Targeting the Ho Chi Minh Trail – Rolling Thunder and the Nuclear Option

Despite the hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs that were dropped on Mu Gia and other strategic sections of the Ho Chi Minh trail, the Rolling Thunder campaign begun in March 1965 failed in its interdiction objectives for reasons that are still debated by military historians. As early as the summer of 1966, internal review and mounting congressional and public pressure to find coercive leverage over North Vietnam led to a reevaluation of the bombing strategy.

It was against this backdrop of frustration over the inability to interdict the Trail that the possibility of employing nuclear weapons was discussed in Pentagon circles. The JASON study was a response to this loose talk and, although it did not specifically focus on Mu Gia pass, it did analyze interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh trail, including nuclear attacks on bottlenecks such as Mu Gia pass. Continue reading