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Linebacker II anniversary marked in memorial ceremony

by Tech. Sgt. Steven Wilson
36th Operations Group Public Affairs

12/18/2007 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFPN) -- Servicemembers, congressional representatives, civil leaders and their families paused December 18 to recognize the 35th anniversary of Linebacker II in a memorial ceremony at Arc Light Park here. 

Linebacker II was an intensive bombing campaign in December 1972 ordered by President Richard Nixon to persuade the North Vietnamese to return to the Paris peace talks. The campaign lasted 11 days, totaled more than 700 sorties and more than 15,000 tons of munitions were used. 

The effort was successful in forcing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam back to the peace negotiations, which were finalized Jan. 27, 1973.  However, the cost was high.  Fifteen B-52s and 33 airmen were lost in the campaign.

The 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed here from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., spearheaded the ceremony and crafted a program featuring a B-2 Spirit flyover, an honor guard firing detail and color guard and taps played by a bugler positioned underneath the left wing of the B-52 static display.

This particular memorial event was special because two Airmen directly involved with Linebacker II attended. Retired Col. Tony Merritt was the wing assistant chief of intelligence at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield and retired Lt. Col. Chuck McManus was deputy director of plans for Linebacker II at Andersen.

Both of these gentlemen began their commitment to defend America's freedom in World War II.

These Airmen were seated in a position of honor beside Brig. Gen. Douglas Owens during the ceremony. After the national anthem, which was capped off with a B-2 Spirit soaring over the assembled audience and rocketing away, the Guam hymn and an invocation by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Dana Grover, narrator Capt. Brooks Walters, 393rd EBS weapons and tactics officer, gave a brief history of the Linebacker II campaign and explained its historical significance. 

Then Captain Walters called attention to the 33-person formation beside the flagpole.

"Today's 33-man formation represents the 33 aircrew killed during the 11-day Linebacker II campaign," he said, prior to reading the list of 33 names, which included Airmen from the rank of Airman 1st Class to Lt. Colonel.

"May we never forget their devotion to duty and ultimate sacrifice," said Captain Walters. "May God bless their families and those who loved them."

General Owens invited Mr. Merritt to accompany him in placing a memorial wreath at the flagpole in front of the static B-52. As the general and Mr. Merritt placed the wreath, Airman 1st Class Heather Wells, 36th Operations Support Squadron, sang a rendition of  "Amazing Grace."

Following the hymn, Captain Walters explained the flag at Arc Light Memorial Park would be flown at half-staff for the next 11-days to honor the Airmen who were part of the 11-day operation.

After the honor guard lowered the flag the sound of taps was heard reverberating across the park. Everyone in uniform, many of whom were not even born when these Airmen gave the ultimate sacrifice, saluted their fallen comrades.

As the bugler lowered her instrument the snappish command of the firing party's leader could be heard as he directed the firing detail's precision movements.

Soon, the guns were silent, commemorating the 33 Airmen who lost their lives during Linebacker II, forever resting peacefully and remembered by an eternally grateful nation.

They are not, nor ever will be, forgotten. 

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