U.S. AIR FORCE REMEMBERS AIRMEN WHO SERVED IN OPERATION LINEBACKER II

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Even long-range bombers like the B-52 needed refueling to reach their targets and return to base on far-off Guam. Bombing operations such as ARC LIGHT and LINEBACKER depended heavily on air refueling.

The strategic bombing over North Vietnam lasted 11 days and its success heralded the end of the conflict

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) honored the memory of those who served in Operation Linebacker II with a remembrance ceremony Dec. 16, 2016 at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam.

As explained by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo, 36th Wing Public Affairs in his article Honoring the past: Linebacker II remembrance ceremony, the operation was carried out 44 years ago on Dec. 18-29, 1972. The strategic bombing over North Vietnam lasted 11 days and its success heralded the end of the conflict.

Seventy-five Airmen died supporting the operation, 33 of whom died in the 15 downed B-52 Stratofortress bombers – the primary bomber flown during Operation Linebacker II. During the operation, also referred to as the 11-Day War or 11 Days of Christmas, more than 700 sorties were flown out of Andersen AFB and U-Tapao Royal Thai Airbase, Thailand. Fifteen thousand tons of munitions were dropped mainly on military targets in North Vietnam by the completion of the operation.

With their shipping plugs replaced by fuses, these bombs are ready to load onto a B-52 at Andersen AFB, Guam, for Operation Linebacker II.

“The operation proved successful,” said Jeffrey Meyer, 36th Wing historian. “North Vietnam was brought back to the negotiation table, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and obtained the release of 591 prisoners of war in February 1973.”

A pilot’s window damaged by a fragment from an SA-2.

To ramp up for the flights, 153 B-52’s and additional support aircraft filled Andersen AFB’s runways. To support the increased bomber presence, the base’s population rose to more than 15,000 Airmen and support personnel to enable the launch of more than 700 long-distance missions within 11 days.

“With over 15,000 Airmen working on Andersen, the base was taxed beyond its limits,” Meyer said. “Two-man rooms became six-man rooms. Every military dorm on this island was filled to capacity.”

B-52 attacks caused tremendous and terrifying destruction.

Andersen AFB Airmen have maintained a rotational strategic bomber presence on Guam for more than a decade, strengthening regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

In honor of Andersen Airmen past and present, two B-1B Lancer aircrews with the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, performed a commemorative fly-over concluding the ceremony with a powerful roar.

The B-1B is the current aircraft deployed to Guam in support of the continuous bomber presence (CBP).

B-1B Lancers perform a flyover to begin the Operation Linebacker II Remembrance Ceremony Dec. 16, 2016, at Andersen AFB, Guam. A formation of 33 Airmen stood at the ceremony to represent the 33 who lost their lives flying in B-52 Stratofortress bombers during Operation Linebacker II.

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo / U.S. Air Force