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Boeing B-52D Stratofortress History (1)

Boeing B-52D Stratofortress History (1)
A marble plaque explaining the use of B-52s in the Vietnam war. The plaque seems to have originally been displayed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The text:

Arc Light History

In the early morning hours of Friday, 18 June 1965, 30 B-52 "Stratofortress" bombers lifted off from Andersen Air Force Base initiating a new phase in the Southeast Asia conflict. This was the beginning of bombing missions known as Arc Light. Most missions flew against enemy logistics targets in South Vietnam, but eventually some struck like targets in Laos, Cambodia and even North Vietnam. Some missions were in close support, defending American and allied troops, bases, villages and towns.

Displayed here is the "D" model of the B-52 bomber, which always comprised the backbone of the Arc Light fleet and was specially modified for the conventional weapons used. Other Arc Light bombers were B-52F's used in the earliest months and B-52G's flying from Andersen from April 1972 until the termination of Arc Light.

Bombers launched from a Thailand base joned the Force in April 1967 followed by Okinawa-based bombers in February 1968. All were assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC). On 1 April 1970 SAC's Eighth Air Force moved its headquarters here to Andersen taking over operations from Third Air Division. Andersen flights ceased temporarily in August 1970 and bombers from Okinawa stopped permanently the following month. But the Guam-based headquarters continued to control Arc Light forces.

Andersen resumed flying in February 1972 in a surge of Arc Light activity named Bullet Shot. The force grew rapidly under successive phases of Bullet Shot, reaching its peak in numbers and performance before midyear. The Guam-based force alone soon surpassed all previous records of Arc Light performance. It was obvious that the United States aimed at final conclusion of the long conflict. By October 1972 it seemed that peace negotiations were successfully underway, but they came to an impasse.

Operation Linebacker II followed-from 18 through 29 December 1972, with the exception of Christmas Day. During this "11-Day War" B-52s flew from both Andersen and the Thailand base against strategic targets in the enemy's heartland, primarily the Hanoi and Haiphong areas. Arc Light bombers had flown missions over North Vietnam on previous occasions, but never on this scale. For the first time bombers, flying in massive waves, struck areas bristling with more surface-to-air missile defenses than had ever been encountered before in aerial warfare. In all, the B-52s flew more than 700 sorties against 34 target complexes. The force suffered heartrending losses, too. But when the smoke cleared the loss rates were computed at about two percent-far less than on comparable raids during World War II.

Peace negotiations progressed rapidly after Linebacker II culminating in the signing of a cease-fire on 28 January 1973, Guam time. Soon the enemy released the prisoners of war they had been holding. Arc Light operations continued aftwards in support of allies in Laos and Cambodioa, but terminated on 15 August 1973. Arc Light B-52's flew nearly 130,000 sorties, accumulated almost 90,000 flying hours and dropped about 9 million bombs with a total weight of almost 3 million tons. In Operation Linebacker II alone, the bombers deliveredmore than 49,000 bombs weighing almost 15,000 tons. In this operation alone they destroyed or damaged over 1,600 military structures and 373 pieces of railroad equipment. An estimated three million gallons of petroleum products were destroyed and enemy rail lines interdicted in more than 500 places.

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