Sunday, October 23, 2005

News-Record.com - Greensboro, North Carolina: Townsend Hoopes: "We believe the enemy can be forced to be 'reasonable"

News-Record.com - Greensboro, North Carolina: People & Places: Operation Rolling Thunder: ill-conceived and ego-driven: "During the early stages of the war in Vietnam, well before we had committed huge numbers of ground troops, American leaders decided to use judiciously applied air power to convince the North Vietnamese that they should stop trying to unite the country under a Communist government.

Townsend Hoopes, Undersecretary of the Air Force, put it this way: "We believe the enemy can be forced to be 'reasonable,' i.e., to compromise or even capitulate, because we assume he wants to avoid pain, death and material destruction. We assume that if these are inflicted on him with increasing severity, that at some point in the process he will want to stop the suffering."

Accordingly, in early March 1965 the U.S. began "Operation Rolling Thunder," as ill-conceived and ego-driven a military campaign as we have ever waged. The goal was to apply increasing pressure by destroying selected segments of the North Vietnam economy.

What we did not understand was this: Whatever else it was, the war being waged by the North Vietnamese was a war of liberation, not unlike our own war for freedom that began in 1776. As such, it would take more than mere suffering to snuff out.

Rolling Thunder was planned as an eight-week operation; it lasted three years. When it was called off in October 1968, we had dropped more than 1 million tons of munitions. The enemy response was to attack our air bases in South Vietnam. This forced Gen. William Westmoreland, the American commander of our military advisers, to tell Washington that without more American soldiers on the ground (at that time, we had about 23,000 military advisers working with the South Vietnamese soldiers) the North would take over South Vietnam.

On March 8, 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines from the 3rd Bn., 9th Marines, 9 Marine Expeditionary Bde., 3rd Marine Div., landed at Da Nang. These were the first "official" American combat troops to be ordered into the fighting, and press releases at the time stressed that this was a temporary measure to protect Air Force personnel.

Rolling Thunder had cost the United States 922 aircraft. The CIA characterized it as "the most ambitious, wasteful, and ineffective campaign ever mounted."

If any readers were part of Rolling Thunder in Vietnam, by all means write in and tell what part you played in this three-year battle. I'll print as many of your stories as I can.