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Tom Sweetnam
Mon, 20 Jan 2003 05:51:12 +0000

Owen Byrne wrote:

"Tanks are built with all sorts of sighting gear that will allow them to hit 
targets out to 3000 or more meters, but the vast majority of the time, the 
ranges will be only 500 m - similar to tank battles during WWII."

During the Gulf war, nearly every Iraqi tank was taken out by American tanks 
at ranges exceeding one mile -often from ranges in excess of 2000 meters in 

On January 19, 2003, Owen Byrne wrote:

"Iraqi combat deaths during the Gulf conflict were possibly as low as 1500, 
far below the widely accepted 100 000 figure, a former US Defense 
Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst reports."

This is so absurd I don't know where to begin. As to your source on Iraqi 
combat deaths, John Heidenrich, I'd like to remind you that the particular 
Jane's entry you use is dated 1993, barely a year and a half after the Gulf 
War, and a point in time when every Western journalist, analyst, and 
fruitcake on the planet had his/her own theory about what had transpired in 
Kuwait. Also, Heidenrich sites as his source of information, "Iraqi 
statements". We can take that to bank, huh? His estimation of events is 
hallucination, pure and simple. 1500 combat deaths! Try 225,000 Iraqi combat 
deaths. You can attribute about 90% of those to B-52s.

One of my jobs in Vietnam was that of conducting BDAs, the "bomb damage 
assessment" mission. After each Arc Light raid (high altitude laser-guided 
bombing missions by B52s), teams of American and Vietnamese Rangers were 
airlifted into the remote jungle border areas of western Vietnam and Laos 
where these strikes always took place, to assess damage.

Where "thousand pounders" were the bombs of choice (as they were in Iraq), 
craters left in the aftermath in dense jungle were still 30-50 ft deep with 
a radius of 150-200 ft. In open terrain, within 1000 meters of the blast 
epicenter of a thousand pounder, all life is extinguished simply by virtue 
of the shock wave, let alone shrapnel. Very dense jungle in Southeast Asia 
cut this killing radius down to about 300 meters, but saturation bombing 
more than made up for the deficit.

Each B-52 can carry fifty such bombs, and as many as a dozen bombers may 
participate in a single Arc Light raid, though three bombers was the usual 
number, three being sufficient to kill everything in a one thousand meter by 
two thousand meter swath in the dense jungles of I Corps. In the open desert 
terrain of Kuwait however, with precise satellite targeting technology 
available 20 years after the Vietnam War, the B-52s were far more efficient. 
They were devastating in fact.

Why has the effectiveness of the B-52 been kept so tightly under wraps from 
Vietnam, through the Gulf War, through Afghanistan?

"The horror."--Col. Walter Kurtz, Apocalypse Now

On landing near a "thousand pounder" crater, one is greeted by absolute 
silence. No insects chirp, no birds sing, no monkeys howl, nothing moves. 
Everything is dead, even the leeches. Many of the dead soldiers we found 
hadn't a mark on them. Some, several hundred yards from a blast epicenter, 
were in the exact positions they'd been in before the blast, leaning against 
trees reading letters or writing in diaries, some cooking rice. The single 
most common dread to be sited in the diaries of North Vietnamese soldiers 
wasn't just the prospect of being killed by B-52s, rather it was the 
prospect of being buried alive in deep bunker complexes, many 30 feet or 
more beneath the jungle surface. Religious icons being forbidden them, these 
diary entries regarding B-52s were often accompanied by a small drawing of a 
peace dove on the same page. The most common nightmare sited by NVA veterans 
years after the war had the B-52 as its recurring thematic locus.

We had no idea how many NVA soldiers suffered this fate until the early 
1990's, when Vietnamese communist diplomats in Paris admitted to losing 
450,000 KIA in I Corps alone, the most northerly war district. More than 
half they admitted, probably 60%, were killed by B-52s. 250,000 NVA soldiers 
went missing (MIA) during the war, the vast majority entombed in deep 
bunkers by B-52 raids. That phantom army of 200,000 Iraqi soldiers, the one  
John Heidenrich and Owen Byrne care not to acknowledge, can be found in that 
very same tomb.

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