183. Message From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Abrams) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (McCain)1

64753. Deliver during duty hours. Subject: Strike Force Utilization (U). Ref: CINCPAC DTG 032237Z Jun 72 (TS/Specat/Excl) (Notal).2

(TS) In reviewing referenced message, several considerations, as seen from here, are worthy of discussion. First, I think we all agree it is essential that we defeat the current all-out effort by the enemy to achieve major objectives, both political and military, in several key areas in SVN. I believe he has failed at An Loc, and probably does not have the where-with-all to mount another major threat to that city. However, the situation in MR II is by no means resolved. I see a continuing requirement for extensive B–52 strikes in MR II until the siege of Kontum is lifted and the LOCs are reopened. In Thua Thien, the battle for Hue has not yet been fought. Current indications are that the enemy efforts to seize that important city may be imminent. B–52 strikes are being employed now to disrupt these preparations and to destroy the logistics support he will need to mount a major attack. Further, there are continuing requirements for in-country B–52 strikes where the enemy is making a determined effort to seize District capitals. The activity in Binh Dinh has been increasing for several days. In short, I see a requirement in the foreseeable future for all of the B–52 support now programmed. Each day lucrative targets remain unstruck because we do not have enough missions to cover all the priority areas. As you are aware, it takes more than seven B–52G sorties to equate to three B–52Ds.3 In addition, because of mission duration, aircraft based at Guam produce approximately one half as many sorties as those based at U-Tapao. In terms of numbers of bombs on target, the extensive B–52G augmentation at Guam has not produced a comparable impact in the target area. For the same reasons, any proposal to divert substantial numbers of B–52Ds to out-of-country efforts can only be viewed with concern by this headquarters.
(TS) I support the need to continue maximum pressure on the enemy in the North as well as in the South, however, three-fourths of [Page 650] the carrier effort is now devoted to strikes in the North and only one carrier remains committed to the war in the South. The Marine sorties generated by Danang and Bien Hoa, which average about 80 per day, do not begin to make up for the Navy sorties now employed on operations out-of-country. Additionally, the 75 plus USAF Tacair sorties devoted to the war in the North on a daily basis is not without impact on the in-country war, on some days, for example 22 May, more sorties were flown in NVN than in-country by Tacair. I have supported fully this diversion of USAF Tacair because I believe it has achieved very substantial results in the North. In addition to interdicting the northwest rail lines, these operations have succeeded in destroying POL, thermo plants, transformers, storage and warehouse areas, railroad yards, and other high-value targets, primarily because of the effectiveness of the smart bomb techniques being employed. Many other high-value targets would have been attacked except for the ten-mile bombing restriction of the last two weeks.
(TS) In assessing the relative value of B–52 operations in NVN vs in-country, several factors should be considered in addition to those mentioned in your message. While it is true the B–52s possess an all-weather capability, they require an extensive support package from both the Navy and USAF tactical air forces. Approximately 75 USAF Tacair sorties are required for each B–52 mission into high threat areas. If these tactical forces are not available to support the B–52s because of unfavorable weather conditions in the refueling areas or cloud levels too high to permit F–105 Iron Hand operations, the B–52 force cannot bomb without undue risk. Since they must employ synchronous bombing procedures, resulting in a larger CEP, B–52 strikes must be limited to area targets. In short, the magnitude of effort required to achieve destruction of area targets by B–52s must be weighed against that required for the more selective bombing by Tacair. The impact on Tacair operations both in NVN and in-country must also be considered. On balance, I conclude that the value of the B–52 is considerably greater in its current application in-country than if utilized in the high risk areas of the North. I agree with the ongoing air attacks against key targets in NVN and appreciate fully their contribution to the overall effort to defeat the enemy. However, I suggest that it is not possible to lose the war in the North but it still is possible to lose the war in the South and we must not turn loose of this until the job is done.4
(TS) We will continue to plan for the utilization of B–52s on strikes in the north when directed. The tactical forces under my opn [operational] control will be made available if higher authority concludes the psychological and political advantages of B–52 operations in the North outweigh the military considerations I have pointed out above.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Moorer Diary, July 1970–July 1974. Top Secret; Specat; Exclusive. Attached to Moorer Diary, June 6. Repeated to Admiral Moorer and General Meyer.
  2. Not found.
  3. B–52Ds were upgraded to carry a substantially heavier bomb load than the B–52Gs.
  4. Moorer highlighted the sentence beginning with “However” and in that sentence underlined the phrase “it is not possible to lose the war in the North.”