On the 2nd March 1965 the United States military, alongside the Republic of Vietnam Air Force, began Operation Rolling Thunder as part of the Vietnam War. The operation continued for three and a half years, in which time hundreds of thousands of tons of American bombs were dropped on North Vietnam.

Operation Rolling Thunder was approved by President Johnson on the 13th February, with the intention of pressuring the communist North Vietnamese government to end their support for the National Liberation Front, otherwise known as the Viet Cong. By destroying North Vietnamese infrastructure the USA hoped they would stop supplies going to the south, whilst the population would become demoralized. Simultaneously, the attacks would boost the confidence of the non-Communist South Vietnamese government.

Assisted by the USSR and China, North Vietnam was able to develop a highly effective anti-aircraft system that was responsible for bringing down almost 900 American planes. Simultaneously, the Viet Cong began to attack American airbases in South Vietnam. It was to protect these bases that Johnson began authorising more ground troops to be sent to Vietnam.

Estimates place the cost of the damage inflicted by Operation Rolling Thunder on North Vietnam at around $300 million dollars. However, the lost American aircraft alone cost $900 million. It was also clear that Rolling Thunder did not meet all its objectives since South Vietnam continued to be supplied enough to carry out the devastating Tet Offensive in 1968. Similarly, North Vietnam used the damage inflicted by the campaign to fuel an anti-American propaganda campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of civilians to repair the damage.

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