The Nation: The Harrowing War in the Air

IT was slightly before 2 a.m. of what was to be the first warm and sunny Sunday of the year in North Viet Nam. Suddenly, inside the big Soviet-built area surveillance radar stations near Haiphong and Hanoi, the radarscopes exploded into life with the blips of approaching aircraft—more than the technicians had seen at any one time in years. After a moment, the images smeared and the blips disappeared, as if overtaken by some evil magic. The radarscopes filled with impenetrable "snow"—or simply went dark.

As U.S. intelligence experts later reconstructed what had probably...

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