This video contains historical footage taking during the Vietnam War for educational and historical purposes. BACKGROUND MUSIC: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. SONG: All Along The Watchtower. Between March 1965 and November 1968, aircraft of the U.S. Air Force had flown 153,784 attack sorties against North Vietnam, while the Navy and Marine Corps had added another 152,399. On 31 December 1967, the Department of Defense announced that 864,000 tons of American bombs had been dropped on North Vietnam during Rolling Thunder, compared with 653,000 tons dropped during the entire Korean War and 503,000 tons in the Pacific theater during the Second World War.
The CIA privately estimated that damage inflicted in the north totaled $500 million in total damage. They also estimated that by April 1967, 52,000 casualties including 21,000 deaths had occurred as a result of the operation. The CIA estimated that 75 percent of casualties were involved in military or quasi-military operations including civilians working on military and logistical operations.45 percent of casualties in 1965 were civilians and logistics workers while that figure was 80 percent in 1966. In June 1967, they estimated 19,000 to 26,000 deaths including 13,000 to 17,000 civilian deaths were caused by the bombing. At the end of 1967, the CIA estimated 27,900 militaries and 48,000 civilians killed and wounded. The US government has estimated that 30,000 civilians were killed in total as a result of the operation.
Due to combat and operational circumstances, 506 U.S. Air Force, 397 Navy, and 19 Marine Corps aircraft were lost over or near North Vietnam. During the operation, of the 745 crewmen shot down, the U.S. Air Force recorded 145 rescued, 255 killed, 222 captured (23 of whom died in captivity), and 123 missing. Figures on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps casualties were harder to come by. During the 44-month time frame, 454 naval aviators were killed, captured, or missing during combined operations over North Vietnam and Laos.
Rolling Thunder had begun as a campaign of psychological and strategic persuasion, but it changed very quickly to interdiction, a tactical mission. Its ultimate failure had two sources, both of which lay with the civilian and military policy-makers in Washington: first, neither group could ever conceive that the North Vietnamese would endure under the punishment that they would unleash upon it. The civilians, moreover, did not understand airpower well enough to know that their policies might be crippling it; second, the American military leadership failed to initially propose and develop, or later to adapt, an appropriate strategy for the war.
Along the way, Rolling Thunder also fell prey to the same dysfunctional managerial attitude as did the rest of the American military effort in Southeast Asia. The process of the campaign became an end unto itself, with sortie generation as the standard by which progress was measured. Sortie rates and the number of bombs dropped, however, equaled efficiency, not effectiveness.
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