An article in the New York Times asserts that the U.S. bombing campaign has neither destabilized North Vietnam’s economy nor appreciably reduced the flow of its forces into South Vietnam.
These observations were strikingly similar to an earlier Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, which concluded that “the idea that destroying, or threatening to destroy, North Vietnam’s industry would pressure Hanoi into calling it quits seems, in retrospect, a colossal misjudgement.”
The first air strikes against North Vietnam were flown in the fall of 1964, in retaliation for two attacks on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin (although the second reported attack has never been verified). Additional strikes, carried out under the name Operation Flaming Dart, were ordered in February 1965 in response to Viet Cong attacks on a U.S. Army barracks at Pleiku and a nearby helicopter base, which resulted in the deaths of nine Americans. When the Viet Cong attacked other U.S. facilities in South Vietnam, President Johnson initiated Operation Rolling Thunder in March 1965, an intensified air campaign against North Vietnam. He hoped that this campaign would relieve some of the pressure on South Vietnam, where the situation was rapidly deteriorating. Unfortunately, the bombing campaign did not have the desired results and Johnson had to commit U.S. ground troops to stabilize the situation.