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North Vietnam: Rolling Thunder


Although the U.S. Air Force began sending advisory personnel to South Vietnam in 1961, and carried out combat missions in South Vietnam shortly thereafter, US forces did not initially strike North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Navy attack in the Tonkin Gulf in August 1964, however, led to retaliatory raids by U.S. Navy aircraft. The USAF made its first strike against North Vietnam on Feb. 8, 1965, in response to a Viet Cong attack against Pleiku Air Base, South Vietnam. 


On March 2, 1965, the USAF began a systematic bombing campaign against North Vietnam named ROLLING THUNDER. Planners hoped to provide a morale boost to South Vietnamese forces, interdict the flow of supplies going south, and discourage North Vietnamese aggression.

Flying from bases in South Vietnam and Thailand, the USAF started hitting targets near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam. By advancing the target areas northward across North Vietnam, planners intended to apply gradual pressure and use bombing halts as incentives to negotiate.

Click on the following links to learn more about the Southeast Asia War.

Sanctuaries and Bombing Halts
Reconnaissance and Retaliatory Strikes
Countering MiGs: Air-to-Air Combat Over North Vietnam
Combat Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia
Tankers at War: Air Refueling in Southeast Asia
Blinding the Enemy: EB-66 Electronic Warfare over North Vietnam
Eyes and Ears in the Sky: USAF Reconnaissance in Southeast Asia
First In, Last Out: Wild Weasels vs. SAMs
Badge of Honor: 100 Missions Up North
Sawadee! The Party Suit Tradition in Southeast Asia

Click here to return to the Southeast Asia War Gallery.

Find Out More
Col. (Ret.) Bob Krone: "Vietnam's F-105 Rolling Thunder" (01:16:13)