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Vietnam Christmas Bombings: 1972 Mutiny of B-52 Crews
A former B-52 pilot, Dana Drenkowksi, writes in an upcoming issue of Soldier of Fortune that B-52 crews "mutinied" during the Christmas, 1972 bombings of North Vietnam. He states that the crews refused to go on bombing missions because "inept" tactics resulted in "large numbers of B-52s unnecessarily shot down and their crews crippled, killed or captured."
These bombings occurred between December 18 to 29. During these 12 days the US military conducted the most massive bombing raids in history. Over 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped. About 140 of the 200 B-52s stationed in Southeast Asia were used in addition to other tactical aircraft--over 900 in all.
Hospitals, civilian population centers, dikes, factories, diplomatic missions and other structures were destroyed. Thousands of people were killed and thousands more were wounded.
According to Drenkowksi some pilots refused to fly because they were anti-war. Other pilots refused because they thought the Strategic Air Command was "inflexible" in planning the raids. But actions by both groups escalated the opposition the US military faced by its military personnel mainly in the field but now in its "elite" ranks--the air pilots.
The plans of SAC were to have the B-52s preceded by F-111s flying at a low level attacking air fields. They were followed by F-4s dropping aluminum strips to blind radar, then the B-52s flying in formations of three planes, four minutes apart.
The Vietnamese were able to hit back--and hit back they did. In all they shot down 34 B-52s, five F-111s and 42 other aircraft. For B-52 pilots the reality of the war hit them smack in the face.
B-52s flew out of Guam and U Tapao, Thailand. Each day the crews would make "milk runs" to Vietnam, drop their bombs never seeing neither their targets nor their results, fly back to base and go to the officers' clubs and have steak dinners and a few drinks.
These officers' clubs, according to Drenkowksi, were where the crews "mutinied." They damaged the clubs and created a lot of disorder over their refusals to fly. One pilot actually made an anti-war statement to the press and was court-martialled and given a discharge for it. At least 12 others were reprimanded.
After two days of these riots the Air Force changed their tactical plans, but B-52s continued to be shot down. Finally on December 29, the raids ended, not for the "humanitarian" nonsense put forward by Nixon but because the toll to the US military was staggering.
That their "strato-fortresses" were shot down in such a great number, and that their elite bombing crews reacted so violently, was objectively a great victory for the Vietnamese (despite the massive damage to their country), and to the American people who were opposed to the war in their millions.
Drenkowski puts forward the myth that the bombing raids were responsible for the forcing the Vietnamese to sign the Paris Peace Agreement. This is an outright lie. A tentative agreement was reached in October, 1972, basically the same one finally signed. The bombings were put forward by Nixon as the "path to peace." But the bombings, while destructive, only further hardened the resolve of the Vietnamese people, and weakened the role of the US in the eyes of the world.
According to a statement made by the Vietnam Foreign ministry on the day the raids ended, "...the north Vietnamese armed forces and people have firmly countered the US aggressors, winning a very glorious victory--the downing of 81 aircraft...and the wipeout or capture of a very great number of American flyers. This, on the other hand, constitutes an unparalleled defeat for the strategic air force of the US and the shattering of the image of the B-52 trump-card."