Contact: Bill Petrie
The Book Hootch
2005 - 379 pages
Force History and Museums Program
E-mail address for the Air Force Historical Studies Office:
Active Duty, Retired, National Guard, Reserve, and current DOD civilians: May receive one paperback copy free of charge by sending an e-mail to this mailbox Debra.Moss@pentagon.af.mil. E-mail must contain: name, rank, service, which category (Active Duty, Retired, National Guard, etc.), number of years of service, and complete mailing address. This does not apply to veterans who are not retired.
who are not retired, and any others must
purchase from the U.S. Government Printing Office. Their web site
address is http://bookstore.gpo.gov/. Type in "War Against
Trucks" in the search area, and click on "Search." GPO
requires prepayment by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover), or personal
check. Cost for paperback is $36.00; cost for hard cover is $40.00.
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara intended initially to establish a manned barrier guarding the demilitarized zone between the two Vietnams, while using electronic sensors and computers to detect and analyze movement on the Ho Chi Minh Trail so that aircraft could attack the troops and cargo bound for the battlefields of South Vietnam. Only the electronic portion went into service, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail became the object of seven successive Commando Hunt operations, beginning in the fall of 1968 and lasting until the spring of 1972, when a North Vietnamese invasion of the South changed the nature of the war. Although aircraft of the other services participated in this extended campaign of aerial interdiction, the Air Force assumed the greatest responsibility for both equipment and execution.
The book begins by summarizing Secretary McNamara’s reasons for substituting an interdiction campaign for the bombing of North Vietnam and then describes the early efforts at aerial interdiction, which were delayed by the need to shift resources for the defense of the Marine Corps outpost at Khe Sanh in northwestern South Vietnam, just south of the demilitarized zone. Because technology held the key to attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the aircraft and other equipment used in the Commando Hunt series receive extensive treatment early in the narrative. Next come the air campaigns themselves, supplemented by ground operations from Laos and South Vietnam, that over the years, with varying success, engaged every component of the Ho Chi Minh Trail through southern Laos and in Cambodia—roads and trails, bivouacs and storage areas, waterways and pipelines, truck traffic, and for a brief time, troop movements. In addition to discussing this activity, the narrative addresses the unsuccessful attempt to Vietnamize interdiction without transferring the entire array of special equipment created or modified for that purpose. The volume also deals with the application of the technology that maintained surveillance over the trail and covers the problem of locating North Vietnamese artillery after the invasion of South Vietnam in 1972.
final chapter evaluates the effectiveness of the air-supported electronic
barrier and concludes that the concealment readily afforded by the
jungle, the resilience of the North Vietnamese and their control of
the tempo of military operations, the limitations of the available
technology, and the lack of adequate information about the trail complex
combined to prevent the Commando
Hunt operations from doing more than inconveniencing the enemy.
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