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Andersen pays tribute to fallen Airmen during Linebacker II ceremony

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Andersen Air Force Base had its 42nd annual Linebacker II Remembrance Ceremony at Dec. 18, remembering the Andersen-based service members who lost their lives in support of Operation Linebacker II in 1972.

Seventy-five Airmen lost their lives during the operation including 33 who were lost from 15 downed B-52 Stratofortress bombers. The operation also referred to as the "11-Day War," was conducted from Dec. 18 to Dec. 29, 1972 during the Vietnam War. After peace talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam failed, President Richard Nixon ordered the bombing of North Vietnam to bring the North Vietnamese government back to the negotiating table.

Throughout the 11-Day War more than 700 B-52 sorties from Andersen and U-Tapao Royal Thai Airbase, Thailand, were flown and 15,000 tons of ordnances were dropped on industrial and military targets in North Vietnam.

"The magnitude of effort between ops and maintenance to launch the amount of aircraft they did each day during Operation Linebacker II is a phenomenal testament to the will of the warrior of that time," said Col. Reid Langdon, the 36th Operations Group commander.

Throughout the operation, Andersen was the staging area for more than 150 B-52 Stratofortress bombers. With as many as 15,000 Airmen and B-52s taking up nearly five miles of ramp space, Andersen was the site of the largest rapid buildup of airpower in history.

"It was so packed out there that, right here along that fence line, there were 11 KC-135 Stratotankers backed into old B-29 World War II hard stands with their tails and refueling booms hanging over Arc Light Boulevard; people had to drive under them," said Jeffrey Meyer, the 36th Wing historian.

Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th Wing commander, gave the audience a little more insight on how crowded the flightine was during the time of Operation Linebacker II.

"On the surface, many things on Andersen would appear to have changed since we fought the 11-Day War 42 years ago," he said during his speech. "An Airman standing where I am right now would have been able to see more than a hundred B-52s operating from our airfield, instead of the six that are currently deployed here."

Toth added Andersen AFB may have looked different all those years ago, but look beneath the surface and you will see similarities in the missions we had back then and the missions we have now.

"If you want to understand why, look no further than the 36th Wing's current mission statement: to Provide the President of the United States sovereign options to decisively employ airpower across the entire spectrum of engagement," Toth said. "This mission statement is at the heart of what we did then, and it's something our Airmen still excel at today through the Continuous Bomber Presence Program."