think that the ah, Christmas
Bombing of ah, of ah, 1972 has ah,
ah, been the victim of more ah, false information than almost any part
of that war. I think one must go back to the time when ah, ah, Dr. Kissinger made his
speech ah, wherein he reported “peace is at hand” in October of ah, ah,
1972 and ah, ah, the agreement ah, had
ah, more or less been assigned with North Vietnam ah, under the auspices
of their ah, negotiator Le Duc
ah, ah, we were watching very carefully to see what the ah, North
Vietnamese were going to do and they, it was obvious that they had no
intention of ah, slowing the tempo of their supply effort ah, so far as
pushing supplies down south.
You've got to also bear in mind that we in the Vietnamization Program
had ah, withdrawn a very large number of troops ah, from Vietnam. I
think perhaps we are the only country in the world that ever withdrew
troops while the fighting was still taking place, but nevertheless ah,
ah, this we did, and of course we were getting down to the point where
we could not afford to withdraw every American and for all practical
purposes simply de-desert those fine young men that were tortured and
held prisoned in ah, North Vietnam.
And, so ah, I had ah, been working with ah, a small part of my staff
ah, in ah, order to ah, generate or plan an operation which would ah,
ah, get the attention of the North Vietnamese. Because I felt that they
were nothing more than ah, revolutionaries, that they only understood
just one thing, and that was brute force, and that unless you presented
them with this problem ah, you could negotiate forever, and you would
never get them to ah, agree. Or even if they agreed, they wouldn't
Well, I had been to a NATO meeting,
and was flying back to Washington when I received a message that the ah, President
Nixon wanted to see
me ah, and, at Camp David
ah, as soon as I, arrived. When I arrived I joined ah, Deputy Secretary
of Defense, Ken Rush and
we flew together to Camp
David, and ah, discussed with the President, "what do we do now?
We've had ah, ah, this agreement, we thought peace was at hand ah, it's
not here yet, the North Vietnamese are violating it, our POW's are still
in captivity, how do we get 'em out?"
ah, so ah, it was my position ah, which I had taken all along, again
that only through brute force could you force the North Vietnamese to
get the word as to what was ah, what the facts of life really were, if
they did continue to hold them. So consequently, ah, the President
agreed that we should ah, lay on ah, a very heavy strike, this time
using the B-52s as well as the tactical aircraft. Ah, part of that time
we used the B-52s very sparingly in ah, North Vietnam.
I went back to ah, my office and we began to work ah, in the details of
this operation. And ah, as I recalled ah, it began on the ah, 18th of December ah, in 1972.
one might ah, expect in an operation of that kind, the ah, aircraft
losses are always ah, higher the first day and the second day, and so
on, than they are later on because ah, ah, the ah, air defenses at that
time, are in ah, first class shape. Whereas they suffer from the impact
of the bombing and ah, also from mechanical failure, and from ammunition
supply, and so the ah, the ah, capability of the ah, North Vietnamese to
shoot down our aircraft, um, degraded rather rapidly.
a matter of fact, we could hear them on the radio ah, complaining
bitterly that in some cases ah, some of their launches had no ah,
ammunition. And so the last two days of the operation ah, we suffered no
losses at all, and could've continued with impunity ah, subsequent to
that time in my view, without losing any aircraft of ah, consequence.
far as a target is concerned, again ah, the ah, idea was ah, to ah,
destroy those ah, ah, facilities ah, in terms of warehouses, supplies,
command and control stations, the missile assembly points ah, that ah,
were again ah, allowing or enabling the North Vietnamese to continue
their operations in South Vietnam and to continue to violate the very
solemn agreement that they had already made with ah, ah, Dr. Kissinger.
ah, we ah, selected targets of this kind, and, of course, you've got to
ah, ah, realize that um, when ah, ah, an operation of that size takes
place, that ah, sooner or later you might have a stray bomb or so. And
ah, ah, we, however ah, I think no other authority than Walter Cronkite,
himself, visited the area shortly thereafter and said that he was amazed
at the accuracy ah, of the ah, bombing. We certainly ah, in no sense,
ah, laid on what ah, we'd been accused of ah...