7. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1
- Objectives of the Linebacker/Pocket Money Campaign (U)
1. This responds to your memorandum of 7 October 1972, which addresses a re-examination of the overall Linebacker/Pocket Money interdiction campaign against North Vietnam.2 The responses to your specific questions are contained in the attachment hereto.3
2. An objective appraisal of the Linebacker/Pocket Money results achieved to date in stopping the flow of logistics into and out of NVN is influenced by the limitations and tactical situation under which air operations have been conducted. The emphasis has changed with time and currently is characterized by several interrelated operations.
- First, the mining campaign forced a fundamental revision in the basic method by which NVN received supplies. Except for some minor offshore operations near Hon La and Hon Nieu, the NVN coast has been closed to foreign shipping. This forced the NVN to offset the closing of their ports by shifting movement of supplies to the rail and road networks which is less efficient and subject to interdiction from air and [Page 116] naval gunfire. The NVN adjustment to the mining campaign took several months. Primarily, the adjustment lengthened their supply lines which caused delays in the responsiveness of their system to front line requests. These factors combine to cause more overhead in their logistics system—a manpower and economic drain that detracts from their other efforts. The resultant delays contributed to significant shortages of supplies that existed in their combat units during the critical months of June and July.
- Second, high priority has been given to interdiction between Hanoi-Haiphong and the Chinese Buffer Zone. The enemy has made extensive use of the Buffer Zone as a sanctuary for storage and movement of supplies. As you know, a prohibition against strikes in the Buffer Zone has been in effect since 13 June, except for one-time authorizations against three bridges. Since Hanoi has been off limits approximately 40 percent of this time, interdiction of the Northeast and Northwest Lines of Communications has been limited to the distance between the Hanoi circle and the Buffer Zone. Within this limitation there has been a continuing effort to interdict the rail system by destroying key bridges on both the Northeast and Northwest railroads. Although the success of this campaign has been highly dependent upon good weather for guided bomb attacks, the overall effect has been to force extensive shuttling from railcar to truck to ferry. As the bridges have been interdicted, the NVN has been forced to increase use of ferries and barges to cross rivers. We have countered this tactic by implanting destructors on the inland waterways. Recent intelligence indicates that the destructors have been effective.
- Third, the Hanoi-Haiphong area represents not only the major distribution point for supplies, but the principal industrial complex for construction and repair of war-related equipment. For these reasons, we have requested authority to strike a variety of important targets in and around the two cities. A recent assessment indicates that progress has been made, but many significant targets remain. The necessity for placing Hanoi “off limits” for intermittent periods totaling approximately 2 months during the good weather season is understood and appreciated. Nevertheless, the lost opportunity has detracted from Linebacker efforts due to being unable to press the attack against warehouses and other facilities that serve as redistribution points for supplies being shipped to the battlefield. As weather permits, the remaining targets in the Hanoi circle will be destroyed.
- Fourth, major effort has been south of the Hanoi-Haiphong area. Here the campaign has broadened in order to place maximum pressure on LOCs before supplies cross through the passes to Laos or move south through the DMZ. Extensive daily tactical reconnaissance has exposed supply points, which are attacked as soon as they are identified. [Page 117] Major and minor bridges are also destroyed as their importance to the campaign increases. Below Hanoi there is little evidence of rail traffic. Trucks have become the prime carrier. During daylight hours armed reconnaissance searches for trucks and the constant threat of air attack has suppressed daylight movement. The enemy has reacted by moving at night. Our counter has been the increased use of attack aircraft, principally the A–6, at night to destroy the trucks. The newly introduced F–111 will also increase our presence at night and be useful in attacking transshipment points and other areas of known activity. Gunships have been our most effective night interdiction weapon, but the presence of extensive air defenses precludes using them in NVN. Because of the ever-present threat of air attack, the enemy has separated supplies along the LOCs so that one fighter/attack aircraft cannot destroy more than one cache. Since 6 October, B–52s have been given an expanded role with authority to bomb up to the 19th parallel. The all weather capability of the B–52, coupled with its large bomb load, greatly increases our effectiveness against dispersed supplies.
3. In summary, the Linebacker effort has been coordinated to assure that the necessary air priority was given to the support of combat operations in South Vietnam. As a result of the improved military situation in the Republic of Vietnam, more effort has been shifted to air operations in the North. The interdiction campaign in NVN has achieved certain objectives and partially achieved others. We have forced the NVN to rely upon a supply route now stretching from the Chinese Border nearly 400 miles to South Vietnam. The destruction of key railroad facilities and bridges has caused him to resort to shuttling operations that are time consuming and inefficient. The stepped-up destructor campaign further increases the hazards associated with using inland waterways and ferries. The inclusion of all weather bombing systems and the B–52 into Linebacker operations has given us capabilities and qualities that were not present during the 1965–1968 campaign.
4. As the northeast monsoon develops in the coming months, our priorities and weight of effort will necessarily shift. Adverse weather will hamper our efforts along the primary LOC in the north, and priority of attack will be further south, with maximum effort expended against the northern LOC when weather permits. However, the basic objectives of the Linebacker/Pocket Money campaign will remain constant and we will continue to adjust the pattern of air and naval operations to meet the changing situation.
5. The degree to which priorities will vary depends upon a complexity of factors that are not entirely predictable. Our aim has been to maintain flexibility in the conduct of the air campaign. For example, the effort against inland waterways has been a follow-on to the interdiction of NVN land LOCs. The shift to the north followed an improvement in [Page 118] the tactical situation in RVN. Our current emphasis on all weather bombing with B–52s, A–6s, F–111s, and LORAN F–4s is a response to the weather and to the enemy’s proclivity to move at night. We will continue to exercise flexibility and seek optimum ways to combine weapon system capabilities with the tactical situation, geography, and the weather.
Management and Control of the Air Campaign:
6. At my request, (CINCPAC) has rewritten instructions on the management and control of air warfare in Southeast Asia. His plan for continuing US air warfare in SEA is as follows:
- Isolate the NVN heartland in order to prevent the import of supplies from outside;
- Support the battlefield in SVN and adjacent areas;
- Support other contiguous battle areas such as Laos and Cambodia.
- Interdict the flow of warmaking materials through NVN into SVN;
7. The coordination of air operations will be conducted in Saigon by an Air Coordinating Group representing MACV, Seventh Air Force, Seventh Fleet, and SAC. In addition, a Joint Assessment Group has been established in Hawaii whose aim is to utilize all operational and intelligence staff assets available to CINCPAC, PACFLT, and PACAF—to assess achievements during each specific campaign period. They will accomplish this by conducting an analysis of the status of our target system, sortie allocation, weapon application, and coordinating procedures. Based on the information from the above procedures, CINCPAC will set forth the objectives for a follow-on period of time and, then, subsequently, provide the Joint Chiefs of Staff with his assessment of the results.
8. I feel by this means we can better shift the emphasis, when necessary, and ensure that the most efficient use is made of our resources. The objective of the above plan is to tighten up procedures and provide a better means of scheduling strikes and evaluating results.
- Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 29, Vietnam, October 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive. A handwritten notation at the top of the first page reads: “Hand carried 12 Oct 72 1235.”↩
- In the October 7 memorandum,, Military Assistant to Secretary Laird, informed the Executive Assistant and Senior Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that “At this time, with the realignment of U.S. air assets in SEAsia underway, a re-examination of our priorities within this overall interdiction campaign against NVN appears appropriate.” Based on information provided by the JCS, Laird periodically provided Nixon with up-to-date assessments of the results of the interdiction campaign, addressing the “success of the campaign and not the strategy involved.” Murphy’s request was in addition to the usual assessment. (Ibid.)↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- Printed from a copy that indicates Moorer signed the original.↩