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 Vietnam War: Air Force Top Secret Blue Book Studies 1962 to 1980

Vietnam War:
Air Force Top Secret Blue Book Studies
1962 to 1980

4,523 pages of formerly Top Secret "Blue Book" studies produced by the Air Force Historical Studies Office.


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Vietnam War Air Force Top Secret Blue Book Studies CD-ROM

The "Blue Book" studies examined a wide range of United States Air Force plans, policies, and operations in Southeast Asia. The historians at the Air Force Historical Studies Office created current history reviews of essential Vietnam War subjects. Some of these studies were not declassified until August 2008.

The thirty-six studies in this collection include:

USAF Plans and Operations: The Air Campaign against North Vietnam, 1966

Produced in 1968 as a Top Secret (not declassified and released to the public until 2008) current history, this study reviews the political background and top level discussions leading to the renewed bombing campaign in early 1966, the restrictions that were still imposed on air operations as of 1968, and the positions taken on them by the military chiefs. It discusses the various studies and events which led to President Johnson's decision to strike at North Vietnam's oil storage facilities and the results of those mid-year attacks. It also examines the increasing effectiveness of enemy air defenses and the continuing assessments of the air campaign under way at year's end.

The report covers:

Barrel Roll - Initiated in December 1964, Barrel Roll missions were flown against troops, equipment and supplies provided by North Vietnam in support of the Communist lead Pathet Lao.

Combat Beaver - An air concept developed by the Air Staff in conjunction with the other services during September-November 1966. It was designed to support a proposed electronic and ground barrier system between North and South Vietnam.

Flaming Dart - The initial Navy and Air Force retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam on 7-8 and 11 February 1965.

Gate Guard - An air program designed to slow North Vietnamese infiltration toward the demilitarized zone. It began on 1 May 1966 in the northern part of Laos and then shifted into route package area I in North

Rolling Thunder - The major air campaign begun on 2 March 1965 which inaugurated regularly scheduled air strikes against North Vietnam.

Steel Tiger - Initiated in April 1965, Steel Tiger strikes were made against infiltration routes south of the 17th parallel in Laos.

Tally-Ho - An air interdiction program started on 20 June 1966 in the southern part of North Vietnam, aimed at slowing the infiltration of North Vietnamese troops, equipment, and supplies through the demilitarized zone into South Vietnam.

Tiger Hound - Begun in December 1965, these strikes were aimed at infiltration targets in southern Laos. They featured for the first time in Laos the use of forward air controllers and airborne command and control for certain strikes.

Wild Weasel - USAF aircraft, largely F-100F's and F-105F's, specially equipped with electronic and other devices to neutralize or destroy Soviet-provided SA-2 sites in North Vietnam.

The appendixes includes a chronology of the growth of North Vietnamese Air Defenses and tables covering U.S. and VNAF Attack Sorties in Southeast Asia, B-52 Sorties in Southeast Asia, U.S. and VNAF Attack Sorties in North Vietnam, U.S. Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia, USAF Combat Attrition in North Vietnam, U.S. Aircraft Losses to SA-2's, SA-2 Sites in North Vietnam, Light and Medium Antiaircraft Artillery Guns in North Vietnam, U.S. Aircraft Losses in Aerial Combat, and North Vietnamese Aircraft Losses in Aerial Combat.

USAF Counterinsurgency Doctrines and Capabilities 1961-1962

When the Kennedy administration took office in January 1961 the United States faced major crises in Cuba, the Congo, Laos, and Vietnam. This study produced in 1964 concerns a subject that at the time had newly became of great importance to the Air Force and the national security system of the United States. The study USAF Counterinsurgency Doctrines and Capabilities traces the upsurge of insurgency movements in many areas of the world and narrates the actions taken by the United States during 1961 to 1962. It covers the development of doctrines and capabilities to counter such movements, with special attention to Air Force action.

The report covers the meager counterinsurgency capability of the United States in the early 1960's; the impact of President Kennedy's interest in the subject; the development of an Air Force counterinsurgency doctrine; the roles and missions' controversy between the Air Force and the Army; the relationship with the U.S. Strike Command; the acquisition of suitable aircraft; and the buildup of specially trained Air Force counterinsurgency units.

USAF Plans and Policies in South Vietnam, 1961-1963.

This study outlines the role of the USAF in aiding the South Vietnamese effort to defeat the communist-led Viet Cong. The author begins by discussing general U.S. policy leading to increased military and economic assistance to South Vietnam. He then describes the principal USAF deployments and augmentations, Air Force efforts to obtain a larger military planning role, some facets of plans and operations, the Air Force-Army divergence over the use and control of air-power in combat training and in testing, defoliation activities, and USAF support for the Vietnamese Air Force. The study ends with an account of events leading to the overthrow of the Diem government in Saigon late in 1963.

Special Air Warfare Doctrines and Capabilities, 1963

This study recounts the continuing Air Force-Army struggle over special warfare roles and missions; the OSD acceptance of an Air Force proposal to increase its special air warfare force; the Army's efforts to add organic aviation to its Special Forces; the relationship of STRICOM
to the special warfare forces of the services; the buildup of special air warfare units in the unified commands; the growing importance of civic action and mobile training teams in underdeveloped nations; and progress in securing more modern aircraft.

USAF Plans and Policies in South Vietnam and Laos 1964

This study emphasizes USAF's plans and policies with respect to South Vietnam and Laos in 1964. In the first four chapters the author describes the progressive military and political decline of the Saigon regime, after two government coups, and the efforts by U.S. authorities to cope with this problem. He notes especially the view of the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, who frequently stated that only air strikes on North Vietnam could end the insurgencies in South Vietnam and in Laos and bring stability to the Vietnamese government. This contrasted with administration efforts to devise an effective pacification program and, pending emergence of a stable government, its decision to adopt a "low risk" policy to avoid military escalation.

In the remaining chapters of the study, the author discusses briefly the major USAF augmentations, the expansion of the Vietnamese Air Force, the problem of service representation in Headquarters, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and the rules of engagement as they affected particularly air combat training. The study concludes with a brief review of the beginning of USAF special air warfare training for the Royal Laotian Air Force and the inauguration of limited USAF and Navy air operations over Laos to contain Communist expansion in that country.

USAF Plans and Operations in Southeast Asia, 1965

This study highlights USAF plans, policies, and operations in Southeast Asia during 1965, especially as they were significantly changed by President Johnson's key decisions to bomb North Vietnam and transform the U.S. advisory role in South Vietnam to one of active military support. The author focuses on USAF participation in the development of policy for prosecuting the war, the build-up of U.S. military strength in the theater, and the gradually intensified air operations against enemy forces in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and Laos.

USAF Deployment Planning for Southeast Asia, 1966

This 1967 study discusses Air Force position on the strategy for the war. The report describes the Johnson Administration's deployment planning into 1968 for Southeast Asia and other Pacific Command areas. It focuses especially on the impact of the planning on the Air Force's resources and world-wide defense posture.

The Search for Military Alternatives 1967

This study focuses on the Chief of Staff and Air Staff roles, and highlights the plans and policies of higher authorities, the White House, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the recommendations of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Topics covered include plans for the military buildup in Southeast Asia, political considerations associated with new force deployments, and the continuing debate on war strategy and the conduct of the air campaign in the North.

USAF Plans and Policies: Logistics and Base Construction in Southeast Asia, 1967

This study completed in 1968 examines the overall logistic problems facing the Air Force in 1967 as it undertook to prepare for a war of seemingly indeterminate length. The author reviews the steps taken to improve the Air Force's munitions situation, Southeast Asia base construction, and high-level planning for construction of an anti-infiltration system across South Vietnam and Laos, which would require special USAF support facilities, equipment, and personnel.

USAF Manpower in Limited War, 1964-1967

This study examines the Air Force's effort to augment its manpower resources to meet the rapidly expanding requirements of the Vietnam War. Prior to the summer of 1965, when Southeast Asia operations sharply increased, the USAF manpower pool had been contracting as a result of previous decisions and actions. Thereafter, the trend was reversed and the Air Force undertook measures to enlarge its base as quickly as possible.

USAF Plans and Policies: R&D for Southeast Asia, 1968

This study reviews several critical investigations of Air Force research and development procedures and programs, examines the functioning of the
Southeast Asia Operational Requirement system, and discusses USAF efforts to modify or develop new systems and equipment to counter the enemy's growing air defenses in North Vietnam. It reviews steps taken by the Air Force to improve bombing accuracies and briefly discusses the major systems which were developed and deployed to the theater under Project Shed Light.

The Administration Emphasizes Air Power, 1969

This 1971 Top Secret (declassified in 2008) study covers the policy changes introduced by the Nixon administration during 1969 in regard to the Vietnam War, particularly as they affected the role of air power. Repeatedly expressing determination to end the war as early as possible on the basis of self-determination of the South Vietnamese people, President Nixon decided, after negotiations with the Communists in Paris proved fruitless, to unilaterally withdraw U.S. forces while simultaneously strengthening Saigon's forces to take up the slack.

The first reduction in U. S. military strength in South Vietnam took place during the summer of 1969 when 25,000 troops were withdrawn. However, a particular phenomenon of the year was that air power was not materially reduced. The main theme of this history is that, in his effort to "wind down" the war via Vietnamization while maintaining pressure on North Vietnam to negotiate, the President made new and greater use of the Air Force.

The Role of Air Power Grows, 1970

This 1972 top secret (declassified in 2008) report reviews plans and policies effecting the air war in Southeast Asia, as they were discussed, reviewed, and ordered implemented in 1970 by the White House, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Air Force

In this study, the author discusses the Air Force's role in supporting President Nixon's decisions to withdraw American ground troops from the theater and rely primarily on air power to provide continuing U.S. support to the South Vietnamese in their fight against Hanoi's military units. The author examines the Washington-level decisions of early 1970 to reduce U.S. air operations while taking additional steps to strengthen Saigon's armed forces. The author also reviews the debates among Washington-level agencies on the effectiveness of the various air campaigns, and she devotes a chapter to USAF efforts to improve and modernize the Vietnamese Air Force.

Shield for Vietnamization and Withdrawal, 1971

This 1976 Top Secret (declassified in 2008) monograph covers United States Air Force plans, policies, and operations in Southeast Asia, focusing on the role of the Air Force in support of American Decisions to withdraw U.S. combat troops and to turn the conduct of the war over to the South Vietnamese. Massive USAF efforts were devoted to attacking and destroying enemy stockpiles and troop concentrations in Cambodia and Laos, to supporting South Vietnamese ground attacks in the Laotian panhandle, to attempting to Vietnamize the interdiction function, and, finally, to countering the enemy air buildup in late 1971. Complicating these endeavors was the requirement to withdraw certain American air units as part of the overall drawdown from Southeast Asia. In describing these actions, the author reviews key national policies and other developments that affected operations. These provide a background for understanding the dramatic events of 1971 in which the USAF was so much involved. It is an exciting and significant aspect of Air Force history.

Tactics and Techniques of Close Air Support Operations 1961 - 1973

This study traces the chief developments in close air support tactics and techniques from 1961 to 1973. Produced by Lt. Col. Ralph Rowley in 1976, this study was classified secret until 2007.  In this study, Rowley examines such operations from the viewpoint of the pilots and crews of the attack aircraft. These included T-28's, A-1E's, A-26's, A-7's, F-100's, B-26's and B-57's. The role of Air Force gunships including the AC-47, AC-119, and the AC-130, and the armed FAC. In addition, the author describes the key role played by the Tactical Air Control System, which the Air Force established in Vietnam in the early 1960's.

End of US Involvement, 1973-1975

This 1980 monograph covers the United States Air Force involvement from 1973 up to the defeat of South Vietnam at the end of April 1975. Actual USAF operational involvement spanned only the first seven and a half months of 1973 and the final days of evacuation in 1975. However, the plans for retaliatory air attack against North Vietnam remained in effect throughout. According to Major General John W. Houston, who at the time was chief of the Office of Air Force History, after 1973, "South
Vietnamese continued to hope that U.S. air power would come to their rescue as it had before."

In the introduction E.H. Hartsook wrote, "It might appear that once the cease-fire agreement was signed in January 1973 and all U.S. forces withdrawn, there would be no further history to write about the Air Force in Southeast Asia. This was not the case, however. Although U.S. ground forces had withdrawn from Vietnam in accordance with domestic political and economic pressures, the administration still exerted strong efforts to increase South Vietnam's chances of survival against the North. The underpinning for these efforts included plans for an important continuing role for airpower based in Thailand.

"A prime objective in trying to increase South Vietnam's chances of survival was to guarantee the cease-fire against encroachments by Hanoi. In this, the administration made use of several tactics. First of all, by keeping the B-52s in Thailand, it aimed to scare North Vietnam into abiding by the peace agreement for fear of a Linebacker II-type retaliation, thus buying time for South Vietnam to strengthen its position. It tried to get Russia and China to stop sending military aid to Hanoi, within the framework of its larger diplomatic agreements with them. It sought cease-fires in Laos and Cambodia that would effectively keep North Vietnam from using these countries to supply its forces in South Vietnam. In this, it backed up its diplomatic efforts with its continued bombing and other U.S. military support to the governments in Laos and Cambodia that were contending with aggressive pro-communist factions. Making use of every tactic in trying to assure South Vietnam's viability, the administration also offered reconstruction aid to Hanoi, provided it honored the peace terms."

Air Power Helps Stop the Invasion and End the War 1972

This monograph produced in 1978 covers the Air Force's participation in the last full year of US involvement in the Vietnam War when, after the great majority of US forces had been withdrawn, Hanoi launched its Easter offensive. This study relates how air, as almost the sole remaining US weapon, played a complex and varied role. This consisted not only of its key part in the military operations which turned back the North's offensive, but also of its influence on the negotiating process and its exercise of a "persuasion" role for US diplomacy.

The RF-101 Voodoo in Southeast Asia, 1961-1970

This study is a narrative of the use of the RF-101 Voodoo reconnaissance plane during the Vietnam War. The RF-101 Voodoo was conceived in the final months of World War II as the XF-88, the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo came into being 12 years later as a supersonic, single-place, twin-engine tactical fighter. Its reconnaissance version, the RF-101A, first joined Tactical Air Command reconnaissance squadrons at Shaw Air Force Base in March 1957, and two years later PACAF's two reconnaissance squadrons converted to the stronger RF-101C Voodoo.

The RF-101C carried a nose oblique camera and a three-camera fan array ahead of the cockpit, a viewfinder that allowed the pilot to see the ground below and ahead of his aircraft, and a split-vertical arrangement of two large-format cameras behind the cockpit. Subsequent modifications installed faster cameras for low altitude missions and improved controls, but also introduced the unpopular small-format cameras. With two 15,000-pound thrust jet engines with afterburners, it had a speed of 875 knots, and its 3,150 gallons of JP-4 fuel gave it a combat radius of more than 800 miles. Light on the controls and highly maneuverable, it was a pilot's airplane.

When the United States decided to bomb targets in North Vietnam, RF-101C pilots took the first pre-strike and post-strike photographs and led the Air Force and Vietnamese strike aircraft to the targets. The Voodoo pilots photographed objectives all the way to the China border braving antiaircraft fire, missiles, and MIG interceptors, and suffering losses.

B-57G - Tropic Moon III, 1967-1972

This 1978 study covers the development, testing, use in combat, modifying, and the retirement of the B-57G. Conceived in 1967 as project Tropic Moon III, the B-57G was the first jet bomber specifically configured for self-contained night attack sorties in Southeast Asia.

Development and Employment of Fixed Wing Gunships, 1962-1971

For this 1974 study the author interviewed many key participants involved in the development and employment of gunships. The report includes extensive data relating to this unique weapon system. Among the primary sources he consulted were official letters, messages, memoranda, reports, and minutes of meetings. He also consulted a number of historical studies dealing with gunships.

Forward Air Control Operations in Southeast Asia 1965-1970

This study is the second of a two-part history of Air Force FAC operations in Southeast Asia. The author discusses the evolution of the FAC force, its training, and typical aircraft flown in combat, primarily the O-1, O-2A, and OV-10. He also describes the use of other aircraft in FAC roles, such as helicopters, AC-47 gunships, A-26K attack aircraft, AC-130's, C-123's, the AC-119G, and the F-4 jet. The study also reviews steps taken by the Air Force to improve and refine tactics and techniques, including visual reconnaissance, marking targets, bomb damage assessment, etc. Among the combat roles forward air controllers performed were flying armed FAC aircraft, supporting long-range ground reconnaissance teams and the Special Forces, and maintaining a round the clock "rocket watch" in the Saigon area to deter Communist mortar and rocket attacks on allied bases.

The Air Force and Contract Management, 1961-1965

This report deals with the impact of a study project initiated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to improve the management of Department of Defense contracts. It briefly describes the Air Force's contract management organization and general approach to performing the function, the recommendations emerging from the study, and the decision by OSD to centralize contract management within a new Defense agency.

Evolution of Command and Control Doctrine for Close Air Support

This study completed in 1973 was prepared in response to an Air Staff request for a history of command and control procedures used in close air support (CAS).

Forward Air Controls Operations in Southeast Asia 1961-1965

This study describes the many problems which faced the first air controllers after their arrival in South Vietnam in early 1962. It discusses their efforts to overcome the language barrier and help train Vietnamese Air Force personnel, their role in establishing a centralized air control system, and the tactics and techniques they developed during the years 1961-1965.

The Air Force in Southeast Asia Logistic Plans and Policies 1968-1969

This study covers logistics support of the air war in Southeast Asia. It points out some of the problems dealt with and plans formulated by the air logistic staff in the period January 1968 through December 1969.

Other studies include:

The Air Force in Southeast Asia Logistic Plans and Policies 1968-1969

Electronic Countermeasures in the Air War against North Vietnam

Tactics and Techniques of Night Operations 1961-1970

USAF Plans and Policies: R&D for Southeast Asia, 1965-1967

Airpower Deployments in Support of National Policy, 1958-1963

The Air Force Command and Control System, 1950-1966

Logistic Plans and Policies in Southeast Asia, 1965

Logistic Plans and Policies in Southeast Asia, 1966

USAF Logistic Preparations for Limited War, 1958-1961

USAF Plans and Policies Logistics and Base Construction in Southeast Asia, 1967

Manpower Trends, 1960-1963

Strengthening of Air Force In-House Laboratories, 1961-1962

Strengthening USAF General Purpose Forces, 1961-1964



Vietnam War Air Force Top Secret Blue Book Studies Classification Cover Sheet 

Page from Air Campaign Against North Vietnam 

Page from Logistic Preparations for Limited War, 1958-1961 

Page from Night Operations  1961-1970 

Vietnam War Blue Book Studies page from The Administration Emphasizes Air Power 1969 

Vietnam War Blue Book Studies page from  Shield for Vietnamization and Withdrawal 1971 

Vietnam War Blue Book Studies page from  Electronic Countermeasures in the Air War Against North Vietnam  1965-1973 



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