The annual Linebacker II Remembrance Ceremony was held at the Arc Light Memorial Park, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 14 to honor the heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice in support of Operation Linebacker II.
Operation Linebacker II, also referred to as the “11-Day War,” was conducted from Dec. 18, 1972, to Dec. 29, 1972. After peace talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam failed, U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered the bombing of North Vietnam to bring the North Vietnamese government back to the negotiating table.
“During Operation Linebacker II, more than 700 sorties were flown and 15,000 tons of ordnances were dropped on targets in North Vietnam,” said Col. Randy Kaufman, 36th Operations Group commander. “For 11 days, Andersen became a very busy base.”
Throughout the operation, Andersen was the staging area for the B-52 Stratofortress bombers. With an increase of airmen and B-52s taking up nearly five miles of ramp space, Andersen was the site of the largest rapid buildup of airpower in history.
“Andersen grew to a population of more than 10,000 active duty members, and the number of B-52s increased from 34 to 155 by the time Operation Linebacker II kicked off,” said Kaufman. “The population increased so much that airmen started sleeping in the gym and ‘tent cities’ were constructed just to house the airmen.”
Even though the operation was considered a great success, like most conflicts or wars, there were casualties. During Operation Linebacker II, 33 B-52 crewmembers were killed or missing in action as a result of the massive bombing on North Vietnam. Many deaths were credited to SA-2 surface-to-air missiles launched by the North Vietnamese.
“Operation Linebacker II was a success, but it was not without loss,” said Kaufman. “Thirty-three men and 15 aircrafts were lost during the operation. The names of those men are etched in bronze on this memorial.”
It has been 40 years since Operation Linebacker II started, and Andersen continues to honor its fallen warriors every December.
“We come together to honor their gallantry and sacrifices to our nation,” said Kaufman during the ceremony. “Your attendance today ensures that their sacrifices will never be forgotten.”