Dr. John Curatola, associate professor of history at the U.S Army School of Advanced Military Studies, presented the fifth lecture in the Vietnam War Commemoration Lecture Series on March 8, 2017. Curatola’s lecture, “Rolling Thunder: A Failure in Gradualism,” focused on the air campaign executed from 1965 to 1968 over North Vietnam and addressed its failure to deter Communist resolve during the war.
Foundation CEO Doug Tystad opened the evening with welcoming remarks and introduced the new CGSC Director of Military History, Col. (Ret.) Tom Hanson, Ph.D., who also welcomed the audience of students, faculty, and Vietnam veterans and then introduced Dr. Curatola.
A highlight of the evening was the presence of two veteran Air Force pilots who flew B-52 missions during the period Curatola discussed. Their presence, along with all the other Vietnam Veterans who routinely attend the Vietnam lecture series, was an added bonus for everyone, especially during the question and answer session at the end.
In his presentation, Curatola argued that the air war during this period in Vietnam was plagued with unreasonable expectations, limited rules of engagement, and excessive political oversight. Aircrews from both the Navy and Air Force were at a constant disadvantage and unable to apply the full capability of American airpower to North Vietnam. He addressed the various limiting factors and how they affected daily targeting and operations while discussing the robust nature of North Vietnamese air defense. Not surprising to many in the audience was his assertion that there are many legacies of “Rolling Thunder” that still reverberate in today’s air campaigns.
The Vietnam War Commemoration Lecture Series is presented by CGSC’s Department of Military History, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leavenworth and supported by the CGSC Foundation and the Henry Leavenworth Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA). All lectures in the series are open to the public. The next lecture in the series is tentatively scheduled in late April.