Hanoi’s foreign ministry, calling the new B-52 raids against Hanoi and Haiphong “extremely barbaric,” accuses the United States of premeditated intensification of the war and labels the actions “insane.”
On December 13, North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of secret talks in Paris with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. President Nixon issued an ultimatum to Hanoi to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.” The North Vietnamese rejected Nixon’s demand and the president ordered Operation Linebacker II, a full-scale air campaign against the Hanoi area. During the 11 days of Linebacker II, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties were flown. These planes dropped roughly 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong.
Nixon was severely criticized both by American antiwar activists and in the international community for ordering what became known as the “Christmas bombing.” Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, China and the Soviet Union officially condemned the resumption of American bombing above the 20th parallel. The French newspaper Le Monde compared the attacks to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, when German planes from the Condor Legion attacked the Spanish city and caused great devastation and loss of life. In England, the Manchester Guardian called the bombing “the action of a man blinded by fury or incapable of seeing the consequences of what he is doing.” Pope Paul VI and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim expressed concern for world peace.
American antiwar activists charged that Linebacker II involved “carpet bombing”–deliberately targeting civilian areas with intensive bombing designed to “carpet” a city with bombs. Though the bombing was focused on specific military targets, it did result in the deaths of 1,318 civilians in Hanoi.
The “Christmas bombing” was deemed a success by the U.S., since it caused the North Vietnamese to return to the negotiating table, where the Paris Peace Accords were signed less than a month later.