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Home > March 2016 > March 2, 1965: Operation Rolling Thunder Begins
March 2, 1965: Operation Rolling Thunder Begins
Seperator
Posted: 3/1/2016 5:12:27 PM

 

A-1 Skyraiders prepare to take off from Intrepid in August 1966. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of the family of Bill Qualter. P2014.120.60)

 

Operation Rolling Thunder, a strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam, began on March 2, 1965. The U.S. Air Force and the Navy carried out the campaign jointly. Intrepid and 14 other aircraft carriers participated in the bombing.

The initial goal of Operation Rolling Thunder was persuasion. Through a measured increase in bombing intensity over time, the United States hoped to compel North Vietnam to stop supporting the Communist insurgency in the South. But efforts to bring an end to the fighting repeatedly failed. As Operation Rolling Thunder progressed, its objectives shifted toward crippling the North’s ability to fight and stopping the flow of supplies from North to South Vietnam

Bombs from an A-4B Skyhawk in squadron VA-95, deployed with Intrepid, fall on a railroad bridge during an air strike over North Vietnam in September 1966. (National Archives and Records Administration)

 

In previous American wars, officials in Washington, including the president, trusted military commanders in the field to make strategic decisions. During the Vietnam War, their approach was dramatically different. Targets were selected and approved by a process that involved the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and President Johnson. Together they declared many targets, including Hanoi and Haiphong, to be off-limits, in part because they feared initiating a wider war with Communist China.

The level of control was so comprehensive that even the number of aircraft and the types of weapons used were dictated from officials in Washington. This frustrated military commanders and pilots, including those on board Intrepid, who often felt that politicians prevented them from achieving military success in Vietnam

To learn more about Intrepid’s role in Operation Rolling Thunder, visit the exhibition On the Line: Intrepid and the Vietnam War, now on view at the Intrepid Museum.

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