YOU ARE DIRECTED TO COMMENCE AT APPROXIMATELY 1300Z ON 18 DEC 1972 A THREE DAY MAXIMUM EFFORT // REPEAT MAXIMUM EFFORT // OF B-52 // TACAIR STRIKES IN THE HANOI // HAIPHONG AREAS AGAINST TARGET CONTAINED IN THE AUTHORIZED TARGET LIST . . . BE PREPARED TO EXTEND OPERATIONS PAST THREE DAYS IF DIRECTED. THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS APPLY:
A. UTILIZE VISUAL AS WELL AS ALL WEATHER CAPABILITIES.
B. UTILIZE ALL RESOURCES WHICH CAN BE SPARED WITHOUT CRITICAL DETRIMENT TO OPERATIONS IN RUN AND SUPPORT OF EMERGENCY SITUATIONS IN CAMBODIA.
C. UTILIZE RESTRIKES ON AUTHORIZED TARGETS, AS NECESSARY. NORTH VIETNAMESE AIR ORDER OF BATTLE, AIRFIELDS, AND ACTIVE SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILE SITES MAY BE STRUCK AS TACTICAL SITUATION DICTATES TO IMPROVE EFFECTIVENESS OF ATTACK FORCES AND MINIMIZE LOSSES.
D. EXERCISE PRECAUTION TO MINIMIZE RISK TO CIVILIAN CAUSALITIES UTILIZING LGB [LASER GUIDED BOMBS] WEAPONS AGAINST DESIGNATED TARGETS. AVOID DAMAGE TO THIRD COUNTRY SHIPPING.
The largest B-52 air strike in history was launched.
At 2:51 PM (local) the first of 87 B-52s lifted off the runway at Andersen AFB, Guam, to be joined by another 42 out of U-Tapao RTNAB, Thailand. All total, 129 B-52s from three Strategic Air Wings (43rd Bombardment Wing (BW), 307th Strategic Wing (SW) and 72nd Strategic Wing [Provisional]) were launched for strikes against Hoa Lac, Kep, Phuc Yen, Kinh No, Yen Vien, Gia Lam, Hanoi.
Four B-52s had to return to base after take-off, due to mechanical issues, three B-52s had issues that prevented bomb release over their targets, and one was hit by a SAM moments before bomb release, 121 B-52s dropped over 4 million pounds of bombs that night.
As Brown cell turned away from Hoa Lac airfield after bomb release, a MiG warning was sent out that one was attempting to intercept the bomber stream. In Brown 03 (B-52D 55-0676 out of U-Tapao), the trail bomber of the trail cell, SSgt Samuel O. Turner picked up the rapidly closing MiG and engaged it with his radar directed quad-fifties. After about three bursts the MiG disappeared from his screen. Another tail gunner observed the engagement and confirmed the kill. This was the first kill by a B-52 tail gunner.
In addition to the B-52s, there were fifteen F-111A bombing sorties, thirteen F-105G and four F-4C sorties for SAM suppression, sixty-three escort/CAP fighter sorties and twenty-two chaff bomber sorties, nine Navy A-7 SAM suppression sorties, thirty-four Navy and Marine A-6 Intruder bombing sorties, and 240 additional tanker, command and control, radar, and electronic warfare sorties in support of the night's mission.
One F-111A, one Navy A-7C, one B-52D and two B-52Gs (one was the Deputy Airborne Commander's aircraft) were lost, with another three B-52s damaged.
Seven crewmen were killed (two, the F-111 crew, are still listed as missing).
Lt Col Donald L. Rissi
Lt Col Ronald J Ward (MIA)
Maj James R. McElvan (MIA)
Capt Richard W. Cooper
1st Lt Robert J. Thomas
TSgt Walter L. Ferguson
TSgt Charlie S. Poole