Friday, September 16, 2022

Going Downtown: The US Air Force Over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, 1961-75 (Thomas McKelvey Cleaver)

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver’s Going Downtown: The US Air Force Over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, 1961-75 recaps the United States Air Force’s battles in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Cleaver’s book is a successor to his book. The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club, which covered the U.S. Navy during the same timeframe. 

This book is a historical account of the Vietnam War, starting with the context of France’s involvement and Vietnam’s independence movement, crossed with the U.S. Air Force’s campaigns in it. Those major campaigns included “Rolling Thunder”, conducted in the mid 1960’s, followed by “Linebacker I” and “Linebacker II” in 1972. The author talks about the logistical struggles the Air Force had in dealing with a robust air defense system, along with micromanagement of the war from Washington, DC. Also, the author stresses the larger geographic scope of the Air Force’s battles in Southeast Asia, encompassing Laos, Cambodia, and the staging of operations in Thailand. While we think of the Vietnam War for the battles fought in the country, battles were also fought in surrounding countries and there was war support, such as planes and air defense systems, provided for North Vietnam from China and Russia.

Like Cleaver’s book on the Naval battles in Vietnam, Going Downtown incorporates first-person accounts from a number of Air Force veterans and individuals from both North and South Vietnam who fought during this timeframe. Going Downtown is a highly technical, detailed account into the Vietnam War’s aerial battles and the evolving American strategy in the 1960’s regarding North Vietnam’s involvement in South Vietnam.