enemy plans for major operations.
More than 10 million craters have now been created in RVN alone, mostly by 500-lb. and 750-lb bombs dropped by B-52 bombers. This is equivalent to some 2.5 billion cubic yards of soil.
A guerrilla's life under the B-52 bombers
In the jungle, life's conspicuous features were the same for everyone. We lived like hunted animals, an existence that demanded constant physical and mental alertness.
Of all the privations and hardships, nothing the guerrillas had to endure compared with the stark terror of the B-52 bombardments. Bombs of all sizes and types were disgorged by these high-altitude predators, which were invisible to us on the ground. The statistics convey some sense of the concentrated firepower that was unleashed on both North and South--more than three times the tonnage dropped by the U.S. in World War II. From our perspective, these figures translated into an experience of undiluted psychological terror day after day over years.
From half a mile away, the roar of the explosions tore eardrums, leaving many of the jungle dwellers permanently deaf. The shock waves knocked their victims senseless. Any hit within a quarter of a mile would collapse the walls of an unreinforced bunker, burying alive the people cowering inside.
The bomb craters were gigantic, 30 feet across and nearly as deep.
It was something of a miracle that from 1968 through 1970 the attacks, though they caused significant casualties generally, did not kill a single military or civilian leader in the headquarters complexes. This luck, though, had a lot to do, too, with accurate advance warning of the raids, which allowed us to move out of the way, or to take refuge in our bunkers, before the bombs began to rain down.
B-52's from Okinawa and Guam would be picked up by Soviet intelligence trawlers in the South China Sea.
Often the warnings would give us time to grab some rice and escape on foot or bike down an emergency route. Hours later we would return to find, as happened on several occasions, that there was nothing left.
It was as if an enormous scythe had swept the jungle, felling giant trees like grass, shredding them into billions of scattered splinters. On these occasions the complex would be utterly destroyed: food, clothes, supplies, documents, everything.
It was not just that things were destroyed; in some awesome way they had ceased to exist. You would come back to where your lean-to and bunker had been, your home, and there would simply be nothing there, just an unrecognizable landscape gouged by immense craters.
Equally as often, though, we were not so fortunate, and had time only to take cover as best we could. The first few times I experienced a B-52 attack it seemed, as I strained to press myself into the bunker floor, that I had been caught in the Apocalypse. The terror was complete. One lost control of bodily functions as the mind screamed futile orders to get out.
On one occasion a Soviet delegation was visiting our ministry when an attack began with especially short notice. No one was hurt, but the entire delegation sustained considerable damage to its amour--uncontrollable trembling and wet pants the all-too-obvious outward signs of inner convulsions.
The visitors could have spared themselves their embarrassment; each of their hosts was a veteran of the same symptoms.
Eventually, though, the shock of the bombardments wore off, giving way to a sense of abject fatalism. The veterans would no longer scrabble at the bunker floors convulsed with fear. Instead, people just resigned themselves fully prepared to "go and sit in the ancestors' corner."
The B-52's somehow put life in order. Many of those who survived the attacks found that afterward they were capable of viewing life from a more serene and philosophical perspective. It was a lesson that remained with me, as it did with many others, and helped me compose myself for death on more than one future occasion.
Linebacker II began for the B-52s at Andersen AFB, Guam, at 1451 hours local time, December 18, 1972. The first bomber began its takeoff run down the two-mile runway, black smoke plumes streaming from it nacelles. It gained speed, lifted free and headed for Hanoi. Behind it, bomber after bomber moved to the runway, ran up to full power and began its cumbersome acceleration to gain flying speed.
The "Buff" force was a mixed group of B-52D and G models; the former had been modified in the "Big Belly" program to carry 108 x 500-lb bombs. The G models generally were armed with 27 x 750-lb bombs.
Linebacker II was the last mighty strike of a terrible war.
4/01 -- Paired B52s hit Deshitiquala
11/2/-1 bombing B52s in Tutakhan (25 mi from Kabul)
The North Vietnamese ran back to the peace table to sign the armistice, when we began to pound North Vietnam in Operation Linebacker II.
We should have done that in 1965, and saved over 58,000 American lives, and hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese lives plus the lives of our allies (i.e., South Korea, Australia, etc.)
I remember, and find it hard to forgive.
Just watch out, there's some guy that hits every B-52 story and insists that it's BUF with one F.
Maybe he's given up now that he's been shown the error of his ways, but probably not.
My father's Godson guarded them at Offut in the seventies. He first told me the acronym and it's meaning. He told me it was BUFF with two Fs.
Being twelve or thirteen at the time, I was mighty impressed with that "cool" nickname.
You are right. We could have done it in the beginning. LBJ let himself be manipulated by the Left. Like Clinton, he was a dictator and a terror to everyone who knew him, but weak and spineless as a leader of America.
Like I said, mighty impressive to an adolescent boy!
Use your imagination on the last word, if you're just around the boys.
Manipulated by the Left? LBJ was the Left.
Did Caro ever pursue his biography up to the point of the JFK murder? I don't think so. It would have been interesting and dangerous for such a good researcher.
That war was controlled by the politicians and not the military. Those congressmen should have had their b*lls cut off. They were responsible for all the deaths, and they were responsible for the ugly anti-American protesting. I hate the memory of those days and despise anything that smacks of hippyism.
My statement was based on the observation that LBJ walked like the Left, quacked like the Left, etc., making him indistingushable from the Left.
Ugly is as ugly does.