Portal:United States Air Force/Article Spotlight/17
Operation Barrel Roll was a covert U.S. Air Force 2nd Air Division (later the Seventh Air Force) and U.S. Navy Task Force 77, interdiction and close air support campaign conducted in the Kingdom of Laos between 14 December 1964 and 29 March 1973 concurrent with the Vietnam War. The original purpose of the operation was to serve as a signal to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to cease its support for the insurgency then taking place in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). This action was taken within Laos due to the location of North Vietnam's expanding logistical corridor known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Truong Son Road to the North Vietnamese). The campaign then centered on the interdiction of that logistical system. The operation became increasingly involved in providing close air support missions for Royal Lao Armed Forces, CIA-backed tribal mercenaries, and Thai "volunteers" in a covert ground war in northern and northeastern Laos. Barrel Roll and the "Secret Army" attempted to stem an increasing tide of People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and Pathet Lao offensives. The operation was one of the most closely-held secrets and one of the most unknown components of the American military commitment in Southeast Asia. Due to the neutrality of Laos, guaranteed by the Geneva Conference of 1954 and 1962, both the U.S. and North Vietnam strove to maintain the secrecy of their operations and only slowly escalated military actions there.