B-52s were brought into service in the 1950s as the emissaries of an orgasmic, potentially civilization-destroying nuclear assault against hundreds of cities in the Soviet Union and communist China. Thank god, it never came to that, but then the B-52 was reconfigured as the ultimate instrument of carpet-bombing in Vietnam, leveling vast numbers of mile-square “target boxes” across that land. Its crowning performance, however, didn’t come until near that war’s end: the “Christmas bombing” of 1972. From December 13th to December 29th, over the mythic 12 days of Christmas, like so many drummers drumming, wave after wave of those strategic bombers were sent against previously off-limit targets in and around the North Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. It would prove to be the biggest heavy bomber assault since World War II.