Saigon, South Vietnam (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, March 2, 1965, Operation Rolling Thunder was set into motion with more than 100 USAF jets bombing an ammunition depot at Xom Bang, North Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Air Force bombed the Quang Khe naval base.
USAF Captain Hayden J. Lockhart*, flying an F100, was shot down during the mission along with 5 other US aircraft.
While the 5 other pilots were rescued, Captain Lockhart was captured. HJL was the third American captured by North Vietnam and the first USAF pilot.
Operation Rolling Thunder, which lasted from March 2 to October 31, 1965, is considered a strategic failure despite the fact that 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam.
The bombing had 4 objectives...
1) boost South Vietnamese morale
2) persuade the North to cease support of the Viet Cong in the South
3) destroy the North Vietnamese transportation system
4) halt the flow of men and material into the South
The overall purpose of Operation Rolling Thunder was to force Ho Chi Minh to abandon his ambition to take over South Vietnam.
The USAF was operating under restrictions by the President and Defense Department. For example, each of the selected targets had to be approved by the POTUS and Secretary of Defense.
*Lt. Col. Hayden J. Lockhart, Jr. was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1938. He graduated from the USAF Academy in 1961 and was assigned to the 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron at England AFB, LA from August 1963 to November 1964.
After spending 2905 days in captivity, HJL was released on February 12, 1973. He received the Silver Star and retired from the service on December 31, 1981.
"Operation Rolling Thunder," Global Security, www.globalsecurity.org/
"Operation Rolling Thunder," Wikipedia
"Veteran Tributes: Lt.Col. Hayden J. Lockhart, Jr., www.veterantributes.org/
USAF Republic F-105D Thunderchiefs