Chilling Audio: B-52s Being Shot at Over Hanoi

Listen to this tape of B-52 bomber crews as they get shot at by multiple surface to air missiles while completing a bombing run over Hanoi during Operation Linebacker II in late 1972. You can hear both the professionalism and tension in the aircrews’ voices as they fly through countless SAM attacks and endure the loss of one B-52 while dropping their ordnance and exiting the target zone.

Click through the jump for the rare listen into an age of air warfare that bridged today’s modern bombing campaigns and the massive flights from hell that were the original strategic bombing missions of World War II.

Chilling, as SNAFU says.

  • Jack

    Nice to hear combat radio chatter without all the F bombs that today pilot’s use when under stress.

  • 4FingerOfBouron

    Imagine day after day of that….

    • EW3

      As an Electronics Warfare Tech in the USN during this time we’d read intel reports every morning. The amazing thing was the ratio of SAMs fired vs actual hits. From what I recall it was something like 50:1. I remember thinking how good the ECM gear the B-52s must have had (compared to the chip I was on).
      Eventually the NVA ran out of SAMs, but then congress stepped in and stopped the bombing. We could have owned the enemy after that.

    • Mike

      Don’t have to imagine, I was there as a lead EW

    • Butch Senger

      Brings back memories. I was B-52 crewchief while this was going on. 1970 to 1974 Grand Forks Airforce base and Anderson Airforce base Guam.

    • 760a

      God bless these guys. Incredible bravery. Nothing but admiration for all of them. Paid my respects to them at the Arc Light memorial on Guam a few years ago.

  • Chris

    Calm professionalism and great CRM.

    • Andy

      great crew resource mang

    • Kami nga dito ng kapatid ko, felieng nila orange chicken lang kinakain namin. Haha. Chura nilang mga judgmental sila. Kapag asa bus kami may mga Mexikanong magsasabi ng orange chicken! orange chicken! chinese! chinese!

  • Lance

    Most loses to BUFFs over North Vietnam came early in the campaign 3 reasons. Due to fear over NVA AAA B-52s flew at very high altitude and where in range of the SA-2s the NVA had. The USAF had a disastrous plan to have the bombers turn right after there bomb release and this broke apart the ECM protection the bombers in formation had together and most B-52 losses where to this. the Air Force soon changed this and allowed the bomber to fly out to the Gulf of Tonkin to turn and loses lowered dramatically. Most B-52s used where B-52Ds older models while newer Gs where used in smaller numbers the G did far better in protection and survivability over the North than the older Ds did.

    The coolest fact though that the NVAF MiG-21s once thought to be the biggest threat to BUFFs over Vietnam where only able to Kill 1-2 B-52s and B-52s tail gunners shot down 3 MiG-21s making a favorable kill factor to the B-52s over MiGs.

  • Buzz

    The biggest reason for B-52 losses was our glorious leaders forgot the lessons learned in WW2. Never ever send all of your bombers over a target on the same flight path and altitude. The Nazis learned to wait and let the first wave pass to see what direction the follow on bombers would be coming and then they massed their AAA and shot down a lot of our plans.

  • tiger

    We should never have let those SAM’s off the damn loading docks. Too damned worried about the Russians.

    • Bob

      That is for sure. Always afraid of the Russians. Didn’t Johnson think that the Russians were going to go all out and help the North?

  • anantoniusbauwens

    We still have the best air force thanks to these men.

  • Joe G

    This is what my father did in the Vietnam War. He was an E.W.O (Electronics Weapons Officer) on a B-52. His job was to deflect the missiles (SAMS) that were shot at them from the ground. He participated in the “Linebacker” missions. He use to tell me stories about how the sky would completely light up from all the ordnance shot at them from the ground. He got shrapnel in his back while on a mission when his aircraft flew into the burning wreckage of the B-52 in the front of the formation that had a SAM hit it directly after opening its bomb bay doors. It is very possible that my dad was one of the B-52’s in that formation. I thank God that my dad and his crew came home safely or else I would not be here today.

  • US Air Force

    “Orientals”? Sounds like YOU are the racist!

  • kim

    You’re on decaf from now on. (That said, the view from the recieving end – particularly the civilians -of the bomber flight would make for interesting reading too).

  • To deviate from the professionalism of the aircrews…STFU A**hole!

  • blight_

    War’s pretty hellish no matter how you cut it. The Viet Minh fought a guerrilla war with the Japanese, and before that were likely part of various anti-colonial independence movements. And after France returned, they fought the French and likely didn’t take many prisoners. Look at the POW vs repatriation numbers from Dien Bien Phu.

    When they infiltrated South Vietnam they weren’t nice either. They started as get-out-the-vote cadres and when the corrupt RVN government refused to trigger the referendum, the two-state system began and the countdown to unification began. The communists killed government reps, and the government killed as many “sympathizers” as they thought they had on their hands.

    In the end, the Vietnamese insurgents and the NVA shot the locals at close range seeing the whites in their eyes. We bombed the hell out of their locals from above using heavy conventional munitions, defoliants and cluster munitions where appropriate. We bombed North Vietnam to make them stop. We bombed Hanoi and mined Haiphong. We bombed Laos, Cambodia and border regions of North and South Vietnam to stop the resupply lines.

    Perhaps it would’ve been okay if we expanded the Phoenix program tete a tete with the VC/NVA instead of using bombers? It’s okay if we abduct/kill pro-DRVNs if they can abduct/kill pro-RVNs?

  • adam

    amazing, they are not in a F4 or thundercheif they can’y just zip to the left or right they are just flying along

  • Oldbignav

    All B-52s carried a tape recorder at the EW’s position.. It served several purposes – record signals from SAMs and radars, confirm crews followed checklists, provide material for debriefings, etc. I was on Guam with the 43d Bomb Wing (B-52D) and have done extenisve research with now declassified materials about five years ago.
    Lance: There were NO B-52s shot down by MIGs. All 15 lost over NVM were to SAMs. Tail gunners got two confirmed kills. May have been more but only two confirmed.
    Also, the B-52Ds had the very latest ECM equipment and were best protected. The Gs were a mixed fleet for ECM — some had the same as the Ds, some an older less capable suite.
    EW3, there was never a four plane pakage with mixed Ds and Gs. Each flew in “pure” cells of their own types. Some cells of Gs with only older ECM had the hell shot out of them. Qe lost six birds on the third night. This led to different tactics such as simultaneous time over targets across all of the North to stress their defenses and ensuring the G cells had some advanced ECM birds in each cell.
    In regard to the radio chatter, SAC crews were highly trained professionals – that comes through here. On the ground at the bar, the “F bomb” was not a rare event. Airborne, always professional – even under fire.
    I was and am proud to have served with all of them.

    • EW3

      Like I said a long time ago… ;)

      Were you in Guam in June of ’71 ?
      If so, did you hear of a green USN ship being order to leave the harbor after causing so much trouble ?

    • Jay

      Thank you for your service. I work with them up in North Dakota and I have to say its an honor to work with an aircraft and bomb squadron with such a history.

    • Welcome home brother. I was an Avionic tech on BUFFS and on maintenance flying status. I wound up on a bird, #2 in a cell out of Guam on the first day.
      As I recall the SAMS didn’t use their radar for fear of the Wild Weasels. The NVA would fire the SAMS hoping to hit something. They did put Migs up and try and get altitude, speed, and heading so the ground could try and hit one of our birds. They did manage to take out 15 of them during Linebacker II. Those were the only B-52 loses during Nam to enemy fire.
      One of the comments mentioned models of BUFFS that were in Nam. Until Linebacker I and Linebacker II D models were the only ones involved. The G and H models flew out of Guam for both campaigns along with the D models.
      I was with the KC-135’s that went in to Bangkok, Thailand in ’65 and spent some part of every year until ’73 at Utapao, Kadena, or Anderson. I was stationed at March AFB with the 22 BW which is where they had the active mothball fleet; we had every A, B, & C model in the inventory plus our own D models. At one time or another over those eight years I worked on every B-52 tail number in the AF inventory at that time. I retired in ’83.

    • Mike

      I was a nav on 58 Arc Lite missions May-Nov 1969. Hearing the tape carried me back to that time – I can visualize the reel-to-reel tape recorder to the left of the EW at his station. You are correct when you say the tapes are also used to “confirm crews followed checklists.” I remember sitting in the briefing room with the other crews of a cell listening to the tapes when lead dropped on the word “now” instead of the required word “hack” from GCI. We were number 2 and withheld after I advised the crew “he didn’t say ‘hack’.” Poor number 3 didn’t know who dropped and chose to release his bombs to help us if we did release (the run was routine and if all three had released no-one would be the wiser). They were the only crew chastised.

    • Ron Murdock

      Our tail end Charlie on the 27th had no tape recorder–tac comm was out of them. One of the bomber gunners who was credited with a kill, actually got two. Only one was confirmed.

  • Sgt_Buffy

    I am glad we have such men on our side.

  • Cato

    Yeah, war is hell. GFY.

  • Shail

    Out of both respect and admiration of the B-52’s career (everything from the fine engineers at Boeing who designed her, to the crews who maintained and flew her),
    it would make for an interesting historical anecdote indeed if folks who kept track of airframe/tail number history could tell us which, if any, currently-serving B-52 still carrying on the mission,
    performed however many missions over VietNam and the surrounding area.

    If such a service record isn’t testimony to such a successful aircraft design,
    then nothing is.

    • TMB

      From what I could look up, all of the B-52s that took part in Vietnam are either museum pieces or destroyed as part of the START treaty in the early 1990s. The B-52H is the only version still in service and (someone correct me if I’m wrong) never participated in Vietnam. Even still, the current B-52 fleet was all built in 1961 and spent the Cold War constantly in the air with nukes on board and put in long hours during ODS, Allied Force, OEF, and OIF with plans to keep them around until 2045 which means we’ll have tail numbers flying for over 80 years when they’re finally retired.

    • Daniel

      I started out in Systems Command and 0200 was a bird that was used for testing GPS in it’s early days (1982-83). Ended up in SAC as Fire Control Tech, and there sat 0200 (88-90). Son joined the AF and went to Sheppard for tech school. I went to see him and, guess what, There sat 0200 as a trainer for the H models. I think Im being followed

    • Checkers

      I do know that when the B-52 Gs were retired from Castle AFB CA to the boneyard in 1993/94, one of the aircraft was delivered to the boneyard with a remarkable guest EWO–the very man who picked it up from the factory flying in that seat–he was long retired but still living in the area. My instructor crew trained at least one copilot whose grandfather had flown B-52s during the Cold War Chrome Dome missions.

    • JT52

      None still around. Only H model left. D models were the best!

  • jumper

    Oriental? Who is the racist you ignorant troll?

  • I was off the coast around that time in a SH-D and one night we got four shot at us.Two detonated and the others just went corkscrew. Looking Glass called,”Navy 502, climb back up so they can reaquire, We have been looking for that son of a bitch.” Our RADALT was the same frequency as thier illuminator so we knew when they did. Where ever the missiles came from is no longer there. In the morning sun to see the Vics or what was left of them would catch the sun at altitude while we were still in the dark. Those 52 boys had big ones to do what they did. LCDR T.K.Perkins, USNR-Ret

  • John McCartan

    Obviously you must be a descendant of the cowardly Vietnamese Communists that bestowed great pain on their own for their cause. We only tried to help the oppressed by whatever means possible to stop that aggression. So as far as your comments. You should go live there and see what freedoms you can enjoy under their way of life. You would probably be executed jerk. BTW if we were so racist as you stated then why in God’s name would we have been there in the first place to help the South Vietnamese & lost over 58000 men & women trying to help stop this aggression? You are one sick person and you are the racist without a doubt. USA Freedoms shall prevail.
    J. McCartan (Disabled US Army Vietnam Veteran) AND DAMNED PROUD OF IT TOO.

    • blight_

      Domino theory, of course.

      • saul

        Indeed,

        At the time we re still worried about a good portion of Southern Asia falling to the Chi-Coms and the Soviets. The local culture didn’t really figure into it much for consideration. Not racism. Simple Cold War Era geo-poltical Calculations that were made.

        So toss off , Bombs, you are a small child with no concept of the world and how it operates. All you have is feelings.

  • Glenn Yarbrough

    I can’t imagine this. I was on the ground in 1st Cav. Division, but it had its own stress.

  • Infidel4LIFE

    Thats balls.

  • Pat

    Are you related to Hanoi Jane? You’re are an f***** idiot. What, no guts to post your name.

  • Pat

    Fortunately, the AF got wise and varied the times, altitudes and directions of flights and the number of losses fell to just a few at the end of the campaign. I think we lost 15 B-52’s

  • Southpaw

    The B-52 in my opinion is one of the greatest planes ever built period. Not only because of its performance in combat but also because it has been able to adapt to so many changes over the years. The crews that have flown and maintained them over the years have my utmost respect.

    After doing a quick search on the net I was able to find a little more information about a couple of the aircraft in this recording.

    Lots of interesting info can be found here about B-52 combat losses during Vietnam: http://www.nampows.org/B-52.html

    It mentions Ebony 2 and Lilac 03

    Ebony 2 B52D 12-26-72 U-Tapao Capt Robert Morris Pilot
    No. 56-0674 1stLt Robert Hudson Co-Pilot
    Giap Nhi Capt Michael LaBeau R/Nav
    1stLt Duane Vavroch Nav
    Capt Nutter Wimbrow EWO
    TSgt James Cook Gunner

    And Lilac 03

    D 56-0678 12-18-72 Landed at U-Tapao. No inspar damage. ETIC 7-30-73. Est. 60,000 manhours. 350 external holes; 24 areas require kits. Lilac 03

  • Great audio. What does “no-uplink” mean? Also – seems like most of the SAM evasion was electronic rather than thru maneuver. Is that right?

  • ltcjwb

    “No-uplink” meant that the EWO could not detect signals from the SAM guidance radar which would have given instructions to the missile. The missile required command guidance from the radar. Without it, the missile would continue on course for a set period, and self-destruct. All missile systems are set up the same way.

  • pablo

    Thanks to all of you for your professional inputs. Especially Oldbignav, RSK, Pat and Southpaw. Westover AFB was home of three crews that were lost. It was a sad Christmas season, but the Peace Accords soon were signed and POW’s starting coming home in a month or two.

  • Michael Y USAF VET

    you are able to say that because those guys did their job. If you were in Hanoi you would not be able to voice your opinion as you like. you would have been shot. so let me tell you something, there is no hate in Christ, so read your Bible and learn from those who fought before us. We did not invent war.

  • Gerald Priest

    I was assigned to the 44th Strat Missle Wg which also housed the 28th bomb wing. The 28th flew arclite missions I believe out of Guam. Just listening to the professional chatter and cohesive responses to each other is almost mind boggling. My dad was in B-17’s as a flight engineer and top turrett gunnner (sometimes even operated the radio). Of course flack was his biggest concern as SAM’s were to B-52’s.
    He only saw one German fighter in the 31 missions he flew; an ME-262. Before he could train his twin 50’s on it, the 262 rolled over and out of sight without firing a shot. Still, my hat is off to the B-52 crews and the missions they still play in our defense. GP

  • Randy Williams

    I was stationed at CCKAB on Taiwan in 1969-1971, and there was a SAC base next to ours, with B52′ and KC-135’s. I worked on the great C130’s there, repairing Avionics and other radar systems. They were in-country often there. I was in Tan Son Nhut in 1970 on a TDY to work on our C130’s there, and could see at night “tracer fire” from the Air to the Ground on the outskirts of the base, I believe that was to suppress any insurgents close to the base, but that is just my interpretation of what I saw. I am probably way off the base on that, but that is the way that I interpreted that.

  • John Slope

    Is this Jane Fonda talking?

  • sanborl

    Drop your rhetorical bombs and run? Why not stick around and take a few dozen rhetorical SAMs for balance there S-head. Break a leg on election day also.

  • Bob C

    Brings back a lot of surreal memories. I was part of that scenario on Day 3 (12/20/72) of the 11 day war over Hanoi (& Haiphong) – – as the nav on Brass 02, an ECM unmodifed B-52G out of Anderson on Guam. Pilot/Co – saw 1 direct hit on a BUFF ahead of us, and we heard of 2 others (& their ELTs) over the radios. Like Lilac 03 and Ebony 02, we too were hit by 2 (of 27 fired) SAMs in our 180 degree post-target turn immediately after bombs away. Fortunately, the SAMs were proximity fused/detonated, and we only took heavy shrapnel damage. Limped to NKP in NE Thailand on the 2 & 1/2 (out of 8 total)engines we had left running for ~ 25 minutes, lost 26,000 feet in our “semi-controlled & semi-glide” from 35,000 ft to the 9,000 ft altitude we punched out at just as we crossed over the Mekong River into Thailand. Were we scared – not really. Tense – yes. But our crew, Brass cell mates, and all support agencies seemed very calm, professional and dedicated to the mission at hand in an extremely hostile air environment. My hat is off to all, and my heart has, and will forever, go out to those who did not return.

  • bray9213

    I had the honor of serving as a B52-G tail gunner from 87-91 with SAC in upstate NY.. Although I never saw (nor wanted to) combat, I am still proud to flown in the big bird that has 60+ years of service.

  • Mike F

    Bob C…….Where you in UNT Class 72-04 and then NBT Class 72-09, at MAFB? I ask because your story sounds familiar to one told to me, by a classmate, over dinner at Anderson in the aftermath of the Christmas raids. If so, it’s good to hear from you again after all these years.
    Memories fade, but I remember a lot more chaos than I heard on this tape. Was at Anderson during Christmas then went to Utapo (D’s). Maybe the first time you get shot at it just seems louder and more chaotic. I’m just glad I crewed with some tremendously capable guys. If not for them….who knows how life might have turned out.

  • JER

    Where were the VC getting the Sams’s ? Oh Wait, I Know.. They came from Obamas Buddies….. (closed Mic).. Whoops… OPEN MIC !!!!!

  • The B-52 ECM upgrades were in constant “catch up mode” with the SAMs the Russians were providing. Same situation existed for the F4s. Everytime you hear the EWO saying, “No uplink”, that means he only has a visual and his ECM gear can’t jam the SAM.

    These SAMs should have been destroyed en route or on the docks in Haiphong Harbor. Stupid rules of engagement prevented the USA from truly fighting and winning this war.

    • buff111

      No uplink means he didn’t have missle guidance on his 20 scope but still could jam the radar if he had the radar showing. The signals, radar and guidance, are very different. The jamming of signals then and now is classified. But to say the least, just because an uplink signal wasn’t present doesn’t mean the EW wasn’t jamming. Jamming may have been on what mode the threat was in not just if guidance was showing. I was an EW for 12 years. This is an outstanding tape.

    • Apache Jack

      Joe….You can put the blame squarely on LBJ and Bob (the idiot ) McNamara….as per their directon Haiphong and Hanoi were “off limits”. We didn’t attack Hanoi and Haiphong until 1972….Had we bombed those two cities in 1965, 1966 loss of military , Army, Marines , Navy, USAF, would have been consideralbly less. Our hands were tied with LBJ and McNamara…….MIG landing fields were off limits even after the MIG made a firing pass at you…MIG would run back to KEP field and he was “off limits”..what kind of war fighting is that??? Sad but true…..

  • Mike

    Uplink is the guidfance signal sent by the SA-2 site to the missle. No-uplink means that, in all likelihood the missle was being salvoed, and not guided. “Evasion” was a combination of ECM and evasive maneuvers, where such measures were permitted. Generally, no evasive action from 120 seconds to go on the bomb run until after bomb release

  • Apache Jack.

    Your Bombs……..You have no clue. In America , we are not “tools” we are professional airman doing the job we are directed to do.. America is probably sending millions of dollars to the your country…..I suggest that you crawl back into that sewer hole that you live in. I think you are a coward and would not fare well in combat. I do not know how you can speak for Christ. …Proving the fact that you are a complete moron…..Your profanity shows your intelligence which I would rate ZERO……..Go hide behind womens skirts….UR an idiot.

  • JDM

    I flew KC-135s out of Utapao in 1973. Great to hear from lots of old SAC folks!

  • Msgt retired

    Proud to have been part of the ground support(avionics) for these bombers and the _crews who flew these harrowing missions from Guam. It was the highlight of my Air
    Force career and a lasting memory.

  • David McIntire

    My father, Col. Jesse McIntire, was stationed at Castle AFB, Commander 328th for awhile. A training position. Anybody BUFF jockies out there remember him?
    I think he flew in linebacker? Not sure, he didn’t like to talk about that time.

    • Jason McIntire

      Uncle David! This is Jason. Posting so I can follow.

  • Ebob41

    Looks like previous vets of the raids have covered the relevant points. I was an EWO flying on Gs out of Guam then. I still have a tape similar to this one. We lost Cobalt 1 on that mission. We didn’t have a gunner in the tail to spot sams. I’d love to hear from Steve Smaby, Aaron Dawson, or any of the old crew from Fairchild.

    Bob Reed, Col USAF (ret)

  • All I can say over and over is that it is due to the sacrifices and dedication of all of those that have served before me, that I had a successful military career. I sincerely appreciate all of those that served before and after me! To me, you will always be my REAL Hero.
    I salute you!

  • Steve W.

    THANK GOD FOR THESE BRAVE MEN. This is exactly why, when I see a man or woman in uniform, I thank them and shake thier hand!

  • Jim

    I was stationed on Guam and the 43rd Strat Wing (SAC) in the 70’s and it was an incredible sight seeing rows and rows of B-52’s on the ramp. We had the largest alert fleet in the AF at the time…..ready to go. The Linebacker and other Vietnam missions originated from Andersen AFB, Guam

  • Ray Gilley

    As a stateside OMS ramp rat I only heard crew copy on a ground cord headset. It is
    good to know that there were few casualties in men and BUFFS . Both have my deepest respect for having performed their mission so well. Rest Easy BUFF and flight crews. You have earned your down time. .

  • 10,000 Feet @ 450 MPH

    Sure is better up in the air doin the bomb’n and not on the ground in kindergarden class or somethin.

  • Hung

    Hilton Hanoi welcome you all!

  • tom t

    I was a B-52 Crew Chief. I was out of Utapao AB in Thailand. That is where all the sorties for all the linebacker missions took place. I was there during most of the bombings from 70-72. I knew many of the crew members who served with great honor but sadly lost thier lives. In fact my aircraft 55=0116 was shot up and had to divert because of severe battle damage.
    You all would be amazed by the reliablity of the B-52. That aircraft worked harder than no other that I know of. The F1-5’s and F-4’s which flew as our protectors were another set of amazing aircraft.
    I am truely Honored to have flown and served with some of the Bravest and most Professional pilots that the Air Foece had to offer.

  • Slingshot

    Was on a Marine recon team way up north when a 3 plane cell of 52’s went over, a swarm of SAMS on their trail. Most detonated off target, some corkscrewed away (the Buff’s ECM?) But as three closed on one plane, we saw an incredible sight – the tail gunner firing at them! And (by some divine fluke I guess) must of hit one because it blew up. Unfortunately, the other two hit the buff and we could see one wing fold up and she caught fire. No chutes that we could see. Our hats were off for that crew. She went down fighting.

  • Nicolaj Nielsen

    If you find that chilling, think of the poor people on the ground. I have just returned from a month in Vietnam, and kinder, warmer and generous people you will never meet!

  • Rc Parker

    I was assigned to the College Eye Task Force, flying EC121s out of Thailand, with orbits over the Gulf of Tonkin and Northern Laos during Linebacker 2. I can remember those times and still feel the excitement like it was yesterday.Bomber crews have the “right stuff” alright.

  • Al Spohn

    In my 3000 B52 hours I didn’t drop any f-bombs, but I did fart over what I thought was the intercom once, but was actually over the HF radio :-)