WILLARD: Arch light. (sic)
CHEF: I hate that -- Every time I hear that noise something terrible happens.
CHIEF: Anybody see some smoke?
CLEAN: Too far inland.
LANCE: There they are.
He points up to the sky.

Way up -- past any clouds and barely discernible, we SEE the black silhouttes of four B-52 bombers, their vapor trails streaming white against the dark blue sky.
CLEAN: Charlie don't ever hear 'em. Not till it's too late -- don't have to hit you neither, concussion'll do it for a quarter mile or better. Burst your ears -- suck the air outta your lungs.
Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola

June 18, 1965 - August 15, 1973

Following the failed peace negotiations with Ho Chi Minh and his North Vietnamese Army (NVA), President Lyndon Johnson determined that an escalated air campaign against NVA forces was in order. In particular, the flow of supplies into South Vietnam, along the Ho Chi Mihn Trail, had to be disrupted.

Operation Rolling Thunder ended miserably, mainly due to its poor conceptualization and extremely restricted targets. Operation Arc Light sat as the middle man in the Vietnam War air bombing campaign. It was the longest lasting of the three massive bombing operations, and only gave way to Operation Linebacker II near the very end of the war, when strategies once again shifted.

The B-52 Stratofortress was the primary delivery aircraft in Operation Arc Light. Flying high above most Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), the B-52F's dropped a carpet of bombs on areas believed to contain high concentrations of Viet Cong in South Vietnam, NVA strongholds in the North, and even supply forces along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

1967 was the biggest year for Operation Arc Light sorties, which coincided with an overall growth of US military operations in Southeast Asia. Approximately 9,700 sorties were flown in 1967 alone, doubling the number from 1966.

Operation Arc Light was certainly as spectacular as it's name. The sheer number of sorties and bombs dropped, the years of its operation, and the often used mission of supporting ground troops made it a highly visible, often terrifying, instrument of the Vietnam War.

  • Dan's History - Air Power over Vietnam
  • http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil - Operation Arc Light

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