By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
A Peebles man who was a part of Operation Linebacker II during the Vietnam War recently received military medals he had earned while serving in the war.
Congresswoman Jean Schmidt recently presented the medals to John Brockhoeft, who had requested her help in obtaining the commendations.
Brockhoeft began serving in the Navy on Aug. 14, 1969, and was honorably discharged Jan. 30, 1973. He was trained as an aviation maintenance administrator and was assigned to the USS Ranger with the 7th Fleet in the Pacific Ocean. Brockhoeft was attached to Attack Squadron 25 and in charge of production control, quality assurance and data analysis.
Brockhoeft said he remembers Operation Linebacker II like it happened yesterday.
“There is an imaginary line running parallel to the coast of North Vietnam called Yankee Station where all the naval vessels, carrier task forces ran while we were carrying out air operations against North Vietnam,” Brockhoeft said. “Operation Linebacker II was a joint Navy, Air Force and Marine aviator’s operation.”
Brockhoeft said the Air Force flew B-52s from Guam and Thailand, and the operation began on Dec. 18, 1972, and lasted 11 days, through Dec. 29.
“On the first day they launched 129 B-52s from Guam in two hours,” Brockhoeft said. “It was the largest launch in aircraft history. It was at the end of the Vietnam War. The war had gone on for a long time. It was the first war in which the Armed Forces were told they had to fight the war lightly, and to fight by rules.”
Brockhoeft said if those involved in the actual fighting had been allowed to go all out, things would have been different. As it is, Brockhoeft believes the fighting forces actually had a success.
“They (the military) said, ‘if only we could fight this war out, we could defeat them in 30 days,’” Brockhoeft said. “We actually defeated them in 11 days in Operation Linebacker II, we dropped 20,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam, destroying all their railroads, power-generating stations, all 17 of their airfields, their bridges, cratering the airfields, runways and the air control towers; and bombed all their petroleum storage facilities, and the radio stations.”
Brockhoeft said 43 Americans and 1,600 North Vietnamese died in the battle. Brockhoeft said 49 Americans were taken prisoner, but were not tortured like those who had been taken earlier in the war.
“That is because the North Vietnamese were so defeated after 11 days of bombing by the Navy and the Air Force that they were sure the Americans would come in and do a land invasion and occupy their country,” Brockhoeft said. “So they stopped torturing the ones who had already been prisoners there. They wanted to look like good guys.”
Brockhoeft is a Navy veteran who received the National Defense Service Medal, the Meritorius Unit Commendation Ribbon, and the Vietnam Service Medal.
“It was just a few days before I got them that I received information that I was going to receive them,” Brockhoeft said. “It’s a little bit of history that I can pass on to my children. They have heard me talk about Operation Linebacker II that I was in, but now they have seen the medals.”
In addition to Brockhoeft, Schmidt presented medals to George William Morgan III of Ripley in Brown County, who received the Army Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze campaign star attachment, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with 1960 device, the Driver & Mechanic Badge with driver bar, and the Expert Badge & Rifle Bar. Schmidt also awarded the late A.J. Clark, whose family accepted on the Navy veteran’s behalf his World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver battle star and two bronze battle stars, the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Discharge button, and the World War II Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
“These men earned these medals during their service with the U.S. military, and I was happy to help them obtain this long-overdue recognition,” Schmidt said. “I offered my thanks and gratitude to them on behalf of a grateful nation.”
Brockhoeft and his wife, Joanne, have nine children. He is a long-distance truck driver.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.