Operation Rolling Thunder was the title of a gradual and sustained U.S. 2nd Air Division (later Seventh Air Force), U.S. Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.
The four objectives of the operation, (which evolved over time) were: To bolster the sagging morale of the Saigon regime in the Republic of Vietnam; To convince North Vietnam to cease its support for the communist insurgency in South Vietnam; To destroy North Vietnam's transportation system, industrial base, and air defenses; and to interdict the flow of men and material into South Vietnam. Attainment of these objectives was made difficult by both the restraints imposed upon the U.S and its allies by Cold War exigencies and by the military aid and assistance received by North Vietnam from its communist allies, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China (PRC).
The operation became the most intense air/ground battle waged during the Cold War period, indeed, it was the most difficult such campaign fought by the U.S. Air Force since the aerial bombardment of Nazi Germany during World War II. Thanks to the efforts of its allies, North Vietnam fielded a potent mixture of sophisticated air-to-air and ground-to-air weapons that created one of the most effective air defense environments ever faced by American military aviators. After one of the longest aerial campaigns ever conducted by any nation, Rolling Thunder was terminated as a strategic failure in late 1968 having achieved none of its objectives.