Operations Flaming Dart and Rolling Thunder: First use of U.S. Air Power in North Vietnam

Operation Flaming Dart was a U.S. military operation carried out in response to the Viet Cong's attack on the U.S. military advisors' barracks in Pleiku, South Vietnam on February 7, 1965.

The operation involved the use of U.S. air power against targets in North Vietnam and marked a significant escalation in U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Operation Rolling Thunder was a direct continuation of Operation Flaming Dart and a sustained bombing campaign carried out by the U.S. military in North Vietnam from 1965 to 1968.

The operation aimed to increase military and political pressure on the North Vietnamese government in an effort to end its support for the Viet Cong guerrillas in South Vietnam

Operation Flaming Dart and Operation Rolling Thunder were two key military operations during the Vietnam War that had a significant impact on the outcome of the conflict.

The objectives of the operations were to increase military and political pressure on the North Vietnamese government and disrupt its support of the Viet Cong.

Viet Cong attack on Pleiku

The Viet Cong attack on Pleiku was carried out by a group of Viet Cong guerrillas on February 7, 1965.

The attack took place in the early hours of the morning, when the guerrillas launched a coordinated assault on the U.S. military advisors' barracks in Pleiku, South Vietnam. The barracks was located in a heavily fortified compound and housed hundreds of U.S. military personnel.

The attack began with a barrage of rocket and mortar fire directed at the barracks. The guerrillas then entered the compound and engaged in close-quarters combat with the U.S. military personnel. The attack was intense and lasted for several hours, causing widespread destruction and chaos within the compound.

Despite the efforts of U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers to repel the attack, the guerrillas were able to cause significant damage and inflict heavy casualties.

Eight U.S. military personnel were killed in the attack, and over 100 others were wounded. The barracks and other buildings within the compound were heavily damaged, and the attack caused widespread panic and confusion among the U.S. military personnel.

Retaliation from 7th Fleet Aircraft Carriers

In response to the Viet Cong attack on Pleiku, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered Operation Flaming Dart, a series of bombing raids against targets in North Vietnam.

As part of Operation Flaming Dart, 49 U.S. Navy jets from the 7th Fleet aircraft carriers Coral Sea and Hancock were deployed to carry out the bombing raids.

The 7th Fleet aircraft carriers were part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and were some of the most powerful military assets available to the U.S. government at the time. The carriers were equipped with state-of-the-art aircraft and weapons systems and were capable of carrying out bombing raids against targets in North Vietnam with precision and efficiency.

The bombing raids carried out by the 7th Fleet aircraft carriers were some of the first U.S. military operations against North Vietnam and marked a significant escalation in U.S. involvement in the conflict.

The raids targeted guerrilla training camps, barracks, and other military installations in North Vietnam and were intended to signal U.S. resolve and to demonstrate the U.S. military's capability to respond to the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam.

The 49 U.S. Navy jets that took part in Operation Flaming Dart were likely a combination of fighter and attack aircraft, such as the F-8 Crusader, A-4 Skyhawk, and A-1 Skyraider. These aircraft were equipped with a variety of weapons, including bombs, rockets, and machine guns, and were capable of carrying out bombing and strafing runs against ground targets.

Despite their military power and technological advantage, the 7th Fleet aircraft carriers and their crew faced numerous challenges and obstacles as they carried out their mission, including intense anti-aircraft fire, enemy ground forces, and challenging weather conditions.

Sustained Bombing

The sustained bombing campaign was designed to interdict North Vietnam's transportation and supply networks and to increase pressure on the North Vietnamese government to end its support for the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam.

The bombing runs of Rolling Thunder lasted for over three years and involved a large number of U.S. military assets, including aircraft from 7th Fleet aircraft carriers Coral Sea and Hancock, as well as land-based Air Force units.

The bombing runs were carried out against a wide range of targets, including military installations, transportation networks, and industrial and economic targets, such as power plants and oil refineries.

The bombing runs of Rolling Thunder were often complex and highly coordinated operations, involving multiple aircraft and a variety of weapons systems. The campaign was characterized by a gradual increase in the intensity and scope of the bombing.

During Operation Rolling Thunder, there were many instances of bravery and heroism demonstrated by U.S. military personnel. Two of these instances stand out from the rest:

Lieutenant Commander James B. Stockdale: Stockdale was a naval aviator who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965 and was held as a prisoner of war for over seven years. Despite being subjected to brutal treatment and torture, Stockdale remained steadfast in his resolve and demonstrated remarkable courage and leadership, serving as a symbol of hope and inspiration to fellow prisoners.

Major James Kasler: Kasler was a pilot who flew many missions as part of Operation Rolling Thunder. On one mission in 1967, his aircraft was damaged by enemy fire and he was forced to eject over enemy territory. Despite being injured and facing imminent capture, Kasler refused to surrender and evaded enemy forces for several days before being rescued by friendly forces. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions.

These are just a few examples of the bravery and heroism displayed by U.S. military personnel during Operation Rolling Thunder. The individuals who served in the operation faced significant danger and challenges, and many made tremendous sacrifices in service to their country. Their actions serve as a testament to the courage and commitment of those who serve in the U.S. military.

Result of the Campaign

The overall outcome of Operations Flaming Dart and Rolling Thunder is widely considered to be mixed, at best. While the operations demonstrated U.S. military capability and resolve, they failed to achieve their main objective of forcing the North Vietnamese government to end its support for the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam.

Operation Flaming Dart, in particular, was limited in scope and impact and was quickly overshadowed by the much larger and more sustained bombing campaign of Operation Rolling Thunder.

Despite the efforts of the U.S. military and the resources committed to the campaign, Operation Rolling Thunder failed to achieve its objectives and the conflict in Vietnam continued to escalate.

The bombing raids carried out as part of Operations Flaming Dart and Rolling Thunder caused significant damage to North Vietnamese infrastructure and military installations, but they also resulted in significant civilian casualties and widespread destruction.

The operations also faced significant logistical and operational challenges, including intense anti-aircraft fire, enemy ground forces, and challenging weather conditions.

While the operations themselves may have had mixed results, no one challenges the remarkable bravery and heroism of the U.S. military personnel who executed the mission.

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3 comments on “Operations Flaming Dart and Rolling Thunder: First use of U.S. Air Power in North Vietnam”

  1. My husband was there the protesters were here if the military had been in charge we could have won that war in just six months but it was a political war an so many protestors and Hippies on pot American hasn’t won a war since WWII we could but the political class always puts their nose into the military leaders way and we are where we are because of poor leadership in Washington.

  2. President Johnson involved us in Vietnam. We lost 57 thousand soldiers and then pulled out and left it to the Viet Cong. Nothing was accomplished as communism remained in place. We could have won that war but failed because of LBJ's policies.

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