Will a WW2 style strategic bombing campaign force North Vietnam out of the war?

Nov 2014
421
ph
Hypothetically, would napalming Hanoi and all population centers above 10000 from end to end force the North Vietnamese out of the war, or irradiation of the rice fields and rivers? Would inducing famine and mass starvation be enough for the NV to throw in the towel?
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Hypothetically, would napalming Hanoi and all population centers above 10000 from end to end force the North Vietnamese out of the war, or irradiation of the rice fields and rivers? Would inducing famine and mass starvation be enough for the NV to throw in the towel?
Possibly. But it might also pull in the People's Republic of China or the Soviet Union into the war, which was why they didn't do such things. Especially President Johnson, who while authorizing strategic bombing, micromanaged the hell out of it for fear of upsetting communist allies of North Vietnam, to the point that targets for bombing missions were transmitted beforehand to the North Vietnamese so they could remove civilians from the area. Now remember, in the 1960s, the world's most state of the art air defense network was found in North Vietnam. And they were straight up being told beforehand the exact target destinations for most large scale strikes...
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
If I remember correctly, China had threatened to enter the war if North Vietnam was bombed or invaded.
North Vietnam was bombed, heavily. Just not very effectively until Johnson left office and the new CinC somewhat pulled the gloves off.
 

Edratman

Forum Staff
Feb 2009
6,709
Eastern PA
Virtually the only materials the N. Vietnamese supplied to the war effort were bodies and food. Armaments, fuel, munitions and similar supplies were produced in the Soviet Union and China, for the most part. So in reality there was little to nothing, outside of transportation to target in a strategic bombing campaign. The US did target the transportation system of N. Vietnam, without any long term success.

Wholesale bombing of population centers primarily to kill civilians was a level of war that American leadership was not willing to conduct for numerous reasons.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Virtually the only materials the N. Vietnamese supplied to the war effort were bodies and food. Armaments, fuel, munitions and similar supplies were produced in the Soviet Union and China, for the most part. So in reality there was little to nothing, outside of transportation to target in a strategic bombing campaign. The US did target the transportation system of N. Vietnam, without any long term success.

Wholesale bombing of population centers primarily to kill civilians was a level of war that American leadership was not willing to conduct for numerous reasons.
All the supplies coming in from USSR and PRC were stockpiled in massive depots. Sometimes they were targeted, often they were not because they were in "off limits" areas.

Even without conducting unlimited morale bombing against urban housing in the bigger cities, or going after the dikes, or using defoliants against the rice fields, or mining Haiphong harbor early on, there were still more effective ways to bomb North Vietnam that that done until the late 60s when a major change in strategy and especially targeting was made.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,147
Canary Islands-Spain
China "imposed" a buffer zone in North Vietnam, 25 miles from the Chinese border the US could not bomb

1/3rd of the Vietnamese imports entered by railway from China, freely (!!)

This means there was a vast area where goods and weapons could be safely organized before entering zones subjected to intensive American bombing

With this kind of limitating conditions, any strategy implemented by the US was destined to fail, as long as the Vietnamese wanted to fight
 
Jul 2018
309
London
Virtually the only materials the N. Vietnamese supplied to the war effort were bodies and food. Armaments, fuel, munitions and similar supplies were produced in the Soviet Union and China, for the most part. So in reality there was little to nothing, outside of transportation to target in a strategic bombing campaign. The US did target the transportation system of N. Vietnam, without any long term success.

Wholesale bombing of population centers primarily to kill civilians was a level of war that American leadership was not willing to conduct for numerous reasons.
If there was the political will, it could have been done but the target should have been "bodies and food". The bombing should have been aimed at killing people, destroying the rice fields, polluting the environment to make life unsustainable in the country. It is such a terrible scenario that, I am sure, everybody would hesitate to do that.
 
May 2019
227
Salt Lake City, Utah
The American people would not have sustained such a war policy. Frank81 has the right understanding: as long as NV had sanctuaries and supply centers in China, Cambodia, and Laos, AND the will to fight, the war would continue, as in fact it did.