The Laotian Army Launched A Large Attack Against The Communists, Supported By Its Own Air Units And The USAF.
March 23, 1969 LAOS : PLAIN OF JARS, In June, the enemy launched an attack of its own and gained ground, but in August, Laotian forces attacked again and regained what has been lost. In all these operations, the USAF flew hundreds of "Barrell Roll" missions; however, many were canceled because of poor weather.
Shortly after President Nixon took office in January 1969, the "Vietnamization" program was accelerated. Vietnamization was the training and equipping of South Vietnamese forces to fight their own war so the U.S. could withdraw its forces as had been planned since 1962. The first U.S. troops departed in July and by the end of the year, 69,000 had been withdrawn. When President Johnson ordered the complete bombing halt of North Vietnam in October 1968, it was with the understanding that USAF reconnaissance aircraft would continue to fly over the country. However, North Vietnam fired on some of these planes, so President Nixon ordered several retaliatory strikes against air defense sites.
During the rainy season which began in May, North Vietnam began stockpiling supplies and equipment inside its border with Laos, and it even built an oil pipeline into the panhandle. These supplies were shipped to North Vietnam either by rail from China or by sea from China or the Soviet Union through its ocean ports, primarily Haiphong. With the bombing halt in effect, North Vietnam could do as it wished without fear of attack. For years, the enemy had lived in Cambodia, crossing the border for attacks into South Vietnam and then fleeing back across the border to safety. And for years, U.S. and South Vietnamese military experts (including ex-President Eisenhower) had called upon President Johnson to permit attacks on the enemy in these sanctuaries. When the enemy launched another nationwide offensive on February 23, 1969, President Nixon decided North Vietnam had no intention accepting a peace, and he ordered a secret two-month bombing offensive by B-52s on the Cambodian sanctuaries.
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