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The USS Truxtun's Encounter
With The Unknown

by T.C. Rogers

Posted: 01:00 September 4, 2008

The USS Truxtun

In October 1972, while on her fourth WESTPAC deployment, USS TRUXTUN reassumed duties as PIRAZ in the Gulf of Tonkin. Operating off the coast of North Vietnam, TRUXTUN was credited with directing fighter intercepts which resulted in the destruction of eleven North Vietnames MIG jets and rescue of three downed American pilots, earning the ship her second Navy Unit Commendation.

TRUXTUN served primarily as PIRAZ (Positive Identification Radar Advisory Zone) for Task Force 77 in the Gulf of Tonkin. TRUXTUN was assigned to ensure safety and flight tracking services for U.S. strike aircraft as well as maintain constant radar surveillance of the area providing air defense against enemy aircraft during LINEBACKER II operations.

Operation LINEBACKER II began on December 18, 1972, 3,000 sorties, 11 days, and 40,000 tons of bombs penetrated the most concentrated air defense of the war. President Richard Nixon had turned complete control of the Vietnam war over to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas Moorer on December 14, 1972 with orders "to win this war". As a result of this order Operation LINEBACKER II was executed. Eleven days after the B-52's began this operation, America's involvment in Vietnam was over. Peace talks that had came to a stalemate in October 1972 were resumed on January 8, 1973. Within 30 days after the final bomb was dropped Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger reached a final agreement and signed the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973.

December 20, 1972 will be remembered as the day that the United States lost the most B-52 aircraft to hosile fire while performing a combat operation. Four B-52Gs were shot down, two B-52Ds and another receiving severe damage. Two hundred and twenty-one Soviet SA-2 missiles had been fired at the attacking B-52 formation on that evening. Several patterns had developed by the end of the third night of Operation LINEBACKER II. One, Six B-52s had been shot down while in a high angle banked post-target turn. Two, five of the seven B-52Gs that had been shot down were un-modified B-52Gs. Because of these factors and the high B-52 losses that occured on December 20, 1972 SAC planners had to alter their plans if the B-52s valued at $8.0 million each were to continue their raids into the Hanoi area.

The United States paid a price for the accomplishments of Linebacker II. During bombing raids, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft encountered intense enemy defensive actions that resulted in the loss of twenty-six aircraft in the twelve-day period. Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, and one HH-53 search and rescue helicopter. Navy losses included two A-7s, two A-6s, one RA-5, and one F-4. Seventeen of these losses were attributed to SA-2 missiles, three to daytime MiG attacks, three to antiaircraft artillery, and three to unknown causes.

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