The American air campaign against Hanoi in 1967 pushed Vietnamese air
defenses to the brink of disaster. By the spring of 1967, continued
improvements in U.S. tactics and electronic warfare technology had
rendered North Vietnam's SA-2 missiles and radar-controlled anti-aircraft
guns virtually impotent against U.S. Air Force aircraft. The Vietnamese
were able to rise from the ashes of this potential defeat through intense
political indoctrination; research and training; adjustments in the
missions and deployment of North Vietnam's missile, anti-aircraft, and
fighter units; assistance from communist allies; and American hesitancy
OPERATION Rolling Thunder, the U.S. bombing campaign against North
Vietnam, peaked in 1967 with a series of attacks on targets in and around
Hanoi. In keeping with the nature of policy-making in Lyndon Johnson's
White House and Robert McNamara's Pentagon, the campaign against Hanoi was
conducted in fits, starts, and half-measures. The Vietnamese, however,
saw the campaign as so crucial for their own survival that they pulled
most of their air defense forces
[End Page 175]
away from their infiltration and supply routes to help defend their
Several times during the course of the battle, U.S. technological
developments threatened to overwhelm the Vietnamese defenses. Each
time the Vietnamese overcame the threat, barely managing to hang on
until the 1968 Tet Offensive and U.S. internal dissension compelled
President Johnson to halt the bombing north of the 20th parallel,
ending the threat to Hanoi until the final spasm of Linebacker attacks
in 1972. The following account, drawn primarily from official Vietnamese
histories and internal studies, shows how a weak third-world country,
with the help of powerful friends, exploited the time given it by
American indecision and hesitation to develop ways to overcome the most
sophisticated technologies. In light of the mysterious 1998 shootdown
of an F-117 over Serbia and the endless cat-and-mouse game Iraq's air
defenses continue to play against U.S. aircraft over the "no-fly" zones,
it is a tale worth remembering.
The North Vietnamese air defense system was an integrated network
of surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, anti-aircraft guns, and Air Force
fighters. Unlike the Americans, who out of bureaucratic imperatives and
interservice rivalries fragmented command of the air war over North
Vietnam, all elements of North Vietnam's air defenses were unified
under a single service, the Air Defense-Air Force Service (Air Force
Branch, Missile Branch, Radar Branch, and Anti-Aircraft Artillery),
and a single command, the Air Defense Command. The guns of North
Vietnam's Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Branch were the heart of the Air
Defense Service, but the SAMs played a vital role in North Vietnam's air
defenses. The SAMs disrupted U.S. strike formations during their approach
to the targets and drove them down to lower levels where the cannon and
machine guns of the anti-aircraft artillery were most effective. Without
SAMs, U.S. aircraft could remain at altitude, beyond the range of all but
the heaviest-caliber North Vietnamese guns through most of their mission,
diving into range of rapid-fire 57mm and 37mm guns only briefly during the
actual bombing run. The heavy-caliber AAA guns were largely ineffective;
the North Vietnamese admit they were unable to confirm a
[End Page 176]
single U.S. aircraft shot down by their 100mm guns during the entire
year of 1965.
North Vietnam's SAM missile forces were born in early 1965, when the
Vietnamese Communists won the support of the new leader of the Soviet
Union, Leonid Brezhnev, for the war against the Americans. Relations
between Brezhnev's predecessor, Nikita Khrushchev, and the communist
leadership of North Vietnam had been poor, but on 17 November 1964,
only a month after Khrushchev was deposed, the Soviet Communist Party
Politburo approved the dispatch of military aid and military advisors
to Vietnam. The aid included SA-2 SAM missiles.
North Vietnam's first SAM regiment, the 236th, was formed on 7 January
1965. With orders giving the regiment the highest national priority,
officers scoured the armed forces, civilian universities, and technical
schools of North Vietnam to find the best engineers, electricians,
technicians, and mechanics to form the new regiment. Once the regiment's
equipment, missiles, and seventy Soviet missile advisors arrived aboard
a Soviet ship in April 1965, the regiment began a crash training program
at a training facility near Son Tay.
On 24 July 1965 the regiment fought its first engagement, shooting down
one U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-4C and damaging three others. Because there
had not been enough time to train the Vietnamese missile crews, Soviet
"advisors" personally took part in this missile launch.
Ironically, U.S. pilots were denied permission to attack the missile
launch site during its construction for fear of harming Soviet
personnel; the Soviets obviously had no similar concerns about killing
Americans. Soviet soldiers continued to participate in combat missile
launches for some time. The Vietnamese admit it was one full month
before, on 24 August 1965, the first all-Vietnamese missile crew
conducted a combat missile launch.
Soviet missile advisors and technicians served with North Vietnamese
missile units at the battalion and regimental level
[End Page 177]
throughout the war, and eighteen Soviet personnel, including a number
of missile "advisors," were killed in combat during the Vietnam war.
U.S. responses to the SAM threat included long-range electronic jamming
aircraft targeted on missile and AAA radar frequencies, special "Iron
Hand" aircraft (USAF F-105s and U.S. Navy A-4s targeted against the
SAM sites themselves), and equipping each strike aircraft with its own
electronic jammer. During the first years of the war, long-range jamming
by electronics warfare aircraft (primarily EB-66s) flying just outside
the battle area and Iron Hand strikes gave North Vietnamese missile
crews the most problems. The Vietnamese immediately began targeting
the EB-66s, setting SAM ambushes and sending MiG fighters to attack
them. While MiGs were initially unsuccessful, SA-2 ambushes shot down
two EB-66s during 1966, forcing these aircraft to shift their jamming
orbits out of North Vietnamese airspace and reducing the effectiveness
of jamming in the vital Hanoi-Red River Delta area.
Iron Hand missions severely affected North Vietnamese SAM operations. A
Vietnamese account of an early Iron Hand operation, a series of
U.S. Navy attacks on the 236th Missile Regiment southeast of Hanoi on
7 November 1965, details the destruction of two of the regiment's four
missile battalions and of the regimental technical support battalion,
responsible for assembling and transporting missiles to re-supply the
launch battalions. The 236th Missile Regiment would be out of action
for some time.
The impact of these attacks on the missile crews was devastating. Unlike
most North Vietnamese soldiers, the crews were largely well-educated
urban youth unaccustomed to hardship, whose training had concentrated on
technical skills rather than combat and ideology. Entire missile units
wavered, afraid to fire a missile for fear a launch would expose them to
attack. In 1966 a senior Air Defense Command officer, observing combat
operations with a missile battalion near Haiphong, was so frustrated
by the reluctance of the battalion commander (who claimed U.S. jamming
made it impossible to identify a target) to fire on U.S. aircraft that
he finally exploded in anger. "Even my old eyes can see the target on
your screen," he shouted at the young officer. "Launch your missiles,
damn it! They're attacking the Uong Bi power plant!"
10[End Page 178]
The Air Defense Command's commissars and political officers, who
represented the Communist Party in the Vietnamese command structure and
were responsible for the ideological preparation and the morale of their
units, devoted considerable time and attention to group "criticism,"
"self-criticism," and propaganda sessions with their men to restore
their morale and keep them in the fight.
For the United States, the concept of electronic jammers mounted on each
strike aircraft held the most promise for neutralizing the SAMs. However,
early Air Force interference jammers failed their initial combat
test in the summer of 1965 and were recalled from service. Unlike the
Air Force jammers, the Navy's ALQ-51, introduced in late 1965, was a
"deception" jammer which, rather than trying to overpower the missile
radar receivers, created a number of false radar returns on the SA-2
missile radar screens in addition to the signal of the real target. The
Navy ALQ-51s initially gave the Vietnamese problems, and for a three-month
period in the summer of 1966 the Navy aircraft loss rate in SAM-defended
areas dropped precipitously.
With study and practice, however, Vietnamese missile crews developed
procedures for distinguishing between false and actual targets. These
methods included comparing differences in the signal quality and
characteristics of each target, analysis of each target's delta
rate (its rate of change in bearing and elevation), flipping the radar
screen range-scale settings back and forth to detect anomalies, and
briefly switching the radar antenna to the stand-by position. By 1967
the Vietnamese became so proficient against the Navy's deception jamming
that during an engagement on 13 August 1967, two SA-2 missiles hit and
destroyed three Navy A-4s.
The glacial pace of U.S. escalation and the numerous bombing restrictions
that President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara imposed on the
Rolling Thunder bombing campaign spared Hanoi from attack for the first
sixteen months of the war. Finally, on 29 June 1966, the Americans hit
the Hanoi area, bombing the Duc Giang petroleum storage tanks on the
outskirts of the city. The Vietnamese admit that the American attack on
Duc Giang caught them flat-footed:
[End Page 179]
The Air Defense Command's system for reporting enemy activities and
directing combat operations was slow and ineffective. In truth, during
this battle the enemy achieved both strategic and tactical surprise.
In the words of another official Vietnamese history, "The flames from
the fires at the Duc Giang petroleum tank farm and our poor performance
in this battle caused much thought and severe self-criticism among
commanders at all levels."
Taking quick action to correct deficiencies in Hanoi's air defenses,
the Vietnamese General Staff made the defense of Hanoi and Haiphong
the Air Defense Command's highest priority. By late October 1967 the
new Hanoi air defense plan was complete. Three missile regiments, four
anti-aircraft artillery regiments, and both Air Force fighter regiments
were committed to the defense of the Hanoi area.
Instead of taking advantage of North Vietnamese confusion, President
Johnson refused to permit attacks against other targets in the Hanoi area,
giving the Vietnamese the respite they so desperately needed. Hanoi
targets would not be attacked again for almost six months. American
pilots would pay dearly for this delay.
In September 1966 the Air Force began combat tests of the new QRC-160-1
jamming pod. These pods, carried by individual strike aircraft, were
designed to disrupt North Vietnamese missile and anti-aircraft fire
control radars. At first few such jammers were available, and only a small
number of F-105s in each strike were equipped with the pods. Although
there were not enough pods to protect entire strike formations (by the end
of 1966 there were only fifty-one QRC-160-1 pods in all Southeast Asia),
the pods were an immediate success. Only one pod-equipped aircraft was
lost during the first two months of jamming pod operations.
In November 1966 President Johnson approved strikes against railyards
and truck parks on the outskirts of Hanoi. By this time, however,
the northeast monsoon had begun, bringing almost constant cloud cover
over Hanoi, which would last until spring. Not until 2 December did the
weather clear enough for a few days of bombing strikes.
By now the Vietnamese Air Defense Command was ready. The movement of
American aircraft carriers deeper into the Gulf of Tonkin alerted the
Vietnamese that a major attack was imminent.
Although the jamming pods protected the individual aircraft carrying
them, there were too few pods
[End Page 180]
to protect everyone. On 2 December North Vietnamese defenses inflicted
the heaviest American air losses of the war, destroying five Air Force
and three Navy aircraft, including five downed by SAMs (the Vietnamese
claimed twelve aircraft shot down).
Weather permitted three more strikes (on 4, 13, and 14 December)
before President Johnson suspended all strikes in the Hanoi area in
support of another peace initiative.
The abbreviated bombing offensive revealed a number of deficiencies in
the new Hanoi air defense plan. The Hanoi Air Defense Division conducted a
"stern self-assessment" of the 2 December attack, concluding that
the enemy was able to destroy a number of targets, a number of our
anti-aircraft artillery and missile positions were hit, and units
deployed close-in did not fight as well as those deployed on the outer
perimeter. In general, all units wasted ammunition.
These problems prompted reviews of Hanoi's defenses by the General Staff
and the highest levels of the Vietnamese Communist Party. These reviews
concluded that "although Hanoi's air defense forces are numerous, their
quality is low, and their cadre [leaders] at all levels are weak."
As soon as the December 1966 strikes ended, Hanoi began redeploying
anti-aircraft guns and missiles to cover gaps exposed during the recent
The Vietnamese recognized the reason behind the respite given them by
the Americans. A Vietnamese history states:
During the first three months of 1967 the enemy launched no large
attacks against Hanoi and Haiphong. This was due in part to poor weather,
and in part to the restrictions of the American imperialist policy
of escalation. In this situation the Air Defense Service directed
forces in both cities to vigorously prepare for combat.
In early January 1967 the Air Defense Command sent four SA-2 battalions
(twenty-four launchers) to an area northwest of Hanoi to "ambush" the
EB-66s and drive them out of effective jamming range. On 4 February
274th Missile Regiment's 89th Battalion shot down an EB-66C over Bac Can
province. Four crewmen from the downed aircraft were captured. In the
words of an official Vietnamese history, "The wreckage of this EB-66C
yielded numerous documents and provided
[End Page 181]
extensive information on enemy electronic warfare to the Air Defense
Command's research and analysis components, to the Military Technical
Institute, and to the General Staff." The Air Defense Command proclaimed
the EB-66 shootdown as the Command's most important achievement during
the first three months of 1967 and awarded 89th Battalion the Military
Achievement Medal, First Class, North Vietnam's highest unit citation.
Meanwhile, another branch of the Air Defense Command had suffered a
crushing blow. On 2 January 1967 USAF F-4s set a trap to lure North
Vietnamese fighters into the air and shoot them down. American pilots
claimed seven MiG-21s destroyed; the North Vietnamese admit five MiG-21s
were shot down but say all pilots survived. On 6 January a second USAF
"MiG-trap" shot down two more MiG-21s (a figure both sides agree on),
and this time one North Vietnamese pilot was killed.
Two days later the Air Defense Command issued new orders: "MiG-21s
will temporarily suspend combat operations to derive lessons learned,
to study and refine MiG-21 combat tactics, and to conduct further
training to improve technical and tactical skills."
While the 923rd Fighter Regiment's MiG-17s continued combat operations,
half of North Vietnam's fighter force, the 921st Fighter Regiment with
the North's most modern fighters, was out of action.
On 15 January 1967 USAF bombers attacked a bridge near Hanoi. The
jamming patterns on the radar screens of the 236th Missile Regiment,
covering Hanoi's inner defensive perimeter, were unlike anything the
radar operators had ever seen. Only one of the regiment's four battalions
was able to launch missiles, and no U.S. aircraft were hit. That night
Tran Xanh, commander of the 236th Regiment, reported that the United
States was using a new type of electronic jamming. Five weeks later,
on 23 February, 236th Regiment again reported such heavy jamming that it
was unable to launch against a USAF eight-aircraft strike group flying
over the suburbs of Hanoi . The 274th Regiment, located north of Hanoi,
was able to detect this strike group through the jamming and fired at the
formation, shooting down one F-4. During the December attacks the Air
Defense Command had noted that units stationed close to Hanoi had not
performed as well as those on the outer perimeter. Now 236th Regiment,
North Vietnam's most experienced SAM regiment, had been immobilized
while another, less-experienced unit had scored a success.
[End Page 182]
The commanders and political officers of the Air Defense Command
immediately searched for the cause of this problem, and the first place
they looked was inward.
North Vietnam's decision to take on the Americans directly had not
been easy. North Vietnam's communist leaders had not attained power
by being stupid. They knew the United States was the most powerful
nation in the world and that war against the United States should not
be taken lightly. The leadership worried that their soldiers might be
so intimidated by U.S. might that they would decide their cause was
hopeless. Communist commanders and political officers in both North and
South Vietnam worked to convince their troops that they were capable
of defeating the United States in spite of America's military might
and sophisticated technology. Commanders and political officers were
constantly on the lookout for signs of what they called "wavering" and
"rightist deviation," by which they meant defeatism and despair. When
communist forces had difficulty coping with American weapons and tactics
as the United States poured combat forces into South Vietnam in 1965 and
1966, communist defeats were attributed to internal ideological weaknesses
and mistakes, not to U.S. superiority in firepower and technology.
North Vietnamese leaders knew if they ever allowed themselves and
their subordinates to blame their problems on U.S. material and
technological superiority, defeatism would spread through the ranks like
wildfire. Faith in the ultimate success of their cause was a matter
of dogma, like Papal infallibility. The political officers were the
Jesuits of the Vietnamese Communist Party, always ready to restore
the faith of those who wavered and to take action against those who
"fell from grace."
When the 236th Regiment experienced failures in January 1967 while
other units were able to score victories, the Air Defense Command's
initial reaction was to suspect what their political commissars called
"ideological jamming" in their own ranks.
In early April, as the 236th's problems worsened and other units began
to report similar difficulties, the Command's Missile Branch held a
conference in Hanoi to discuss the situation. The commander of the
236th Regiment insisted that the United States was using a new type
of jamming device mounted on the strike aircraft themselves. Senior
commanders were reluctant to accept this assessment, seeking rather
to place the blame on ideological weakness and fear. In his memoirs
the Air Defense Command's deputy political commissar described his
thoughts after the meeting:
[End Page 183]
The battle becomes more savage day by day and the enemy has begun to
attack our missile positions on a regular basis. As soon as we fire a
missile, enemy aircraft swarm in to destroy our firing positions. Could
the problem be that our people are afraid to fight?
The deputy political commissar frequently expressed his suspicions of
ideological wavering to his subordinates. On one occasion the commander
of the 236th Regiment's 62nd Battalion, one of the Command's best young
officers, reported to him that "Enemy jamming has turned our radar
screens white. We cannot identify a single target." "Jamming has turned
your screens white?" the commissar retorted incredulously. "What about
that bald head of yours? Is there any jamming inside there?"
As the debate about the problem raged, the failure of Lyndon Johnson's
latest peace initiative and improving weather brought a resumption of
attacks on the Hanoi area in the spring of 1967. Johnson now authorized
attacks on railyards, bridges, and Hanoi's source of electrical power.
Anticipating the renewed attacks, the North Vietnamese had used this
respite to beef up Hanoi's air defenses. The 365th and 367th Air
Defense Divisions moved in to reinforce Hanoi's own 361st Air Defense
Division. Because of the increasing impotence of SAMs and radar-controlled
AAA guns, anti-aircraft gun positions were built as close as possible to
primary targets (including the two main bridges and the city's electrical
power plant). This would enable the guns to fire directly at American
aircraft when they were most vulnerable—during their dive-bomb
runs. By 21 April, when the Air Defense Command held a meeting to issue
assignments for the defense of Hanoi, ten AAA regiments and five SAM
regiments, representing 60 percent of the Command's AAA batteries and
52 percent of its SAM launch battalions, together with virtually the
entire North Vietnamese Air Force, were committed to the defense of Hanoi.
One element of the reinforced air defenses was not North
Vietnamese. According to the history of Vietnamese air defense forces,
in early 1967 "a new fighter regiment" arrived from an unnamed foreign
country to reinforce the 921st and 923rd Fighter Regiments.
The new unit was North Korean, sent pursuant to a North Korean Party
[End Page 184]
reached in October 1966.
While rumors circulated during the war that North Korean pilots were
fighting in North Vietnam, the North Korean role was not publicly
confirmed until 1996, when the U.S. Defense Department released newly
acquired Soviet military records regarding North Korean combat sorties
against U.S. aircraft in 1967-68.
In 2001, more than twenty-five years after the end of the war, the
North Vietnamese government finally acknowledged that North Korean
pilots had participated in the 1967 air battles over North Vietnam.
When the attacks on Hanoi resumed, the increasing use of the QRC-160-1
jamming pods, which now equipped almost all USAF strike aircraft,
blinded the SAM and AAA fire-control radars. Between 25 and 29 April
USAF aircraft hit Hanoi's railyards, electrical transformer stations,
and one of the city's bridges. On 26 April SAM units, desperate to
overcome the heavy jamming, shot down one of their own MiGs.
The official Air Defense Command history records that
All missile battalions reported such heavy jamming that it was difficult
for them to fire missiles. Many battalions experienced great confusion
when trying to identify targets through the heavy interference.
The burden of the defense increasingly fell on optically sighted AAA
weapons and the Air Force. The Air Defense Command ordered the Air
Force to step up its combat operations. In April 1967 U.S. pilots noted
a sudden increase in the combat proficiency and aggressiveness of the
MiG pilots opposing them and at first the Vietnamese had some success.
41[End Page 185]
American pilots claimed ten or eleven MiGs destroyed in April for the loss
of seven U.S. aircraft; Vietnamese pilots claimed fifteen U.S. aircraft
shot down in April.
The more aggressive tactics of the Vietnamese MiGs produced one
immediate effect. At the end of April 7th Air Force in Thailand
increased the number of fighter escorts for each strike and switched
all F-4s to the escort role, ending the previous practice of arming
the F-4s with both bombs and air-to-air missiles to allow them both
to defend the bombers and to bomb targets themselves.
The Vietnamese Air Force had achieved one of its primary goals:
"To force the enemy to strengthen his fighter escorts and reduce the
number of aircraft carrying bombs."
On 5 May, after a lull of almost one week, USAF aircraft again attacked
targets around Hanoi. Intense jamming from QRC-160-1 jamming pods,
combined with long-range jamming from EB-66s northwest of Hanoi, covered
the screens of the SAM units and blinded the radars controlling Vietnamese
57mm and 100mm guns. Every missile launched by 274th Regiment either
self-destructed or crashed back to earth. The AAA guns were forced to
use optical fire control equipment or iron sights on the guns to engage
While several aircraft were shot down, the situation was now
desperate. Now even the hard-line political commissars were convinced:
in May 1967 the Air Defense Command formally concluded that the problems
were caused by QRC-160-1 jamming pods mounted on USAF strike aircraft.
The 5 May battle did produce one bright spot for North Vietnamese missile
forces: 63rd Missile Battalion, located southwest of Hanoi, fired at USAF
aircraft from the rear as they exited the area, destroying one F-105. This
engagement provided an explanation for the puzzling phenomenon of missile
units on the periphery being able to score victories while missile units
close to the city were blinded by jamming. The Vietnamese realized the
jamming transmitters were designed to direct most of their power forward
of the aircraft. Jamming signal strengths to the sides and rear of the
pod were weaker than in front of the aircraft. This explained why the
radars of missile units protecting targets such as Hanoi were overwhelmed
as USAF strike formations approached, while units located farther from
the target could still detect targets and, if they were in range, get
off a shot at the attackers. The Air Defense Command
[End Page 186]
and the Missile Branch immediately provided all SA-2 units full details
of 63rd Battalion's successful engagement and encouraged them to try
similar tail-chase launches.
In a desperate search for information to help solve their growing
air defense dilemma, the Vietnamese turned for answers to prisoner
interrogations. In 1973 returning American prisoners of war reported
that focused, brutal interrogations of newly captured pilots aimed at
gaining tactical and technical information increased significantly during
According to Vietnamese accounts, these interrogations quickly hit
pay dirt. The Vietnamese claim a pilot told them the United States
was planning to attack Hanoi's electrical power plant with Walleye
On 18 May the Air Defense Command ordered the 230th and 241st AAA
Regiments into new firing positions to strengthen the defenses of the
power plant. By the next morning, when the attack began, the Hanoi
power plant was defended by eighteen six-gun batteries of 57mm guns
and three batteries of 14.5mm AAA machine guns mounted on armored cars.
The advance warning was not the only Vietnamese good fortune. President
Johnson approved an attack on the power plant, which was close to the
heart of the city, on the condition that the plant would be attacked
only by highly accurate "smart bombs" to limit collateral damage. The
Navy's Walleye was the only weapon available with the accuracy Johnson
demanded, so Navy aircraft would make the attack.
The Navy, however, had not adopted the Air Force QRC-160-1 jamming pods,
preferring to keep their own "deception" jammers even though Vietnamese
SAMs were now enjoying considerable success against Navy aircraft.
American "ideological" differences, in the form of the dogma of
interservice rivalries, would again cost American lives.
[End Page 187]
On 19 May, President Ho Chi Minh's birthday and a Vietnamese national
holiday, the Navy struck the Hanoi area. Hanoi's SAM radars, identifying
and filtering out the Navy's false-target jamming, were again able to
lock onto targets. A total of forty-four SA-2 missiles were launched
against the Navy strikes. Vietnamese missile units alone claimed to
have destroyed four Navy aircraft. In fact, six Navy aircraft were
lost in the attack on Hanoi, at least two of which are known to have
been destroyed by SAMs. The heavy air defenses disrupted the attack,
and the two Walleye guided bombs failed to hit the power plant.
On 21 May a follow-up Navy strike succeeded in hitting one of the
power plant's generators and the turbine house, but at a cost of two
more aircraft (the Vietnamese claimed three).
One final Walleye attack was made on 10 June. The attack left an
unexploded Walleye embedded in the walls of one of the power plant
boilers, where it was immediately recovered for study by Vietnamese
engineers. Discouraged by public outcry, the heavy Navy losses, and
increasing disputes among his advisors about the value of the bombing
campaign, President Johnson once again placed Hanoi and its environs
off limits to U.S. air attacks.
The Vietnamese desperately needed this new respite. Not only had USAF
jamming rendered the SAMs and radar-controlled guns defending Hanoi
impotent, but also the increased fighter escorts for U.S. strike
formations had hammered the MiGs out of the sky. During a series of
intense battles in May, U.S. aircraft shot down twenty-three MiGs while
losing only three aircraft in air combat.
The Vietnamese admit that their fighters, especially their MiG-17s,
suffered horrendous losses. During a few short days in late May and
early June, ten North Vietnamese pilots were killed. The Vietnamese Air
Force's official history concedes that these losses had a "tremendous
impact on morale" and that "a number of pilots became fearful of
engaging enemy fighters."
Between March and June 1967 North Vietnam lost half of its fighter
pilots, leaving insufficient pilots to staff even a single fighter
regiment. General Van Tien Dung, Chief of the North Vietnamese General
Staff, ordered the Air Force to "focus your efforts on preserving your
forces to enable the Air Force to conduct combat operations over the
long term." The Air Defense Command quickly reduced combat operations,
ordering MiG-17s to fight "only small engagements when victory is
certain" and giving
[End Page 188]
the MiG-21s a noncombat mission: developing tactics to attack U.S. EB-66
long-range jamming aircraft.
During a semiannual review in June the Air Force Party Committee decided
the MiGs had bitten off more than they could chew. "Because our forces
are limited," the Party Committee said,
we should not engage the enemy every single time he attacks Hanoi and
our network of dikes. . . . We must select the proper sector, the proper
individual flight group, and the proper opportunity before launching
The Party Committee reassessed the role of the MiG fighters in North
Vietnam's overall air defense posture and set forward the following
roles as being suited to the Air Force's capabilities:
—Block enemy attacks in one sector, destroy a number of enemy
aircraft, and force his bombers to miss their targets.
—Disrupt enemy strike formations and force them to attack with only
part of their strength, thereby rendering their attacks less effective.
—Force the enemy to increase the proportion of fighter escorts
and reduce the number of bomb-carrying strike aircraft.
—Enable the other elements of the Air Defense Force to successfully
defend our targets.
Hanoi's SAM troops spent the summer desperately searching for an answer
to the jamming problem. Missile control crews spent long hours in
their stifling hot Soviet-made vans, staring at radar screens with the
brightness controls turned to the maximum to try to adapt their eyes
to the screens glowing white with intense jamming in the vain hope of
being able to discern a target through the glare. Food rations for radar
operators were increased to improve their vision. Some radar operators
even suggested that dark glasses be issued to help the operators pick
Meanwhile, work on a practical solution was already proceeding. During
the April Air Defense Command conference on the jamming problem, 236th
Missile Regiment Commander Tran Xanh recommended use of a new guidance
technique called the "three-point method."
Because the jamming incapacitated the SA-2's automatic lock-on and
[End Page 189]
tracking mode, the three-point method relied on "track on jam" tactics,
with the radar operating essentially in a receive-only mode (if the
radar transmitter was at full power the combination of the radar return
signal and the jamming signal overloaded the radar receiver and turned
the radar screens white). The operators could see and track the jamming
signal by manually keeping their target designators on a specific point
on the jamming signal, thereby generating course corrections which were
transmitted to the missile via the missile guidance data link.
After some initial resistance, in May the Air Defense Command
designated one of 236th Regiment's battalions as a trial unit to test
the feasibility of this "track on jam" system.
The battle now shifted away from the Hanoi area. The city of Haiphong
and railroad and road networks came under intense attack. A number of
AAA and missile units committed to the defense of Hanoi were shifted
away to defend other areas. Finally, in early August President Johnson
authorized renewed attacks on targets in the Hanoi area, including the
long-inviolate Paul Doumer Bridge.
On 10 August a small unmanned photo-reconnaissance drone flew over the
city. Recognizing the significance of the drone's flight, the Hanoi
Air Defense Commander requested the immediate recall of a number of
dispersed units, but the General Staff deferred his request, believing
attacks on Hanoi would not begin for several more days.
In the late afternoon of 11 August a large force of USAF F-105s conducted
a surprise attack on Hanoi, hitting several logistics targets and knocking
out the Paul Doumer Bridge. That evening the Air Defense Command conducted
a "stern" self-criticism session, which concluded,
In addition to our incorrect assessment of enemy intentions and our
failure to move forces back to Hanoi quickly enough, another reason for
this failure was the inadequate technical skills of many missile and
radar-controlled AAA units, which were unable to locate targets through
the heavy enemy jamming.
That same night Air Defense Command recalled three missile regiments
and numerous AAA units for the next round of attacks. Hanoi's defenses
quickly grew to unprecedented levels—111 AAA batteries and
[End Page 190]
20 SA-2 missile battalions.
The SAM force, however, still had not found a solution to the USAF
QRC-160-1 jamming pods, which were increasing in numbers and constantly
being upgraded. Most of North Vietnam's missile battalions were still
trying to duplicate 63rd Battalion's success of 5 May, using the
automatic target lock-on mode for missile guidance while redeploying
their launchers to try to get side or rear shots at weak spots in the
jamming pattern. Only 14 percent of the missile battalions were using
the new "three-point" track-on-jam technique.
Following the disastrous results of the 11 August battle, during
which three missile battalions located on Hanoi's inner perimeter
were able to launch only one missile (which missed its target), the
Air Defense Command held a conference to review the situation. Air
Defense Commander Dang Tinh ordered the entire missile force to test
the new and unproven track-on-jam tactic.
During the afternoon of 12 August, after SAMs failed to score any
successes against morning USAF attacks on the Canal des Rapides Bridge,
63rd Battalion (the same unit that scored the 5 May tail-chase victory)
shot down an RF-4C using the "three-point" method. It was the first
victory for track-on-jam. That night a celebration was held at 236th
Regiment Headquarters. Attending the celebration were the Deputy Air
Defense Commander and senior Soviet advisors. Soviet advisors may
have played a role in introducing the track-on-jam concept, since the
Vietnamese record that during the celebration the senior Soviet missile
advisor personally congratulated each member of the missile control crew
and hugged and kissed the commander of 63rd Battalion.
This first victory did not bring immediate success to the Vietnamese
missile force. The "three-point" method required great skill, manual
dexterity, and coordination between the bearing and elevation trackers,
who had to keep their respective target designators centered on a single
three-dimensional point in the broad jamming signal (aircraft equipped
with jamming pods flew in a precise formation to enable the signals from
the pods to form a large single signal). Because the thirty-foot-long
SA-2 missiles were not agile and the SA-2 missile control signal was
transmitted in a very narrow beam, the slightest over-control by the
trackers or the slightest confusion between the bearing and elevation
trackers could take the missile out of the data-link signal beam or send
it tumbling out of control. During the August strikes against Hanoi
66 percent of all missiles launched lost control and self-destructed,
and over 6 percent of the
[End Page 191]
missiles crashed back to earth.
Civilian deaths and property destruction caused by crashes of the
giant missiles, filled with rocket fuel and high explosives, were so
serious that the Party Politburo held a special meeting to consider
the problem. A senior Air Defense Command officer was sent to meet
with Ho Chi Minh himself to explain what the Command was doing to
correct the problem.
The next success for the "three-point method" was not scored until 17
September 1967, when another RF-4C was shot down.
The continuing impotence of the SAMs is reflected in the fact that in
what the United States called "Route Package 6," Hanoi and the Red River
Delta, only five pod-equipped USAF aircraft were shot down by missiles
during the nine-month period from 1 January to 31 September 1967.
As the August air assault on Hanoi continued, as more and more ground
targets were destroyed, as the SAMs inflicted more destruction on their
own side than on the enemy, as AAA radars were blinded, and as close-in
AAA batteries were pummeled by American cluster-bomb attacks, the Air
Defense Command again turned to the Air Force to take up the slack. The
Command's official record states: "Because our missile and AAA units
were experiencing problems and in view of the urgent requirement to
defend Hanoi, Air Defense Command decided to make aggressive use of our
Air Force fighters."
On 23 August Vietnamese fighters swung into action, launching two MiG-21s
and eight MiG-17s to intercept an incoming USAF strike against the Vinh
Yen railyard. After two months of rest and retraining, North Vietnamese
tactics had greatly improved. The MiG-21s made a surprise attack,
thoroughly disrupting the strike. Two F-4s were shot down (the Vietnamese
claimed to have shot down six aircraft), and after the dogfights another
F-4 ran out of fuel while trying to reach a tanker. The two MiG-21s,
flown by two of North Vietnam's leading aces, scored both victories.
The MiGs continued to refine their new tactics and improve in
effectiveness for the rest of the year.
The next day, on 24 August, President Johnson terminated the bombing
campaign in the Hanoi area for yet another peace initiative.
Attacks against Hanoi would not resume until October, giving the North
Vietnamese another much-needed respite. They used the time to perfect
[End Page 192]
their use of the three-point missile guidance method. After the initial
success in August, the 17 September F-4C shootdown, and a 3 October
engagement in which two F-105s were shot down using the three-point
the Missile Branch held a conference on 17 October 1967 to discuss
the three-point method. All SAM regiment and battalion commanders and
all missile control officers attended this conference. The conference
approved the use of the three-point method to engage USAF aircraft
equipped with jamming pods and decided the missile branch must fight
"massed" engagements, concentrating the fire of many missile battalions
in order to destroy large numbers of U.S. aircraft. The conference
developed a detailed combat procedure covering all aspects of the use
of the three-point method, which was disseminated to all missile units.
The missile conference ended just in time. In mid-October President
Johnson approved a new round of attacks against targets in the Hanoi area,
including the first strikes against Noi Bai Airfield (which the Americans
called Phuc Yen), where the bulk of North Vietnam's MiG-21s were based.
Once again the pattern of American aerial reconnaissance missions
alerted the North Vietnamese to a resumption of attacks in the
Hanoi area. Air defense units were pulled in to strengthen Hanoi's
defenses. When U.S. air attacks resumed on 24 October, they were
facing the greatest concentration of air defense firepower of the
war: fourteen AAA regiments and twelve separate AAA battalions,
with a total of more than one thousand guns, and twenty-six missile
battalions (156 launchers), more than 80 percent of North Vietnam's
entire missile force.
The American attacks focused on Noi Bai Airfield, the Hanoi power plant,
and Hanoi's bridges. During the first several days both Air Force and
Navy aircraft were used in the attacks. Vietnamese missile controllers
were initially confused, because the differences between Navy and Air
Force jamming equipment required two entirely different SA-2 engagement
procedures. On the first day of the attack the missile branch fired more
SAMs than on any other single day during the three years of Operation
On the second day, the twenty-fifth, in spite of massive missile
firings U.S. aircraft knocked out Hanoi's Paul Doumer Bridge.
On 26 October SAMs engaged U.S. Navy aircraft attacking the Hanoi
power plant, and North Vietnam's leading missile
[End Page 193]
officer, 61st Battalion's Nguyen Xuan Dai (later awarded the title of
Hero of the People's Armed Forces) shot future Senator John McCain's
A-4 Skyhawk out of the sky over Hanoi.
The following day USAF F-105s mounted strikes against Hanoi's Canal
des Rapides and Paul Doumer Bridges. At least four missile regiments
engaged the attackers. Three battalions of the 236th Regiment mass-fired
their missiles, downing one F-105. Later that day another F-105 was shot
down by a SAM. At least five Navy aircraft and two Air Force aircraft
were lost to SA-2s during the four-day period from 24 to 27 October;
the Vietnamese missileers claimed twenty-two aircraft shot down.
A final USAF attack on 28 October against the Canal des Rapides Bridge
was met by "more than 10" missiles barrage-fired using track-on-jam
tactics; the Vietnamese claim that two more aircraft were shot down. The
Air Defense Command exulted that "Vietnamese missile troops have found
the answer to the U.S. Air Force's use of QRC-160 jamming pods."
The Command, however, knew the U.S. strikes had inflicted substantial
damage. In an assessment of its own performance, the Command stated,
We did not attain a high level of success in fulfilling our mission,
progress was not uniform, and we did not fully exploit the capabilities
of the different branches and units to destroy more enemy aircraft and
protect the targets more effectively. We allowed the enemy to knock out
the Paul Doumer Bridge during his first attack, Noi Bai Airfield suffered
heavy damage, and a number of our aircraft were destroyed or damaged.
The Americans added a new element to their next round of attacks on the
Hanoi area: on 1 November a long-range radar site in Laos (Lima Site 85),
capable of controlling all-weather strikes over Hanoi, became operational,
initiating a radar-controlled bombing program codenamed "Commando Club."
The system required the bombers to fly in close formation on a straight,
steady course and at relatively high altitude when dropping their
bombs. An effective system for neutralizing the SAMs was essential
to the successful use of the Commando Club system. Up until October
the QRC-160 jamming pods had provided such a system. Unknown to the
Americans (who did not realize the Vietnamese were using a new missile
guidance system), the Commando Club bombing
[End Page 194]
formations were tailor-made for the new barrage-fire track-on-jam SAM
On 6 November 62nd Missile Battalion shot down an F-105, the first
victory for the test unit that had pioneered the track-on-jam concept. The
Vietnamese were so proud of this success that the wreckage of the F-105
was shipped to the Soviet city of Leningrad as a war trophy.
Finally, on 18 November, the Vietnamese missileers got the target
they wanted. A USAF Commando Club strike of twenty-four F-105s flew
in to attack Noi Bai Airfield—the bombing system was still only
accurate enough to be used to attack area targets such as airfields,
railyards, and large industrial sites. After a sneak attack by two
MiG-21s shot down two F-105s, the MiGs peeled off to allow the SA-2s
to take over. Six missile battalions fired thirteen missiles in less
than three minutes, shooting down two more F-105s and forcing the rest
to jettison their bomb loads; the Vietnamese claimed four F-105s shot
down by missiles.
The losses so discouraged the Air Force that the size and frequency of
Commando Club missions in the Hanoi area were greatly restricted. The
next day, after sending up two MiG-21s which drove the EB-66s out
of effective jamming range, SA-2s firing massed barrages and using
track-on-jam guidance shot down four more aircraft (Vietnamese missile
units claimed eight aircraft).
In four days North Vietnamese missiles had shot down between eight and
ten U.S. aircraft. U.S. planners, finally realizing they had a problem,
thought the Vietnamese were using new radars, new radar frequencies,
or an optical guidance system. They did not suspect the Vietnamese
were aiming at the jamming signals themselves.
By sheer good luck the Vietnamese had found a partial solution to the
USAF QRC-160-1 jamming pods at the very moment the Commando Club bombing
system went into operation. The Vietnamese advantage, however, would not
last. While bad weather returned in December with the northeast monsoon,
a few days of clear weather brought U.S. air strikes which revealed a
shocking new development. On 14 December, when the Americans launched
large strikes against bridges and ferry crossings in the Hanoi area,
almost every missile launched crashed back to earth as soon as it left
its launcher. The only missile that guided properly was aimed at a Navy
A-4. On 15 December the 236th and 275th Missile
[End Page 195]
Regiments launched a total of eleven missiles against a USAF strike
attacking the Canal des Rapides Bridge; every missile crashed back to
earth shortly after launch.
Once again 236th Regiment took the lead in identifying the cause of the
problem. In August one of its battalions first detected a new jamming
signal directed at the missile guidance data-link frequency.
On the night of 14 December the regiment reported that it believed
the Americans were jamming the missile guidance data link.
The Air Defense Command, which was still congratulating itself for finding
a solution to the QRC-160-1 jammers, was in a state of shock. Once again,
the Air Defense Command's political commissars refused to accept 236th
Regiment's conclusions. They again looked inward for the source of
their problem. In the words of the Air Defense Command Deputy Political
[We] were still cautious and suspicious when we received reports from our
units on this latest problem. How could this happen again? . . . Less than
a month before, on 19 November 1967, we had scored a complete victory,. . . making the enemy quake in his boots and forcing him to abandon his
attacks. How could he have taken counter-measures so quickly? Could
this be a manifestation of our own subjectivism and self-satisfaction?
[emphasis added] Could this be the reason for our inability to shoot
down enemy aircraft? . . . When revolutionaries like ourselves seek
the cause of any problem, we always focus first on the problem of
subjectivism. [emphasis added]
On the night of 15 December the Air Defense Command held an emergency
meeting in a Buddhist pagoda near Hanoi. Dang Tinh, North Vietnam's Air
Defense Commander, presided over the meeting, which was attended by all
senior Air Defense Command officers, all missile regiment and battalion
commanders, and missile guidance crews from every regiment. The official
Air Defense history records that,
During the review session on the night of 15 December a violent
disagreement split the meeting into two separate factions. The first
argued that the enemy Air Force had altered the technical equipment
on its aircraft. The second maintained that the problem was a human
problem. This group said that subjectivism had reared its ugly head among
our missile cadre and combatants and that our troops were experiencing
"ideological jamming" inside their own heads. This position was held
by a considerable number[End Page 196]of the Service's political cadre [emphasis added]. The argument
lasted late into the night, but no conclusion was reached.
In fact, the USAF had introduced the new, more powerful QRC-160-8
(AN/ALQ-87) jamming pod and had begun jamming the SA-2 missile guidance
data link, preventing the missiles from receiving guidance commands from
the ground after launch. U.S. Navy aircraft continued to be vulnerable
to Vietnamese SAMs because the Navy insisted on using its own jammers.
Once again U.S. interservice rivalries (our own "ideological jamming")
were costing American lives.
The Air Defense Command launched a crash program to find the source of
the problem. Vietnamese and Soviet missile technicians were immediately
sent to every missile battalion to inspect and adjust every piece of
equipment, with special emphasis on the missiles themselves. The General
Staff ordered the Military Intelligence Department and the Military
Technical Institute to investigate the problem.
In spite of the detailed inspection and alignment of the missiles, during
U.S. attacks on 16, 17, and 18 December, missiles failed to guide every
time they were launched at USAF aircraft. To make up for the failure of
the missile force, Air Defense Command ordered its MiGs to substantially
increase their operations.
U.S. pilots immediately noted the more aggressive MiG operations and
tactics as MiGs shot down three U.S. aircraft on 16 and 17 December.
Finally, on the morning of 19 December, Air Defense Commander Dang
Tinh, Deputy Missile Branch Commander Hoang Van Khanh, and other senior
officers went down to individual missile battalions to sit in the missile
control vans during an attack to evaluate personally the source of the
problem. After watching an unsuccessful attempt to engage a morning
strike, Deputy Missile Branch Commander Khanh personally assumed command
of the 62nd Missile Battalion when USAF strike aircraft approached Hanoi
in the afternoon. Overriding objections from radar operators and missile
technicians who said the jamming was too intense for the missile to guide,
Khanh ordered a missile launched. The missile immediately crashed back
103[End Page 197]
This personal experience, combined with interrogation reports from
captured American pilots,
finally convinced Air Defense senior officers that the problem in
fact was USAF jamming of the missile guidance data link. Air Defense
Commander Dang Tinh admitted that "some aspects of this problem are
beyond our capacity to resolve" and that the "assistance of Soviet
specialists" would be required to overcome the problem.
A joint Vietnamese-Soviet task force was formed to study the problem
and work out a hardware fix for the missiles to protect the data-link
signal. Eventually these efforts produced an upgraded version of the
SA-2 missile with a different antenna for the guidance data-link signal
and other major modifications.
In the interim, the Air Defense Command again redeployed its missile
forces to "avoid the most intense portion of the enemy jamming and
enable us to launch our missiles," seeking again to fire at USAF
aircraft from the side and rear.
These new tactics enabled the missile forces to score one final
victory which contributed greatly to the redesign of the SA-2. On 14
February 1968 61st Missile Battalion shot down a USAF F-105, which
provided Vietnamese and Soviet technicians with a piece of equipment
they desperately needed: an intact jamming pod. In the words of a
senior Vietnamese officer, "The secrets of the enemy's jamming of
our missile guidance channel, which had caused us so much heartache,
now lay revealed right there in front of our eyes."
This success was scored just in time. North Vietnamese missiles would
not shoot down another pod-equipped USAF aircraft until 22 March 1971,
more than two years later, when the modified SA-2 system finally went
Fortunately for the Vietnamese, the northeast monsoon closed in after 19
December, halting further visual bombing attacks. For three months only
U.S. Navy A-6 all-weather aircraft and USAF Commando Club strike aircraft
were capable of regularly striking the Hanoi and Red River Delta area
through the heavy cloud cover. Except for harassment by MiGs, the Air
Defense Command was totally impotent against Commando Club strikes. The
official Air Defense history describes the Vietnamese problem:
In October 1967 the U.S. established three radar sites at Danang, Nakhom
Phanom, and on Pha Thi [Lima Site 85 in Laos] to guide U.S. aircraft
making level bombing attacks against North Vietnam
[End Page 198]
during periods of bad weather. The U.S. Air Force . . . also equipped
their Air Wings with a new modification of the QRC-160 jamming pod. The
QRC-160-8 jamming pod had more power than the QRC-160 pod, allowing
the strike aircraft to fly higher to avoid our 85mm and 100mm guns. The
QRC-160-8 jamming pods could be used by small flights of four to eight
aircraft to attack areas such as Hanoi with powerful air defenses without
having to worry about our surface-to-air missiles.
The Air Defense Command had to destroy the radar control station on top
of Pha Thi Mountain (Lima Site 85) in Laos to stop these attacks. The
Command first tried a desperate tactic. Four North Vietnamese transport
aircraft, slow, ungainly AN-2 biplanes specially modified to fire 57mm
rockets and drop 120mm mortar shells as bombs through holes cut in the
floor of the fuselage, were sent to attack the radar site. On 12 January
1968 the AN-2s struck, bombing and rocketing the hilltop but doing no
serious damage to the radar site. Two AN-2s were lost, shot down by an
Air America helicopter operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. The
AN-2 squadron commander, who was killed in the attack, was awarded North
Vietnam's highest decoration: "Hero of the People's Armed Forces."
After the failure of the air attack, North Vietnamese "sappers," Vietnam's
elite commando force, were tasked with destroying the site. On 11 March
a team from the 41st Sapper Battalion, supported by powerful infantry and
artillery forces, overran the radar control station on Pha Thi Mountain,
killing or capturing twelve USAF personnel.
The threat from Commando Club bombing strikes had ended.
The Air Force never took full advantage of Commando Club. As a result
of the shock of the Vietnamese success against the large Commando Club
strike in November and because the growing threat of a ground attack on
the radar site diverted bombing missions to the defense of the site,
between 1 December 1967 and 11 March 1968 only three hundred Commando
Club strike sorties were flown against North Vietnam.
On 31 January 1968 the Tet Offensive exploded throughout South
Vietnam. The size and timing of the offensive shocked the American
military, the American public, and the American President himself. Two
months later, faced with growing opposition to the war and with no end
[End Page 199]
to the conflict in sight, President Johnson threw in the towel. On 31
March 1968 the President announced a halt to all bombing of North Vietnam
north of the 20th parallel, ending the threat to Hanoi and the Red River
Delta until the penultimate phase of the war in 1972.
It is easy for Americans to deride the ideological blinders that made
the Vietnamese political commissars resist technological explanations
for their problems and to blame the commissars for Vietnamese mistakes
and blunders. The Vietnamese do not share that view. To them, it was
because of the commissars, not in spite of them, that North Vietnam
survived the three-year long American air offensive. The Vietnamese
political commissars may have been poorly educated and dogmatic, but
they were ultimately successful. Time after time, when SAM, MiG, and
AAA units were on the ropes, the political commissars helped bring them
back. Working like football coaches whose team is down by thirty points
at halftime, the commissars kept their troops focused on the possibility
of victory. They told their men that their failures were caused not by
American strength but by their own mistakes. As long as failures were
caused by their own mistakes and "ideological weaknesses," the mistakes
and weaknesses could be corrected and they could still win. If the
men were ever allowed to believe that the failures were the result of
overwhelming American power, they would lose hope and might give up the
fight. Using a combination of self-criticism, threats, and group therapy
techniques, acting like a bizarre combination of Nazi storm trooper,
Catholic priest, and New-Age self-help guru, the commissars focused
their troops on correcting "errors" and convinced them to hang on just
a little longer. On the other hand, whenever the Air Defense Command was
down for the count, the United States refused to "go for the jugular" and
instead, time after time, reduced U.S. operations and allowed the enemy
a chance to recover. Ultimately the soldiers and political commissars of
this ideological army, with their blind and unquestioning faith in their
cause, outlasted the proud, cold professionals of a modern superpower.
More than three decades later, the Vietnamese Communists continue to study
the lessons of this victory. They believe the primary reason for their
victory was the devotion of their troops to their cause. The American
professional military, which emphasizes technology and training over
motivation and zeal, would do well not to ignore these lessons.
Merle L. Pribbenow II
is a graduate of the University of Washington
(1968) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He retired
from the Central Intelligence Agency in 1995 after twenty-seven years'
service as a Vietnamese language and operations officer. Since his
retirement three of his articles on the military history of the Vietnam
War have been published in Vietnam, Parameters, and Military
Review. His translation of the official Vietnamese Ministry of Defense
history of the war, Victory in Vietnam, was published in May 2002
by University Press of Kansas.
Le Nguyen Ba, History of the Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal
Distribution Only) [Lich Su Su Doan Phong Khong Ha Noi (Luu
Hanh Noi Bo)], editorial supervision by Senior Colonels Nguyen Van
Than and Nguyen Xuan Cu (Hanoi: Hanoi Air Defense Division, 1985),
92; Senior Colonel Ho Si Huu, Senior Colonel Thai, Colonel The Ky,
Lieutenant Colonel Dinh Khoi Sy, and Lieutenant Colonel Nghiem Dinh
Tich, History of the Air Defense Service, volume II [Lich Su
Quan Chung Phong Khong, Tap II], editorial supervision by The Party
Current Affairs Committee and the Headquarters of the Air Defense Service
(Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House, 1993), 123, 182.
Le Nguyen Ba, Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal Distribution),
General Oleg Sarin and Colonel Lev Dvoretsky, Alien Wars: The Soviet
Union's Aggressions against the World, 1919-1989 (Novato, Calif.:
Presidio Press, 1996), 91.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 40-41;
Sergei Blagov, "Missile Ambushes: Soviet Air Defense Aid," Vietnam,
August 2001, 28. See also conversation between Zhou Enlai and Ho Chi Minh,
1 March 1965, in 77 Conversations: Cold War History Project Working
Paper 42, ed. Odd Arne Westad, Chen Jian, Stein Tønnesson,
Nguyen Vu Tung, and James G. Herschberg (Washington: Woodrow Wilson
Center for Scholars, May 1998), 78.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 45-46;
Blagov, "Missile Ambushes," 28; Wayne Thompson, To Hanoi and Back
(Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), 35.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 53.
Marshall L. Michel III, Clashes: Air Combat Over North Vietnam,
1965-1972 (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1997), 34-38;
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 103-4;
Captain Gilles Van Nederveen, "Sparks Over Vietnam: The EB-66 and the
Early Struggle of Tactical Electronic Warfare," Air Research Institute
ARI Paper 2000-03, 40-43, 99.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 61-62.
Major General Nguyen Xuan Mau and The Ky, Defending the Skies:
A Memoir [Bao Ve Bau Troi: Hoi Ky] (Hanoi: People's Army
Publishing House, 1982), 133.
Lieutenant Colonel Vu Huu Tu, "73rd Battalion, 285th Missile Regiment's
Engagement against U.S. Navy Attack Aircraft at the Trinh Huong Combat
Position, Haiphong, on 31 August 1967," in Industrial Science Office of
the Air Defense Service, A Number of Anti-Aircraft Battles During the
Resistance Wars Against the French and the Americans, volume III;
Classification: Secret [Mot So Tran Danh Phong Khong Trong
Khang Chien Chong Phap, Chong My, Tap III; Mat] (Hanoi: People's Army
Publishing House, 1995), 47-65; Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air
Defense Service, 227; Michel, Clashes, 38. An account of the
U.S. side of the 31 August 67 shootdown of three A-4s can be found in
Jeffrey L. Levinson, Alpha Strike Vietnam (New York: Pocket Books,
Simon and Schuster, 1990), 234-35.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 88.
Le Nguyen Ba, Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal Distribution),
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 101-2.
Colonel Ta Hong, Lieutenant Colonel Vu Ngoc, and Lieutenant Colonel
Nguyen Quoc Dung, History of the People's Air Force of Vietnam
(1955-1977) [Lich Su Khong Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam (1955-1977)],
editorial direction by Air Force Party Current Affairs Committee and Air
Force HQS (Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House, 1993), 155; Michel,
Mark Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of
North Vietnam (New York: Free Press, 1989), 105-7; Thompson, To
Hanoi and Back, 62.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 123;
Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal Distribution), 73.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 123.
FBIS [Foreign Broadcast Information Service] East Asia KPP20010707000029,
P'yongyang Korean Central Broadcasting Station in Korean, 0800 GMT 06 Jul
01; see also FBIS East Asia KPP20000406000088, Seoul Yonhap in English,
1224 GMT 06 Apr 00, and Indochina Chronology 19 (April-July
New York Times, 22 December 1966 and 20 September 1967;
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office (DPMO) report
"1992-1996 Findings of the Vietnam War Working Group," TFR 210-19
(p. 56), TFR 210-20 (p. 57), TFR 210-32 (p. 61), accessed at
www.dtic/mil/dpmo/special/96_compre_vietred.pfd on 3 February 2002.
Military History Institute of Vietnam, Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Minh,
editor, History of the Resistance War Against the Americans to Save
the Nation, 1954-1975, vol. 5, The 1968 General Offensive and
Uprising [Lich Su Khang Chien Chong My Cuu Nuoc, 1954-1975, Tav V:
Tong Tien Cong Va Noi Day Nam 1968] (Hanoi: National Political Publishing
House, 2001), 271. "Under terms of an agreement between Korea and Vietnam,
in 1967 a number of pilots from the Korean People's Liberation Army
were sent to Vietnam to provide training, give us the benefit of their
experience, and to participate in combat operations alongside the pilots
of the People's Army of Vietnam. On a number of flights Korean pilots
scored victories by shooting down American aircraft."
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 135.
Le Nguyen Ba, Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal Distribution),
75-77; Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service,
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 160.
Ibid., 137-38; Le Nguyen Ba, Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal
Distribution), 76-77. See also Industrial Science Office, A Number
of Anti-Aircraft Battles During the Resistance Wars, 82.
Stuart Rochester and Frederick Kiley, Honor Bound (Annapolis,
Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1998), 301-2.
Le Nguyen Ba, Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal Distribution),
81; Colonels Nghiem Dinh Tich and Dinh Khoi Sy, History of the Hanoi
Air Defense Division (361st Division) [Lich Su Su Doan Phong Khong
Hanoi (Su Doan 361)] (Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House, 1995),
81-82. Page 95 of this second source admits that the North Vietnamese
General Staff's Military Intelligence Office was responsible for
conducting and analyzing these interrogations.
Le Nguyen Ba, Hanoi Air Defense Division (Internal Distribution),
81; Nghiem Dinh Tich and Dinh Khoi Sy, Hanoi Air Defense Division
(361st Division), 82.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 160-61;
Nguyen Xuan Mau and The Ky, Defending the Skies, 137-39.
Nguyen Xuan Mau and The Ky, Defending the Skies, 132.
See description of the three-point method in the classified study,
Industrial Science Office, A Number of Anti-Aircraft Battles During
the Resistance Wars, 66-84, 142-65. The three-point method was also
the primary guidance method used against B-52s during the 1972 Christmas
Nguyen Xuan Mau and The Ky, Defending the Skies, 136-37; Ho Si
Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 161.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 167.
Ta Hong et al., People's Air Force, 172-73; Ho Si Huu et al.,
History of the Air Defense Service, 167; Michel, Clashes,
128. The two Mig-21 pilots were Nguyen Van Coc, North Vietnam's top ace,
and Nguyen Nhat Chieu.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 226-27.
Michel, Clashes, 136-37; Thompson, To Hanoi and Back, 105.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 226;
Lieutenant General Mark Vorobyov (retired), "Dvina Guarding Vietnam's
Skies," Military Parade no. 28 (September-October 1998), accessed
at http://www.milparade.com/1998/28/ 101.htm on 23 January 2001.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 227.
Ho Si Huu et al., History of the Air Defense Service, 207.
Ta Hong et al., People's Air Force, 204-5; Castle, One Day
Too Long, 76-79.
Nguyen Quoc Minh, Vu Doan Thanh, Pham Gia Khanh, and Nguyen Thanh Xuan,
History of the Sapper Forces, volume I [Lich Su Bo Doi Dac Cong,
Tap I] (Hanoi: People's Army Publishing House, 1987), 205-7; Castle,
One Day Too Long, 111-37. See One Day Too Long for detailed
discussion of the possibility that one or more of the USAF personnel
manning the site may have been taken prisoner.