Although designed as a strategic bomber that could penetrate Soviet airspace in the event of a nuclear war, the B-52 was pressed into service during the Vietnam War. The B-52’s first mission over Vietnam was on June 18, 1965, when the first Arc Light bombing mission was conducted. As the war escalated, the B-52 was used for a wide variety of missions. Later missions included interdicting supply lines and strategic bombing over North Vietnam. In the course of the conflict 126,615 sorties were flown, and 31 B-52s were lost.
B-52 Stratofortress Over Vietnam | Photos
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress, nicknamed "Casper the Friendly Ghost," from the 320th Bomb Wing dropping Mk. 117 750 lb (340 kg) bombs over Vietnam. This aircraft was the first B-52F used to test conventional bombing in 1964, and later dropped the 50,000th bomb of the Arc Light campaign. The B-52F could carry a full load of 51 750 lb bombs or 500 lb bombs, with 27 carried internally and 24 externally. The B-52Fs were used in Vietnam while the B-52Ds were undergoing their “Big Belly” modifications. U.S. Air Force photo Bombs from a B-52 on an Arc Light mission hitting communist troop positions. U.S. Air Force photo Even long-range bombers like the B-52 needed refueling to reach their targets and return to base on far-off Guam. Bombing operations such as Arc Light and Linebacker depended heavily on air refueling. U.S. Air Force photo A B-52 being loaded with bombs in preparation for a mission over Southeast Asia. "Big Belly" B-52Ds could carry up to 60,000 pounds of bombs. U.S. Air Force photo One of the “Big Belly” B-52Ds releasing its 60,000-pound bomb load on enemy targets in Vietnam. The "Big Belly" modifications enabled B-52Ds to carry up to 84 500-pound bombs or 42 750-pound bombs internally and 24 750-pound bombs externally on racks under the wings. U.S. Air Force photo The tail gun position of a B-52 before a mission over Southeast Asia. The Vietnam War saw three air-to-air kills by the B-52. U.S. Air Force photo Pilot’s view of a typical, three-ship B-52 formation known as a cell on a mission over Vietnam. U.S. Air Force photo B-52Ds from the Strategic Air Command line up for takeoff as they prepare for strikes over Hanoi and Haiphong, North Vietnam, during Operation Linebacker. U.S. Air Force photo A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52D-35-BW Stratofortress (s/n 52-669) dropping bombs over Vietnam. This aircraft was hit by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam during the "Linebacker II" offensive on Dec. 31, 1972, and crashed in Laos. The crew of six ejected, but only five were rescued. The Air Force lost 15 B-52s during Linebacker II, but the missions brought the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. National Museum of the Air Force photo A B-52 aircrew returning from a mission over Southeast Asia. U.S. Air Force photo The U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52D-60-BO Stratofortress "Old 100" (s/n 55-0100) dropping bombs over Vietnam. This aircraft flew its final combat mission on Dec. 29, 1972, and was one of the three final B-52 aircraft to bomb North Vietnam during "Operation Linebacker II". Following the war it was retained at Andersen Air force Base, Guam, dedicated on Feb. 12, 1974, as a memorial for the "Arc Light" missions. The B-52D 56-0586 replaced the badly corroded Old 100 at the memorial, but this aircraft retained the markings of 55-0100. Old 100 was dismantled under the SALT I agreement in 1986, but in 1987 a typhoon scattered the parts into the jungle where they are still found today. National Museum of the Air Force photo