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The Eleven Days of Christmas: America's Last Vietnam Battle Hardcover – December 25, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The American B-52 bombing campaign (popularly known as the "Chrismas Bombing") of 1972 remains one of the most debated topics of this highly controversial conflict. Begun by Richard Nixon over the protest of the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command, the bombing was opposed by a large majority of Congress and by the antiwar movement. Despite unforseen losses, the B-52 bombing was instrumental in forcing the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. While emotional and ill-informed opinions from both Left and Right dominate discussions of American air strategy in Vietnam, Michel (a retired F-4 pilot and author of Clashes: Air Combat Over North Vietnam, 1965-72) offers a cogent and superbly researched scholarly examination that is remarkably free of bias. Drawing from both Vietnamese and American primary and secondary sources, Michel has also utilized a substantial number of dramatic first-person accounts of participants from both sides. His day-by-day analysis of the strategy and tactics of the U.S. bomber squadrons and their North Vietnamese opponents will capture and hold the attention of readers. The author's critique of U.S. Air Force leadership is certain to attract the notice of scholars. A first-rate contribution; essential for academic collections. John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Details about the Vietnam War's last official battle prove gripping reading. It is difficult, however, to separate the battle, which was basically an air conflict, from the politics at the Nixon administration. There may be too much military lingo in the narrative to suit some readers, but an understanding of the role of the air force in the Vietnam War is important to fully understanding why the conflict's last battle accomplished little. "Linebacker II," as the operation was termed, was a victory of sorts for the U.S., but the war was already lost, and the Paris Peace Talks would soon result in a signed agreement. In retrospect, the last battle seems now an ironic end to what many deem a fruitless endeavor in the first place. Marlene Chamberlain
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; 1 edition (December 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893554244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893554245
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Michel provides a solid, nuanced coverage of the December 1972 Lineback II air campaign against North Vietnam. Accessing extensive US Air Force operational files, previously unpublished North Vietnamese Air Defense histories and files, and numerous live and email interviews with air crews, planners and North Vietnamese air defense officers, Michel provides the best "both sides" perspective of not just this air campaign, but any air campaign that I have read.
Items I found interesting, of note:
-- After the Pentagon argued for years that it need to go "all the way" to take the war to Hanoi, when President Nixon asked for an all out air campaign on North Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff voted in secret against the campaign, the SecDef opposed it, as did Strategic Air Command (SAC).
-- The first three nights of the campaign were planned (if that is the appropriate word) at the HQ of SAC in Nebraska, primarily by officers who had never been in the skys of North Vietnam. This was despite the fact that the USAF had been flying missions "downtown" since 1965. The advice and feed back of the B-52 crews in Guam and Thailand was ignored, as were inputs from the 7th Air Force in Saigon. Michel explains the former as a result of the top down decision making culture at SAC instigated by General Curtis LeMay. He explains the later as SAC arrogance that they had anything to learn from Tactical Air Command (TAC)
-- Despite being the primary strategic weapons for penetrated Soviet air space in the event of a US-USSR nuclear war, SAC had never flown the B-52 against captured SA-2 surface-to-air missile radars. The SA-2 was one of the primary elements of the Soviet Air Defense network, and the back bone of the NVA air defense.
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Format: Hardcover
Marshall L. Michel's new book covering America's last great air battle in Vietnam, `The 11 Days of Christmas' is an excellent and gripping book telling the story of `Linebacker II'. I started reading this book on a Saturday and finished it by Sunday, the next day. The narrative was spellbinding; I was glued to the book and found it hard to put down.
The author offers a nice mix of in-depth research intermixed with first hand accounts of those involved, at every level and on both sides. This is a great book, easy to read and hard not to enjoy. I have read only a few books on the air war in Vietnam, `The Ravens' by Christopher Robbins, `The Rescue of BAT-21' by Darrel Whitcomb and `One Day in a Long War by Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price'. However I still have no hesitation in recommending this book to any one who enjoys a well-written historical account of air warfare.
The author takes the reader through the background and events leading to the decision to carry out America's Linebacker II campaign. Covering points both from the political and military aspects of this campaign he shows the faults uncovered during the bombing campaign both with SAC and their political masters. It is surprising to read of the inadequacies uncovered and the stupidity behind some decisions.
By the time you get to the end of the book you come away with nothing but praise for the air crews involved in this battle regardless if you agree with the strategy of this bombing campaign or not. Further, the author offers you a rare insight into the North Vietnamese crews defending Hanoi and Haiphong during the bombing.
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Format: Hardcover
I doubt if I could ever be as unbiased and methodical as Michel in approaching this shamefully long overdue air campaign, which was the only truly unrestricted heavy strategic air campaign of the entire 10,000 day war, going beyond even Linebacker I, which effectively ended the NVA spring offensive.
Though not without its losses (15 of the 26 aircraft lost were B-52s) the results were such that by the end of Linebacker II (which paused on Christmas Day) the USAF had effectively run out of major targets.
In the light of so many good overall reviews, I will just focus briefly on the actual bombing ops. It is both disturbing and intriguing to discover the reasons for those losses. While some of the downings were almost 'chance' hits, where the Enemy had fired volleys of SAM-2s ballistically i.e. unguided (due to the ECW assets being employed), many occurred due to precision hits.
Where this was the case, it was sometimes due to 'burnthrough', where the Enemy ground radar signal nullified or overwhelmed the ECM cell being generated by the BUFFs. This sometimes occurred due to onboard E/F generator failures (all too common), due to an aircraft straying outside the cell during a maneuver, or in the case of the B-52Gs, simply not having enough ECM power to cope with the signal strength from the SAM site radar emmitters.
Six B-52Gs were shot down while making high banking turns at the end of the bombing run, which created an acquirable radar cross section (the plane's ECM was no longer pointing straight downwards, opening up a chink in the electronic armor). After this, the Gs were re-assigned to ARC Light Missions (standard B-52 bombing support missions). Ironically, the older D models had more powerful ECM capabilities.
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