Operation Flaming Dart

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Operation Flaming Dart
Part of the Vietnam War
Date 7 February – 24 February 1965
Location North Vietnam
Result Strategic USAF and VNAF failure; escalation of the war
Belligerents
 United States
 South Vietnam
 North Vietnam
Vietcong
Commanders and leaders
United States Lyndon B. Johnson Vietnam Ho Chi Minh

Operation Flaming Dart was a U.S. and (South) Vietnam Air Force military operation, conducted in two parts, during the Vietnam War. During the bombing raid Premier Alexei Kosygin headed a Soviet delegation to North Vietnam.

United States President Lyndon B. Johnson in February 1965 ordered a series of reprisal air strikes after several attacks on U.S. bases by Vietcong units, particularly in reply to a mortar attack at Pleiku. These strikes had originally been intended to be part of a three-phase "program" beginning with attacks in Laos in December, 1964 (Operation Barrel Roll) to bring pressure to bear on North Vietnam, and so had been ready to fly.

Escalation of the Vietnam War officially started on the morning of 31 January 1965 when orders were cut and issued to mobilize the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron from Okinawa to Da Nang Air Base. A red alert alarm to "scramble" F-105s was sounded at Kadena Air Base at 3:00 am, pilots and support were deployed from Okinawa and landed in Vietnam that afternoon to join up with other smaller units who had already arrived weeks earlier. Preparations were under way for the first step of Operation Flaming Dart.

49 sorties were flown for Flaming Dart I (7 February 1965) and 99 more for Flaming Dart II (11 February 1965). The Vietcong attacked a hotel billeting U.S. personnel in reaction to Flaming Dart I, prompting the second air strike. Flaming Dart I targeted North Vietnamese army bases near Dong Hoi, while the second wave targeted Vietcong logistics and communications near the Demilitarized Zone. Among the pilots was Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, then a member of Vietnam's ruling junta.

American reaction to Communist escalation was not restricted to the bombing of North Vietnam. Washington also authorized the use of U.S. jet attack aircraft to engage targets in the south. On 19 February, U.S. Air Force B-57s conducted the first jet strikes flown by Americans in support of South Vietnamese ground units. On 24 February, Air Force jets struck again, this time breaking up a Communist ambush in the Central Highlands with a massive series of tactical air sorties.

The Operation Flaming Dart raids were later followed by Operation Rolling Thunder, which began a 44-month campaign on 2 March 1965.

Sources[edit]

  • Like Rolling Thunder by Ronald Bruce Frankum