Of the many facets of the American war in Southeast Asia debated by U.S. authorities in Washington, by the military services and the public, none has proved more controversial than the air war against North Vietnam. The air war's inauguration with the nickname Rolling Thunder followed an eleven-year American effort to induce communist North Vietnam to sign a peace treaty without openly attacking its territory. Thus, Rolling Thunder was a new military program in what had been a relatively low-key attempt by the United States to win the war within South Vietnam against insurgent communist Viet Cong forces, aided and abetted by the north. The present volume covers the first phase of the Rolling Thunder campaign from March 1965 to late 1966. It begins with a description of the planning and execution of two initial limited air strikes, nicknamed Flaming Dart I and II. The Flaming Dart strikes were carried out against North Vietnam in February 1965 as the precursors to a regular, albeit limited, Rolling Thunder air program launched the following month. Before proceeding with an account of Rolling Thunder, its roots are traced in the events that compelled the United States to adopt an anti-communist containment policy in Southeast Asia after the defeat of French forces by the communist Vietnamese in May 1954.
Air Force History And Museums Program, Jacob van Staaveren