Chiến trường Việt Nam - P10: Không ngừng không kích

Uploaded by royalhau on 20.07.2011

Rolling Thunder
The American campaign against North Vietnam's transport system...
...began on April 3rd 1965.
In a month long offensive, Navy and Air Force planes...
...hit bridges, road and rail junctions, truck parks and supply depots.
For the Americans, one of the most important targets...
...was the Ham Rung bridge across the Song Ma river.
The bridge was a chokepoint for troops and supplies moving Southwards.
In spite of repeated attempts, the Americans failed to destroy the target.
Two U.S. planes were lost to Mig fighters...
and more to anti aircraft defenses.
Although the bombing was meant to damage...
the North Vietnamese military transport system,
it also had political aims,
it was supposed to pressure the North to stop supporting...
...NLF guerrillas fighting in the South.
In spite of the mounting damage, Ho Chi Minh, the Northern president,
...was defiant.
In South Vietnam the NLF were doing well on the battlefield.
South Vietnamese government forces were on the defensive.
Ho meant to continue supporting the war as long as his Chinese and Soviet allies...
provided the weapons and financial support to carry on.
North Vietnam's war materials from the Soviet Union and China...
came overland by rail or by sea into the major ports...
...of Haiphong, Hong Gai and Cam Pha.
Supplies and troops destined for the war in the South were then sent on... staging areas, especially Dong Hoi.
From there, they traveled into Laos by truck and bicycle...
...down the Ho Chi Minh trail into South Vietnam.
More troops and supplies went South by sea.
American aircraft had already attacked junctions, bridges, troop staging areas,
and supply depots vital to the North's supply effort.
However, the North East quadrant,
with the population centers of Hanoi and Haiphong,
would be left alone for the time being, at least.
So too would the transport links to China, around which there were now...
...heavy concentrations of Chinese anti aircraft guns.
As the Rolling Thunder campaign continued, opposition to the bombing...
...grew in the United States and around the world.
On May, 13th 1965, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson
agreed to halt the bombing for five days.
As Johnson had expected, North Vietnam firmly rejected his overture.
In the months that followed the bombing pause,
Rolling Thunder attacks were steadily intensified.
Transportation was still the top priority,
but the list of targets approved by the White House was steadily broadened.
The planes also began to range further North than before.
Soon U.S. fighters had shot down their first Migs of the air war.
By July 1965 a ring of Soviet supplied surface to air missile batteries...
...surrounded key sites in North Vietnam.
The SAM was 35 feet long and radar guided.
It could hit a target 20 miles away...
and it was one of the most advanced anti aircraft weapons in the world.
If the SAM's warhead detonated anywhere within 200 feet of an aircraft... would almost certainly bring it down in flames.
The missile defenses destroyed the first U.S. aircraft... late July 1965.
In the coming months, one in every 20 SAMs fired would hit its target.
By the end of 1965, they had lost 171 planes.
For American air commanders, the SAMs were a nightmare.
The only solution was to try and stay outside their range...
...for as long as possible.
American aircraft were now attacking some carefully selected targets
...inside the Northeastern quadrant of North Vietnam.
However they had orders to avoid prohibited zones...
...of ten miles around the capital Hanoi,
...and four miles around the port of Haiphong.
In bigger zones around both cities attacks were severely restricted,
and the aircraft also had to stay out of the buffer zone...
...along the border with China.
It was in the Northeastern quadrant that the North Vietnamese had built up...
the heaviest concentrations of fighters and anti aircraft missiles.
The Americans knew the operating ranges of the Mig's and the SAMs,
Attacking aircraft took elaborate measures to avoid them...
...until the last possible moment.
SAM missile sites were hard to find and even harder to destroy.
To make the problem worse, those inside the prohibited zones...
...around Hanoi and Haiphong could not be attacked at all.
It would be months before the restriction was lifted.
Avoiding SAMs posed some dangers to American pilots.
The missiles were most dangerous to planes flying at 20,000 feet or above.
A low flying aircraft was less at risk,
but then it was inside the range of the anti aircraft guns.
By this time North Vietnam's Mig fighters were being sent into battle...
...whenever the odds seemed in their favor.
Always they fought under strict control from the ground.
Their tactics were to approach from behind and above the Americans...
...and then mount a sudden ambush.
To the intense frustration of U.S. air commanders, American planes...
...were strictly forbidden to attack North Vietnamese fighter bases.
The fear in the White House was that Chinese or Soviet advisors...
...might be killed, provoking retaliation.
An even bigger worry was that if the North's Air Force were destroyed...
...Chinese fighter units might take over the defense themselves.
By September 1965, Migs had destroyed 11 U.S. aircraft in combat,
...but more than 20 Migs had been shot down by American planes.
Nearly 2/3 of the whole North Vietnamese fighter force was gone.
In October 1965, General Giap, the North Vietnamese defense chief,
was forced to order the 921st fighter wing to cut back combat operations.
On December 24th 1965, President Johnson announced...
...another temporary halt to the bombing of North Vietnam, and offered talks.
Meanwhile, the war in the South was gathering pace.
By the start of 1966, 184,000 U.S. troops had arrived in the country.
They were already launching big operations against the NLF guerrillas.
Months before, American leaders had decided that the air war in the South...
...would, if necessary, take priority over operations against the North.
Hundreds of transport aircraft and fighter-bombers supported American troops.
Strike aircraft could be called in by any combat unit in the field.
Time after time, their bombs, rockets and Napalm saved American units...
...from being overrun by the Vietcong...
...but they also hit thousands of civilians and their homes.
Against Vietcong troops in the open, tactical fighter bombers...
...were accurate and destructive weapons.
However, against fortified guerrilla bases spread out under the forest canopy...
...they were almost useless.
The solution suggested by the U.S. commander in Vietnam,
General Westmoreland, was to carpet-bomb with B-52s.
The B-52 could carry 51 750 and 500 pound bombs,
a 13.5 ton payload.
A modified version, the 'Big Belly'...
...could carry 108 750 and 500 bombs,
...a massive 31.75 tons.
A cell of 3 B-52 could obliterate an area three miles long and 2 miles wide.
B-52 raids were codenamed Arc Light.
Each raid had involved a 12 hour round trip from Guam, the Pacific Ocean.
The missions were possible only because for every bomber in the fleet...
...there was a tanker from Okinawa to refuel it in flight.
The mission of the B-52 force was soon broadened... include the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos...
...and passes feeding the trail just inside North Vietnam.
The bombers were also accurate enough... support U.S. troops on the ground.
Radar could direct the B-52s to a target day or night...
up to 200 miles away and tell the crew exactly when to drop their bombs.
The pause in the bombing that President Johnson had ordered... December 1965, lasted 37 days.
When the bombing restarted it had coincided with appalling weather.
North Vietnam was given a priceless breathing space... which to boost its defenses.
The North's most important installations were now defended... 5,000 anti aircraft guns.
They included new, radar guided 85 and 100 mm weapons to bring down an aircraft at nearly 20,000 feet.
More SAM missile sites had also been put in place.
By now, 30 new fighter pilots had come back from training...
in the Soviet Union and China, along with more aircraft... rebuild the fighter force.
American aircraft losses were now 20 a month over North Vietnam.
One in 40 planes flying into the heavily defended Northeast quadrant was lost.
Pilot morale was beginning to suffer.
Most were in combat every second day and some even more often.
Realizing that dangerous problems were developing,
the Americans moved to send more carrier pilots to Southeast Asia.
They also overhauled the supply system.
At the same time other changes were made... help reduce American casualties and boost morale.
In April 1966 Yankee station and the carriers of Task Force 77...
...were moved nearer to North Vietnam.
At the same time, two new Search and Rescue stations were created...
...called North and South.
The stations were placed on the routes most used by U.S. strike aircraft.
Up to now, U.S. Air Force and Navy planes had taken turns... hit different areas of North Vietnam.
There were always problems of coordination.
Now, the system was improved by allocating route packages.
Route Package 1 was given to Military Assistance Command in the South... part of the war in the Demilitarized Zone.
The Air Force was assigned route packages 5 and 6A.
The Navy concentrated its efforts on the route packages nearer the coast.
The route package system allowed American pilots... learn the defenses of their own target areas.
Combined with the Area Search and Rescue operations... did help save pilots lives but did little to reduce aircraft losses.
In May and June 1966, 18 planes were shot down.
7 pilots were picked up by the Search and Rescue forces.
By now, every American raid included attacks... suppress anti aircraft defenses.
Strikes were also supported by a vast array of sophisticated technology.
Early warning radar aircraft could alert pilots to Migs or SAM launches.
Electronic warfare planes tried to jam anti aircraft radars.
Wild weasel strike aircraft, armed with the new Shrike radar seeking missiles...
...were deployed to hit the SAM sites.
The Americans also had a new and formidable attack aircraft.
The A-6 Intruder, had the world's most sophisticated...
...electronic navigation and targeting systems.
It could find and hit targets day or night in any weather...
...and carried a 6.5 ton bomb load.
In poor conditions, a pair of Intruders could destroy a target...
...that a normal raid of 100 aircraft might fail to hit.
More than a year after Rolling Thunder had begun...
...North Vietnam's leaders were gaining confidence.
The bombing had unified the North Vietnamese people.
Damaged railway stock, tracks, and industrial equipment...
...were being replaced by the Soviet Union and China.
Almost every day, a supply ship arrived in Haiphong harbor.
The Soviet Union had also supplied new advanced fighter aircraft,
...bringing the number of North Vietnamese planes to 70.
The Mig 21, all weather interceptor, was able to fly... twice the speed of sound and was highly maneuverable.
It was armed with two cannon and two Atoll infrared homing missiles,
...deadly weapons at medium ranges.
In spite of the American bombing, the North Vietnamese...
...had actually increased the flow of men and supplies... the Southern battlefield.
Destroyed bridges were bypassed by pontoons and fords...
...and trucks moved mostly at night.
For months the American Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington...
...had been urging the president to launch an all out campaign...
...against North Vietnam.
Above all, they wanted to target petroleum and oil storage, the POL system.
U.S. commanders were confident that an offensive against POL targets...
...would deal a crippling blow to the North Vietnamese war effort.
The offensive was put off again and again.
President Johnson was waiting for an answer to a peace feeler sent out to Hanoi.
When there was no response, the president approved the attacks.
The first POL raids on North Vietnam's fuel storage system...
...were launched on June 29th 1966.
North Vietnam had 13 major oil storage facilities.
Two had already been destroyed and another badly damaged.
The new American campaign was launched... USAF planes flying from Thailand,
...and by the Navy carriers Ranger, Constellation and Hancock.
In the first strikes, tanks at Hanoi, Haiphong and Don Son were hit.
The following day saw attacks on yet more sites.
The remaining facilities and fuel carrying trains from China were next.
The American attacks were completely devastating.
The North's biggest facility at Haiphong was totally destroyed.
Smoke from the burning tanks reached 20,000 feet into the sky.
The POL strikes lasted for several weeks.
76% of the designated oil facility targets... North Vietnam's main storage and pumping facilities were wrecked.
So were half the barges used to ferry oil from tankers offshore.
The reaction from North Vietnam's air defenses was furious.
SAMs and anti aircraft guns were reinforced as the raids went on.
The Migs flying from airfields still off-limits to U.S. bombs...
...could attack at will.
American losses were heavy.
In spite of the massive size of the POL campaign...
...and the heavy cost in downed aircraft,
...the American raids had a limited effect.
The big oil tanks had been destroyed, but long before...
...the North had dispersed the stocks to smaller tanks and bunkers.
Some had been hidden in residential districts,
...places the Americans might avoid attacking.
The Americans launched a massive effort to try and eliminate...
...the dispersed oil stocks.
After heavy losses of planes and men, they had destroyed only a fraction.
North Vietnam still had more than enough to supply its own needs...
...and the needs of the trucks supplying the Southern battlefield.
In October, 1966 the U.S. defense secretary, Robert McNamara...
paid a visit to the American carrier fleet off the shores of North Vietnam
With him was General Wheeler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
and Admiral Sharp, the Pacific Fleet commander.
Over the past few months McNamara had grown more and more disillusioned...
...with the Rolling Thunder campaign.
The North Vietnamese still showed no signs of abandoning the war.
The failure of the POL offensive had been the final straw.
By now, the cost of Rolling Thunder had soared... 1 billion 247 million dollars...
...and more aircraft and crew lost every month.
McNamara now favored curtailing the bombing.
He argued that U.S. aircraft should concentrate on attacking...
...the supply routes from North Vietnam to the South, a much lower cost in lives and cash.
Military leaders were dismayed.
Their argument was that Rolling Thunder had failed because...
...with all the restrictions, it had never been given a chance to succeed.
During 1966 as operation Rolling Thunder intensified,
American and Australian warships joined... the campaign against North Vietnam.
Operation Sea Dragon attacked more than 3,500 land targets...
including bridges, railroad yards and truck parks.
More than 300 coastal defense and radar installations were damaged or destroyed.
The attacks were fiercely resisted... North Vietnamese coastal artillery batteries.
During the two years of Sea Dragon attacks the guns would hit 19 ships,
none were sunk, but several suffered serious damage.
In early February 1967, President Johnson declared a six day halt... attacks on North Vietnam.
The North Vietnamese immediately raced supplies and men to the South... they had done during every pause before.
Ho Chi Minh replied to Johnson's offer of negotiations...
...with the demand that the bombing stopped completely.
Ho made no promise that even then he would talk.
Ho's rebuff left Johnson frustrated and angry.
It was now a contest of wills.
To increase the pressure on North Vietnam, Johnson sanctioned attacks...
...on a new list of bombing targets.
American planes would attack the North's airfields, power plants and industries...
while the Navy's operation Sea Dragon would be expanded.
It was a major step towards an all out campaign.
The U.S. and Australian warships of Operation Sea Dragon...
...were allowed to extend operations from 19 to 20 degrees North.
Aircraft were sent to mine river mouths and later inland waterways as well...
...up to the same line.
Haiphong harbor, however, the North's most important port...
would not be mined until 1972 to avoid the risk of sinking Soviet ships.
The New targets for U.S. bombers were the air fields,
...power plants and industries of the Northeastern quadrant.
Some targets were inside the previously prohibited zones...
...around Hanoi and Haiphong.
The American attacks on North Vietnam's airfields began on April 24th 1967.
By the end of the year, all but one of the North's Mig bases had been hit.
The attacks inflicted heavy damage on runways and installations.
There were furious air combats over Hanoi and Haiphong... every available Mig was thrown into action.
After the air field attacks came the strikes on industrial targets
...and power plants.
32% of the North's electrical power generating capacity was cut,
but the remaining plants were adequate to supply...
...most of the North's small industrial plants.
By now the weather had improved and the bombers now ranged freely...
...hitting old and new targets again and again.
In May 1967, as desperate battles raged in the skies over Hanoi and Haiphong,
the Americans shot down 26 North Vietnamese fighters.
North Vietnam's pilot strength had been halved.
While the latest offensive against North Vietnam was still underway,
in Washington a bitter argument was raging about strategy in Vietnam.
President Johnson's civilian and military advisors...
...were now completely at odds.
The military wanted a major escalation of the ground and air war... an all out push for victory.
The civilians, especially Robert McNamara,
...were calling for the war effort to be leveled off.
In August 1967, the pressure on President Johnson... side with his military commanders sharply increased.
A senate subcommittee was about to call for much heavier bombing of North Vietnam.
To head off criticism, Johnson approved a sharp escalation in Rolling Thunder.
For the defense secretary, Robert McNamara,
the decision to escalate was the end of the road.
His advice had been ignored...
...and plainly he no longer had the confidence of the President.
McNamara had no option but to resign.
American aircraft now hit a whole list of previously banned targets
...including power plants and rail yards inside the Hanoi circle.
The Paul Du Mer bridge linking Hanoi and Haiphong was attacked...
...and two of its spans dropped into the Red River.
However engineers hastily carried out temporary repairs...
and the bridge continued to carry traffic until it was hit again in October 1967.
Targets inside the Chinese border buffer zone were also hit.
American planes attacked to within 8 miles of the frontier.
Two American aircraft strayed into China and were shot down by Chinese Migs.
The attacks of late 1967 were so intense that, for a time,
the Northern air defenses ran desperately short of SAMs and anti aircraft ammunition.
Almost all important targets except Haiphong port...
...had been hit repeatedly.
The Americans were now using a new generation of smart bombs...
...including the Walleye television guided weapon...
...which had been operational in Vietnam since 1966.
It took many fewer aircraft to destroy a target, which meant in theory...
...that precision attacks could be made even in densely populated areas.
There was little the North Vietnamese air defenses could do to stop the havoc.
However, Northern leaders still had no intention of giving in to U.S. demands.
In their view, the best way of stopping the bombing...
...was to win the war in the South in the shortest possible time.
In January 1968, 84,000 NLF and North Vietnamese Army troops...
...launched their long planned Tet offensive.
They attacked towns and cities all over South Vietnam...
...and held huge tracts of Saigon, the capital, for weeks.
In the end, the Tet offensive was a military disaster for the Vietcong.
40,000 were killed in more than a month of savage fighting.
However, in a way that had never been planned,
...the offensive was a political triumph.
In the United States, public opinion had been...
...turning against the war for months.
The sheer scale of the latest offensive now seemed to confirm...
...that the U.S. strategy had failed.
The pressure on President Johnson to look for a negotiated settlement grew irresistible
On March 31st 1968 Johnson announced that, as a goodwill gesture,
he was restricting the bombing campaign to the extreme South or North Vietnam.
On April 3rd Hanoi Radio announced that if bombing ceased unconditionally...
...the talks could begin.
The Paris peace process began on march 10th 1968.
Almost at once they stalled hopelessly.
Meantime U.S. aircraft and warships continued to attack...
...transportation targets below the 20th parallel.
In October 1968, after several months of wrangling...
...and on the eve of U.S. presidential elections, there was a breakthrough.
The North Vietnamese agreed that in exchange for a complete halt of the bombing...
...they for their part would no longer infiltrate troops across the DMZ...
...or shell major cities in the South.
Johnson knew that being seen to oppose peace...
...could damage his party's chances in the coming elections.
Reluctantly, he agreed to stop the bombing.
Operation Rolling Thunder came to an end on November 1st 1968...
...after three and a half years.
The campaign had cost more than 900 American aircraft.
818 pilots were dead or missing and hundreds were in captivity.
On the Northern side nearly 120 North Vietnamese planes...
...had been destroyed in air combat, in accidents, or by friendly fire.
On the ground, according to McNamara's estimates...
182,000 civilians had been killed during operation Rolling Thunder.
20,000 Chinese support personnel had also been casualties of the bombing.
With the end of Rolling Thunder, North Vietnam immediately...
...set about rebuilding its shattered transport system.
In spite of the talks still going on in Paris, the Northern commander,
General Giap, was already planning his next offensive in the South.
He sharply increased the flow of supplies and men down the Ho Chi Minh trail.
With thousands of U.S. aircraft and pilots... longer tied up attacking North Vietnam,
U.S. commanders could concentrate massive air power on Laos.
The main aim was to find and destroy the truck convoys moving South.
Special forces teams had always scouted into Laos... guide attack aircraft onto targets.
But by this time the U.S. had also deployed...
...the world's most sophisticated electronic surveillance system.
Between 1966 and 1971, in Operation Igloo White,
American aircraft laid a sophisticated system of electronic sensors...
...down the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos.
The targets were the truck convoys streaming South from North Vietnam.
Signals from the sensors were picked up by orbiting aircraft...
...and relayed to a listening center in Nakhon Phanom in Thailand.
Other aircraft carried instruments to detect...
...the electrical activity of truck engines.
When a convoy was detected, the Americans would launch a raid... B-52s or fighter bombers into the target area.
In 1968 alone, U.S. strike aircraft flew 88,000 strikes against targets in Laos.
The planes dropped high explosives, cluster bombs and mines.
They were also equipped with new, highly accurate laser guided bombs.
In the front line of the war against the trucks,
the formidable gunships known as Spooky played a vital part.
The gunships carried three mini guns, each able to fire 6,000 rounds a minute.
Flying in a circular pattern over the target,
the gunship would rain down an awesome weight of fire.
In 1969 the gunships alone claimed more than 10,000 trucks destroyed.
However, the North Vietnamese had built 400 miles of new roads in Laos...
...and not even American electronics and computers could cover it all.
Still, U.S. aircraft would drop three quarters of a million tons of bombs on Laos
...10 times the weight dropped on Japan in World War II.
In January 1969 Richard Nixon took office... the new President of the United States.
Nixon had promised to achieve what he called 'Peace with Honor'.
The aim was to negotiate a settlement that would allow...
...the half million U.S. troops in Vietnam to be withdrawn...
...while still allowing South Vietnam to survive.
The American plan was to prepare the South Vietnamese to take over their own defense.
Officials called it Vietnamisation.
The regular armed forces would be built up to over 420,000 men.
They would get modern weapons including large numbers of tanks, guns and aircraft.
The North's strategy for 1969 was to keep up the pressure on South Vietnam.
While negotiations were going on...
...they meant to improve their position on the battlefield.
On the 22nd of February 1969, in a major offensive,
assault teams and artillery attacked American bases all over South Vietnam,
...killing 1,140 Americans.
At the same time, in an echo of Tet a year earlier,
...100 towns and cities were hit.
The American reaction was swift.
Arc Light strikes by B-52s were launched on guerrilla base areas.
Armor piercing bombs dropped from 30,000 feet...
...annihilated bunker and tunnel complexes.
On the ground, American units launched spoiling attacks...
...on guerrilla staging areas and captured enormous quantities of supplies.
The heaviest fighting was around the capital Saigon...
...but fights raged all over South Vietnam.
In the first three weeks of battles, the Americans lost 1,100 men.
However, American artillery and air power overwhelmed the Vietcong offensive.
In the White House there was anger and deep frustration... the latest campaign against South Vietnam.
President Nixon and his advisors were determined to retaliate... show that the U.S. was serious about defending its ally.
The problem was that going back to bombing North Vietnam...
...would cause an outcry in the United States.
Nixon's plan was to bomb Vietcong staging areas in Cambodia.
For years they had been the springboards for attacks against Saigon.
These jungle areas held tens of thousands of troops...
...and vast stores of supplies and weapons.
But Washington had forbidden U.S. forces to attack the Cambodian bases.
Legally Cambodia was a neutral state and there was a risk...
...that American action could draw Cambodia into the war.
However Nixon did not mean to hold back.
Operation Menu, the bombing of Cambodia,
...was to be kept strictly guarded secret.
It was dubbed Menu because the first attack on base area 354...
...had been decided at a breakfast briefing at the Pentagon.
The operation was to continue for 14 months.
As well as the Ho Chi Minh trail running from North Vietnam,
...NVA forces were also supplied by North Vietnamese and Soviet Ships...
...which were allowed to dock at Sihanoukville.
From here they fed war materials to the main base areas.
The biggest Vietcong strongholds were West and North of Saigon... the areas known as Parrot's Beak and the Fish Hook.
The bases were run by North Vietnamese troops and the NLF.
Starting in February 1969, American B-52 bombers from Thailand...
...launched devastating strikes against each of the base areas in turn.
Operation Menu saw more than 4,000 B-52 missions...
...dropping 120,000 tons of bombs.
In later campaigns B-52s supported...
...American and South Vietnamese ground incursions into Cambodia,
and backed the Cambodian government forces against the Khmer Rouge guerrillas.
Altogether in four years of bombing, U.S. aircraft would unload...
...more than half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia.
On orders from the White House, extraordinary measures were taken... keep the Cambodian bombing a secret.
Defense department officials always claimed the raids were over South Vietnam.
Because the planes were guided to their target by radar at the Bien Hoa air bases,
...and orders to drop the bombs were also issued from there,
often the pilots themselves did not know they were bombing Cambodia.
Those that did were ordered to falsify their flight logs...
...upon returning to base, to maintain the secrecy.
In spite of the elaborate precautions, in May 1969,
...reports of the secret bombing were published in the American press.
Nixon was furious.
Only recently, the American public had learned about the My Lai massacre... which over 200 South Vietnamese villagers had been killed... U.S. troops back in 1968.
Anti war feeling had also been fueled by news...
...of the bloody battle of Hamburger Hill.
American troops had suffered heavy casualties capturing the hill...
...only for it to be abandoned later.
On June 8th 1969, President Nixon met...
...with South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu...
...on Midway island in the Pacific.
Nixon announced that 25,000 U.S. troops...
...would be withdrawn from Vietnam immediately.
The 9th Marines would be the first to head for home.
It was the first U.S. troop reduction in the history of the war in Vietnam.
By the fall of 1969 Nixon's initiatives had succeeded... quietening public opposition to the war.
To keep up the momentum, the President announced...
...a second batch of troop withdrawals...
...and promised to reduce the draft call.
In October 1969 an opinion poll gave Nixon an approval rating of 71% almost unprecedented figure.
Although Nixon was preparing to pull out American troops,
...he had no intention of giving up on Vietnam.
His plan was that even when most American troops had been withdrawn...
...Americans would continue to supply, train and arm the South Vietnamese.
Most important of all, a formidable shield of American air power would remain... deter communist attacks.
As ground combat in South Vietnam fell to its lowest level in six years,
...the prospects for success looked increasingly good in Washington.
What U.S. officials did not know was that in North Vietnam...
...the greatest offensive of the whole war was being prepared.
The plan was to use nearly 200,000 troops and hundreds of tanks... a full scale invasion of South Vietnam.
Subtitling: DeStrangis