Robert McNamara - Vietnam escalation in one swift move.

Robert McNamara - escalation in one swift move.
Robert McNamara – Vietnam escalation in one swift move.
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NBC Radio – Bombs In the North – Special Report – June 29, 1966 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

On this day, in 1966 – the Vietnam War escalated one more notch. In what was known as Operation Rolling Thunder, a gradual escalation in the Air War which began in March of 1965. It ramped up over the months to what eventually included going after North Vietnamese supply lines. The primary targets were oil and fuel storage sites; the rationale being, the North Vietnamese were relying more on trucks and mechanized vehicles and powered boats to invade and infiltrate the South. So cutting off the supply of oil was deemed crucial to many in the Defense Department. And so President Johnson gave the go-ahead, and on June 29th a wave of increased air attacks began. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara gave a press conference shortly after this phase of the operation started and reported that some 60% of North Vietnam’s fuel supply had been wiped out in a few short hours.

News was greeted with high-fives from the Hawks, and dismay from the Doves on Capitol Hill. The Hawks predicted this new phase of the war would bring a quick end. The Doves predicted this new phase of the war would only protract it and get us further and further involved in it.

In McNamara’s Press Conference, he emphasized that this latest escalation was intended to do three things – first; boost the morale of South Vietnamese troops, who were under heavy attack by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese at the time. Second; reduce the level of infiltration and the cost of infiltration of troops from the North to the South. And third, as a way of letting the North know that South Vietnam was prepared to retaliate.

In hindsight, it’s clear none of those objectives were accomplished, other than get the U.S. more deeply involved than it had previously. But at the time it was all guess work – and the guesses ran from an early end all the way to Chinese intervention and involvement. One thing was certain, the draft calls weren’t going to stop anytime soon, and only increase in number as the months wore on.

Here is a special report, as broadcast by NBC Radio called Bombs In The North, aired on June 29, 1966.

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