230. Message From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (McCain)1

5195. Subj: Line Backer Targets (U). Refs: A. CINCPAC 030519Z Aug 72. B. CINCPAC 030547Z Aug 72. C. 7AF 031100Z Aug 72 D. COMUSMACV 031151Z Aug 72. E. JCS 3851/241905Z June 72.2

Deliver during duty hours.

Ref A reconfirms priority of NE/NW rail line interdiction. Ref B addresses plans for B–52 strike operations in northern NVN. Ref C, [Page 815] among other things, assesses status of NE rail line. Ref D reaffirms continuing requirement for maximum B–52 support of battle in RVN. Ref E validates selected targets in northern NVN for B–52 strikes.
I have followed the dialogue as expressed in Refs A thru D with interest. You should note that the picture as seen from here is that a disproportionate share of the air effort is programmed in the NVN panhandle at the expense of targets in the northern route packages.3 To illustrate my point, less than 25 percent of the validated targets in RP V and VI have been struck. I recognize that many validated targets may never be struck for excellent reasons. Nonetheless, only 74 new targets were struck during July. The July totals including restrikes show only 5 targets were struck in RP V, 48 in HP VIA and 172 in HP VIB. While the need for strong interdiction operations in the lower route packages is certainly appreciated, the limited weight of effort against key targets in the northern area of NVN raises questions as to whether we are holding to our priorities.
Therefore, it appears we must increase our overall efforts in the north by refining our concept of operation every way possible for maximum impact on the enemy. For instance, we must make fullest use of all the visual daylight flying weather. Although morning strikes leave more time for SAR, a double or triple punch in one day may well find the enemy in confusion with his defenses degraded and lower our overall losses. As inclement weather becomes more of a factor, we must use more all-weather bombing techniques. For example, while the CVA A–6 is now being used extensively up north, I wish to emphasize the value in using this aircraft to continue harassment of the enemy at night and during periods when weather prevents visual bombing. I am sure you agree it will pay dividends to exploit to the fullest the unique capability of the A–6 in both an alpha strike and armed reconnaissance role. This effort should continue involving all A–6 assets. In this regard, I note the Nam Phong Marine A–6 aircraft are largely operating in MR–1 during daylight hours. Using the Marine all-weather capability in RP I would compound the enemy’s problems in this rear support area and should free some USAF sorties for use in the northern route packages. We also have an excellent all-weather system with the Loran F–4 and more extensive applications should be possible in NVN. This will be the subject of a subsequent message. Finally, I am optimistic that the F–111 deployment will be approved for September. The F–111 should greatly assist in our efforts to achieve an all-weather presence in the northern route packages.
During periods when good flying weather is forecast over all of NVN, the armed reconnaissance effort in the NVN panhandle should [Page 816] be shifted to bombing in RP V, VIA, and VIB. As a general rule, scheduling a minimal effort in RP I through IV when the weather is good in the north, would allow for a substantial effort against the more lucrative RP V–VI targets. To offset unexpected bad weather in the northern route packages, strikes in the lower route packages should be scheduled as weather alternates.
A further source of concern here is the apparent disproportionate effort being made throughout NVN in armed reconnaissance operations as opposed to strikes against valid fixed targets. It is recognized that certain sorties presently being reported as armed reconnaissance actually include strikes against be-numbered targets; however, the reports do not reflect these strikes and the impression therefore is that our armed reconnaissance operations are not carefully developed. Adding to this misconception is the fact that, in some cases, specific route segments against which armed reconnaissance is committed are not identified in the operational reports. These concerns can be corrected by minor changes to our reporting procedures. First, specific route segments should be fragged and reported against armed reconnaissance missions. Second, sorties assigned specifically against hard targets should not be listed as armed reconnaissance. Third, when be-numbered targets are hit incident to armed reconnaissance missions, they should be so credited in the operational reports.
Lastly, in reference to your plans for B–52 strikes, I agree that they can be employed profitably in NVN against any of the targets specified in Ref E or against airfields. In addition to the significant military results, periodic B–52 raids into the NVN heartland would forcefully demonstrate the seriousness of our intentions to the Hanoi leadership. I will continue to forcefully present these views to higher authority.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 69, JCS Out General Service Messages, 1–15 August 1972. Top Secret; Immediate; Specat; Exclusive. Repeated to Commander, Pacific Air Forces, and Commander, United States Pacific Fleet, Pacific Command.
  2. Copies of References A and B are ibid., Box 59, CINCPAC General Service Messages, August 1972. References C and E were not found. A copy of Reference D is ibid., Box 63, COMUSMACV General Service Messages, 1–15 August 1972.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 223.