While Rolling Thunder was initially advertised as an eight-week bombing campaign that would force the North to give up, it developed into what became known as a strategy of “gradualism,” the complete antithesis of what General Curtis Lemay, the CSAF and his senior generals saw as the proper use of airpower.
The Air Force at this point in its evolution was immersed in strategic bombardment, some called Lemay’s “hard-knock.” Many knew Lemay as “Bombs away with Curt Lemay.” He wanted to pulverize North Vietnam’s strategic targets and was not much interested in coaxing them to lose their will inch by inch.
Momyer … General William W. Momyer commanded the 7th Air Force (7AF) in Vietnam and became General Westmoreland’s air component commander for this theater of warfare. His idea of employment of air power was much like Lemay’s "hard-knock,’ except his plan was referred to as SLAM, a concept for seeking, locating, annihilating, and monitoring the enemy. In a book written by General Momyer, entitled Airpower in three wars, published by the Air University Press in April 2003, General Momeyer makes the following points about Operation Rolling Thunder:
Senior USAF leadership felt the operation was too restrictive and that it should target vital North Vietnamese strategic targets instead of lines of communication.
The USAF wanted an “air strategy focused upon the heart of North Vietnam. But neither the President, the Secretary of State, nor the Secretary of Defense yet conceived of Rolling Thunder as a strategic air offensive … Secretary McNamara still believed that Rolling Thunder should be a limited application of Airpower against logistics targets relatively close to the DMZ. Further, the size and frequency of these strikes, as well as the targets, should be selected in Washington.”
There was no agreed on formal command arrangement for who would control the strikes into North Vietnam. As an aside, Momyer took this on as a major task to fix while commanding 7th AF, and he finally became the air component commander for all air forces, though tensions always remained between the USAF and Navy-Marines.
Instead, a Rolling Thunder Coordinating Committee controlled air operations during the 1965–1968 bombing campaign … “The Rolling Thunder Coordinating Committee could not do the job.”
This was most surely a recipe for disaster - warfare by committee.