Saturday, December 08, 2012

Museum dedicates monument to heroes of Operation Linebacker II

by Carla Pampe
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

12/8/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The Barksdale Global Power Museum Association recognized the sacrifices of a special group of Vietnam veterans Saturday with the dedication of a memorial commemorating Operation Linebacker II.

More than 150 veterans of Linebacker II attended the ceremony, sharing their stories and remembering their efforts that contributed to the end of the Vietnam War.

"To the veterans of Linebacker II, thank you for your courage and sacrifice that inspires this ceremony today," Maj. Gen. (Ret) James Graves, museum association member, said.

Operation Linebacker II took place nearly 40 years ago, after peace talks with the North Vietnamese government broke down on Dec. 13 and President Richard Nixon ordered the planning of a "maximum effort" bombing campaign that could executed within 72 hours.

After no response from the North Vietnamese Government, Operation Linebacker II commenced Dec. 18 with nightly bombing in and around Hanoi, Haiphong and other military and industrial targets in North Vietnam. For 11 nights, B-52Ds and B-52Gs from U-Tapao Air Base, Thailand, and Andersen Air Base, Guam, flew a total of 729 combat sorties against military and industrial targets in North Vietnam.

During the campaign, 24 B-52s were hit by enemy surface-to-air missiles, and 15 of those aircraft were downed. Air Force and Navy tactical aircraft flying in support of the B-52 strikes lost an additional 11 aircraft during Operation Linebacker II.

After a B-52 flyover during the ceremony, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, told the audience, "The airplane that flew by is sort of the symbol of all of this, but his is not about the airplanes, it's about the crews," he said. "It was that team effort that came together to make a strategic statement."

That strategic statement helped force the North Vietnamese back to the peace tables. With their defense system in shambles after 11 nights of sustained heavy bombardment, the North Vietnamese signaled that they wished to return to the Peace Talks in Paris. The bombing was immediately halted and 29 days later, on Jan 27, 1973, a Cease Fire Agreement ending the Vietnam War was signed. Operation Homecoming began Feb. 12, 1973, with the eventual release and return of 591 American Prisoners of War.

The guest speaker for the memorial dedication, Lt. Gen. William Rew, vice commander of Air Combat Command, spoke to the veterans about the importance of the operation not only to the end of the war, but to the future of the Air Force.

"What all of you did 40 years ago helped shape me as an Airman and us as an Air Force," he said. "I can tell you with true certainty our Air Force has learned lessons from your experience."

Lt. Gen. Rew's father, Maj. Gen. (Ret) Thomas Rew, a Linebacker II veteran, attended the ceremony as well, and helped present a wreath to honor those killed during the operation.

"It is great to be in the presence of you who answered the nation's call during a difficult time," Lt. Gen. Rew told the veterans. "This memorial will forever remind the world of your sacrifices."