"HEIGHT" OF DECEPTION - HOW AIR FORCE
GENERAL'S DUMB TACTICS DURING CHRISTMAS
BOMBING OF HANOI COST DEARLY IN B-52s
SHOT DOWN - ALMOST CAUSED MUTINY AMONG
AIR CREWS - ORDERED TO FLY SAME APPROACH
AND TURN DESPITE HEAVY LOSSES - 15 BIG
BOMBERS SHOT DOWN OR CRASHED BEFORE
RETURNING TO BASE - RETIRED PILOT DANA
DRENKOWSKI TERMED "MENTAL CASE" AND
SMEARED AS "A LIAR" AFTER EXPOSING
GEN. JOHN MEYER'S STUPID MISTAKES
© 2010 MilitaryCorruption.com
Often, it takes years for the truth to come out, especially when the real facts could put top brass in a bad light.
Such is the case of the famous "Christmas" bombing of Hanoi. There's no question "Linebacker II" helped drive the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table in Paris and likely shortened the war. But the eleven nights of bombing raids on the Communist capital, beginning Dec.18. 1972, which cost 15 B-52s shot down or crashed trying to return to base, could have been a defeat for the United States.
Enemy gunners couldn't believe their good luck when the second and third night's raids used the very same flight plan, level of approach to bombing run, and identical turn. It was like picking off ducks in a shooting gallery. Surviving bomber crews, watching their colleagues shot down in flames by a hail of SAM missiles, bitterly complained about the senseless and stupid tactics.
BOOK REVEALS HEAVY LOSSES IN HANOI BOMBING RAIDS
Thanks to Encounter Books of New York and its far-sighted publisher Roger Kimball for re-releasing the very important "America's Last Vietnam Battle: the Eleven Days of Christmas," written by Marshall Michel, a combat pilot who flew the Hanoi missions. First published with little fanfare in 2002, Encounter (Order Line: 1-800-786-3839) has now re-released this outstanding book in full-size paperback. We highly recommend you buy it.
The author writes with authority and objectivity, spotlighting the reasons why the Air Force, which has never lost a B-52 in combat prior to the Christmas attack, was ill-prepared for the heavy losses over Hanoi.
The B-52s were our ultimate weapon. They'd already been used in South Vietnam with devastating effect against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops who'd come down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. President Richard Nixon and his top Air Force generals were sure the bomber's awesome destructive power would break the will of the enemy.
Instead of being overwhelmed, however, the North Vietnamese SAM missile crews initially shattered the B-52 force. They were knocked out of the sky, one-by-one. Yet, despite the staggering losses, the surviving B-52s kept coming, inflicting huge losses on the North Vietnamese. For eleven days - thus the title of the book - the air battle swung back and forth, moving from what at first appeared to be a certain U.S. triumph, to a possible North Vietnamese victory, to a denouement in which both sides won and lost.
In telling the story of America's last great air battle of the war, Michel used hundreds of formerly classified documents from U.S. government archives and traveled to Hanoi to examine records there. He also interviewed dozens of Americans and Vietnamese who participated in the battle at all levels, from the White House and SAC (Strategic Air Command) headquarters, into the B-52 cockpits, Vietnamese missile sites and the POW camps of Hanoi.
"The Eleven Days of Christmas" is a vivid hour-by-hour, day-by-day account of the hell over Hanoi. It is military history at its best, a gripping tale of heroism and incompetence in an epic air engagement whose political and military legacy is still a matter of hot debate.
SAC COMMANDER'S STUPID TACTICS HELPED ENEMY GUNNERS
It is spotlighting that gross incompetence, mistakes made that cost American lives, that the book does so well.
We get to see how SAC Commander, Gen. John "J. C." Meyer, a fighter jock unfamiliar with bomber tactics, roused the ire of the B-52 crews who saw their friends die needlessly when the flight plan, heading and angle of approach to the bombing run and sequence, remained the same the first three nights of the attacks.
The North Vietnamese SAM gunners could hardly believe their eyes, especially when the same deadly, dumb tactics were used three times in a row. It took a courageous Gen. Gerald Johnson of Eighth Air Force to bite the bullet, call Gen. Meyer at SAC and insist the tactics be changed. Meyer intimidated most people into paralysis, so that phone call took guts, but Johnson's risky "wake-up call" finally got through the CINC's befuddlement of what to do, but by then, nearly half the bombers lost had already been knocked down.
We can only wonder what would have happened if Meyer had not finally been made aware that his stupidity and slow "dithering" decisions had imperiled the mission and American lives. Some Air Force doctors at Utapao air base in Thailand and on Guam an Anderson AFB, used the word "mutiny" to describe the mental state of the crews forced to fly to their needless death. At least one pilot refused to go up again, and another, Dana Drenkowski, became the object of vicious attacks on his character when he went public in Armed Forces Journal and Soldier of Fortune magazine about Meyer's blunders.
TRUTH-TELLER PILOT ATTACKED AS "MENTAL CASE"
Drenkowski, an Air Force Academy graduate, flew over two hundred combat missions in Southeast Asia in both B-52s and F-4s. In fact, Drenkowski had flown F-4s during the Linebacker II strikes and had been a member of the fighter wing staff. He talked with surviving crew members at both Guam and Utapao. All this put him in a unique position to tell "the whole story."
Among his revelations: more than a few crew members refused to fly; losses were caused by piecemeal attacks, repetitive routes, poor tactics and an unwillingness to listen to air crews, even after the B-52 losses mounted; and the charge SAC staff was full of "yes men," unwilling to tell a senior general like Meyer that he was wrong.
For his trouble, Drenkowski was labeled a "mental case" and called a liar, even by members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. If he'd still been in the Air Force when he went public five years later, the highly-decorated pilot would have surely been court-martialed.
There are those in the Air Force today who would still hide the true facts about the Christmas bombing of 1972. To them, it will always remain a great "victory." The tremendous sacrifice and loss of 15 heavy bombers in only 11 days of aerial combat will, hopefully for them, be lost in the fog of history.
But thanks to Encounter Books and author Marshall Michel, we now have, as Paul Harvey would say: "The rest of the story."