Operation Linebacker II 1972

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Marshall L. Michel III
Other Publication Information
Illustrator: Jim Laurier, soft cover, 98 pages
Product / Stock #
Air Campaign 6
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Book Cover

In his organization of this book, Mr. Michel provides a logical approach to this ‘air campaign.’ The Table of Contents provides for the basic outline:

  • Introduction
  • Chronology
  • Attackers’ Capabilities
  • Defenders’ Capabilities
  • Campaign Objectives
  • The Campaign
  • Aftermath and Analysis
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index

During his introduction, I was surprised to read the author’s comments about an earlier book I had read and prior to this point considered to be the basic groundwork for this air war over Vietnam; Linebacker II: A View From the Rock. He calls this early recounting of the Linebacker II operations “an inaccurate and self-aggrandizing memoir.”

In this book, the author clearly lays out the 11 nights of the Linebacker II, and often ill-conceived organization, planning, and operations of these strategic and tactical missions. He does so in a very convincing manner.

While I was aware of the basic US capabilities (including the aircraft, weapons and counter measures), I learned a great deal about those employed by North Vietnam. I have only a very basic notion of what the North was capable of and that included only a few basic understandings their SA-2 missiles. I felt much better informed about their missiles, antiaircraft artillery, MiGs (and their basic limitations) and what countermeasures were used against our aircraft and weapons. I was totally surprised to see the handwritten drawings made by North Vietnamese in their ‘Red Book’ to describe the workings and flight characteristics of the AGM-45 Shrike and B-52 jamming capabilities. I had grossly underestimated the level of sophistication of the North Vietnamese and their Soviet supporters. You can see one example of this knowledge and understanding in one of illustrations copied below, which illustrates both the sign wave curve expected and the geometric shape of the target and interception expected in order to successfully knock down the US target. While this whole concept exceeds my technical skill level at many levels, I find this level of technical skill to be both intricate and highly complex

The contribution that chaff provided was also explained both textually and graphically. There are both photos to demonstrate the importance of chaff and it was laid over North Vietnam and a great illustration on pages 46 and 47.

There are also several photographs illustrating the effects of the US jamming and chaff on the North’s screens.

I was pleased to see the author and illustrator’s use of graphics to illustrate the typical organization for the Linebacker II missions, including several 2-page illustrations covering specific nights and the launch events, with color coded altitudes, various SAM sites and North Vietnamese bases and units. I was equally impressed with the cell formation, bomb run, and post target charts depicted. The illustrator is also to be congratulated for his work in this Osprey publication.

Another example illustrates the base locations in Guam, Okinawa and Cambodia, the refueling circuits, timing box, and the routes flown to their targets over North Vietnam. There was also incredible amount of tanker support necessitated throughout the Linebacker II operation by the KC-135 fleet: Operation Young Tiger provided over 161 tankers in support of this bombing campaign.

On a very personal level., I found this book extremely interesting and highly informative for several reasons. My personal interest involves a Delta Chi fraternity brother from Oregon State ’54, LtCol. Edward H. Johnson. He was the electronic warfare officer aboard a B-52G ‘Olive 01’, lost on night four, December 21, 1972. He was assigned to the 325thBS and 92ndBomb Wing during a deployment to Anderson AFB on Guam, MI. His son Capt. Scott Johnson was the pilot who was able to return with his remains in June of 1989, after 17 years.

Another fraternity brother, Edmund J. Mihalski, was flying F-4D’s with the 8thTFW in support of the Linebacker II bombing raids during this same period. Listening to tapes of cockpit recordings with Ed left me with an indelible image of the harrowing F-105 missiles and the pilots who flew those dangerous missions.

This book provides a very enjoyable read, is a serious book, and as such deserves a dedicated effort to fully understand and absorb. I suspect there are but a few folks who will purchase this book, especially younger readers. It’s too bad, as the lessons of history and underestimating one’s enemies are just as relevant today in conflicts on the battlefields of the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Our thanks to Osprey Publishers for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for my opportunity prepare this review.


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