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Cambodian Incursions
Toan Thang "Total Victory" Operations
and U.S. POWs

Parts I and II


© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 The Northwest Veterans Newsletter

No Duplication or Distribution allowed without expressed permission!
Contact: Roger Young

Playing "Our Nation's Heroes" - J. Cutright

 

Document URL: http://northwestvets.com/spurs/cambodia.htm

 

Cambodia Palace
Royal Palace at Phnom Penh
Courtesy of The Learning Company

 

 

We are truly honored to have received this award from Dave Murray for this specific article. Dave is New Jersey's POW/MIA Committee Chair for Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., a working POW/MIA activist, and a trusted friend. Please also see Dave's POW website. You won't be disappointed by his site!

 

 

Updated and Revised: 18 May 2004

 


 

Disclaimer:

Please be aware that the opinions stated in this report are my own unless otherwise indicated. My personal opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of fellow Silver Spurs or the 3/17th Air Cavalry Reunion committee. I invite other Silver Spurs, POW activists, researchers and other interested parties for their comments and views. With their EXPRESSED permission I would be most happy to post their replies.

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to my fellow 3/17th troopers for all their research on this subject. Much of what appears here is because of his personal research and to the authors of the books indicated throughout this report and in my appendix.

 

Part I

PREFACE:

I feel it is important because of the content in this research to point out that as a Vietnam veteran, the Cambodian Incursion of 1970 was one of the few times the politicians running the war in Washington allowed the U.S. military to conduct operations that made sense! To this day I still feel the incursion was not only justified, but necessary and only regret that the incursion was limited in size, scope and that time constraints were imposed by politicians and political agendas. The operation could have been far more successful if the large and overt U.S. cross-border operations had been allowed to continue and U.S. intel had not been ignored and compromised. [See: Facts from the book Incursion]

To date there are numerous books that detail the military operations of the Cambodia incursion of 1970. But there is little written about the the 1971 Cambodia Incursion nor the possible link to U.S. POWs held inside Cambodia which this report deals with.

In early 1998, I asked fellow Silver Spurs - A Trp., 3/17th Air Cav - to read an article Steve Golding of The PoW Forum ® had posted on a Toan Thang (Total Victory) operation in which it would appear a possiblity that American forces bombed the heck out of something in Cambodia - possibly a POW camp - prior to or during the Cambodian incursion of 1970. The first-hand report by Ed Johnson is entitled; "Did US Knowingly Kill POWs in 1970?". Ed reveals a startling and personal experience while serving with the 2/47 Mech 9th Infantry Division when his unit was sent into the Mimot [Memot] rubber plantation inside of Cambodia.

At that time I and fellow members of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron, began collecting news reports, documents, books -- almost everthing about the 1970 Cambodia Incursion we could lay our hands on. We have included much of that information in hopes it might lead to additional information from those who served with other units involved in these operations. Because of that, you will see some of the rabbit trails we have ventured along but which may be of importance to others involved in such cross-border operations. One must also understand the importance of COSVN, which directed almost all former enemy forces within South Vietnam during the war.

Please understand this research is ongong and additional facts will be posted from time to time to replace speculation. But we have collected information that is of interest. I hope my fellow Silver Spurs, veterans, researchers and POW family members might perhaps share more details with us. During our individual tours in Vietnam much of what we experienced was rather myopic - we only saw the war from a very narrow perspective. With combined first-hand knowledge and as files become declassified, we are finally beginning to see the "bigger picture." Your input is important!

To date you will see in this report:

-- that U.S. intelligence, at worst, had to be compromised at very high levels, or at best, ignored by U.S. policy makers

-- the "secret bombings" in 1969 of Cambodia in which the Soviet Union was very aware of targets inside of Cambodia and could pass that information along to their Vietnamese allies even before our B-52s could deliver their deadly payloads.

-- the Mimot plantation inside the Fish Hook region of Cambodia was the location of COSVN just prior to the 1970 Cambodia incursion.

-- the planning of the U.S. cross-border operations into Cambodia purportedly took place in late April 1970 while commanders of COSVN were purportedly moving towards Kratie in March 1970 fearing a U.S. cross-border operation.

-- that U.S. POWs were known to have been inside Cambodia prior to the 1970 incursion.

-- that U.S. POWs were moved in 1970 from the Fish Hook region to Kratie.

-- that U.S. POWs were released from Cambodia both during the war and Operation Homecoming.

-- that ARVN POWs held in Cambodia were successfully rescued during the war, however U.S. POWs were not.

-- that known key enemy positions during the 1970 and 1971 incursions were not targeted for B-52 strikes just prior to, or during, those cross-border missions.

-- that in related 1999 House testimony and research by former POW Mike Benge, that Cubans were located at COSVN.

-- that John "M.G." Brown provides evidence the Soviets were also directly involved with COSVN.

-- the route PRG forces took to escape the 1970 cross-border operations.

-- that in 1965, Isaac Camacho after twenty months of capture, escaped from inside of Cambodia and reported to authorites he was interrogated by Cubans. During his debrief, "AUTHORITIES TOLD HIM NOT TO SPEAK ABOUT HIS ENCOUNTER WITH THE CUBANS"

-- That in MARCH 1970, (a month before the U.S. thrust) the U.S. 7th Air Force recommended that the back-side of the Fish Hook area be sealed to prevent the escape of enemy forces! (Hyperlink below under "Diversion?" section).

-- That in early 1970, D - 3/17th was involved in a POW rescue mission near Xuan Loc, just prior to the 1970 Incursion!

-- That the 330th Radio Research Company (National Security Agency/Army, aka Army Security Agency or ASA unit) had located COSVN in the Fish Hook region prior to the incursion.

Flying Slick.Gif

-- That former POW, Frank Anton, learned in his debriefs after Operation Homcoming that our intel had taken pictures of him in the various prison camps he was held in South Vietnam, and also a photo taken during his grueling trek north through Laos to the Hanoi prison system. Yet despite that knowledge he and those fellow POWs with him were never rescued by US forces! [More specifics within].

-- NEW! CCS, MACVSOG "The Beginning" - Related external information of importance!

 

Not in this report but most significant, the "secret" raid on 21 Nov '70 of the POW camp in Son Tay inside North Vietnam just hours or weeks (depending on accounts) after our former enemy moved American POWs from Son Tay -- all these important and very high-level classified missions share one important item in common--that these operations were apparently known by enemy forces or their allies prior to the execution of these missions or before bombers could reach their targets. Such breaches in security endangered all involved in these missions, and gave our former enemy the upper hand. Bare in mind that while the 3/17th Air Cav operated inside Cambodia in the 1970 incursion, scramblers were used on our radios in our choppers to encrypt voice communications.

Cambodian Incursions Largely Ignored

Not much significance has appeared in history books or in military history on the Cambodian incursions. I find this interesting since a former high-level adversary, founder of the National Liberation Front (NLF) and Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG) Minister of Justice, Truong Nhu Tang with close ties to Central Office South Vietnam (COSVN) leadership (which was trained by the former Soviet Union), found events which occurred inside of Cambodia in 1970 the turning point in winning the propaganda war here in the U.S. Here are important excerpts from his book, A Viet Cong Memoir - An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath :

1) "To our analysts, monitoring the American domestic scene, it seemed that the Cambodian invasion had stimulated a divisiveness equaled only perhaps by the Tet Offensive two years earlier. We had indeed, as Pham Hung said, run away, but Nixon had paid dearly for our temporary discomfiture by sustaining major political losses. Kissinger's argument that the invasion had gained a year may be true. But to our way of looking at it -- from a political and diplomatic perspective as well as militarily -- the United States action had resulted in a resounding victory for the Front."

2) "...the military battlefield upon which the Americans lavished their attention and resources was only one part of the whole board of confrontation. And it was not on this front that the primary struggle was being played out. The conceptual framework of danh va dam ["fighting and talking"] dominated our strategy throughout the Paris talks, and its watchwords were 'separate' and 'isolate,' its motto. 'Stimulate the enemy's internal contradictions.' There were, as all political cadre learned by heart, three currents of revolution (ba giong thac Cach mang) in every people's war. The first two currents are the ever-growing international socialist camp and the armed liberation movement within the country in question. The third is the progressive moment within the colonial or neocolonial power. Until the balance of military power decisively favored the revolution, it was this third current that had to draw the most energy. In this case it was American public opinion - the minds and hearts of the American people - that had to be motivated and exploited. Here were the internal contradictions that we sought to stimulate first of all, as we moved step by step toward our goal of isolating the Thieu government from its allies.

"At each stage of this steady movement, our antagonists consoled themselves with short-term triumphs: disrupted supply lines, bombed-out base areas, and high body counts. But inexorably, even as these apparent successes multiplied, they were sustaining irremediable long-term damage to their capacity for war. Tet has been spoken of at length in these terms. But the lessons of Tet will only become truly clear in the West when Americans begin to view the strategic results of that battle in precisely the same way they view the strategic results of Stalingrad or Midway. The American bombing and invasion of Cambodia largely accomplished its immediate goals. I barely survived myself. Nixon and Kissinger justified it then and later as an operation that gained an essential year of time. Yet this 'victory' arguably did more to undermine American unity than any other event of the war. The American leaders braced themselves to weather a storm of protest that would, they thought, eventually subside. But how does one judge the cumulative effects on one's own body politic of ingrained distrust and ill will? To achieve a year or so of dubious battlefield grace, Nixon and Kissinger incurred a propaganda defeat whose effects are still apparent fifteen years later [1985] and, to the extent that they have entered the American national psyche, may well be permanent. Whatever the facts or who infringed first on Cambodian neutrality, the significance of that engagement was that it helped separate the American leadership from its internal support and instilled among many Americans a lasting skepticism about their government's morality. It was - to Vietnam's revolution and to the revolutions that have followed Vietnam - an enduring gift..."

3) "The final campaign against Saigon [1975] was to be a classic battle of main forces. But such a climax had been made possible only by the thoroughness of our victories on the political and diplomatic fronts. It had been the gradual and cumulative erosion of our enemies' internal cohesion that prepared the way for Saigon's sudden collapse while her protector looked on helplessly..."

Truong Nhu Tang is correct. As in all major battles involving U.S. troops in Southeast Asia, the 1970 and 1971 Cambodia incursions were but another testament of the courage of U.S. soldiers involved in that protracted war. But the policies dictated from Washington - both political and militarily - fell far short of a vital goal in "winning the hearts and minds" of the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, or Americans here on the home front. In fact, winning the propaganda war was so vital for the communists to survive the U.S. military onslaught, that Truong Nhu Tang in his book also referred to the communist effort here in the States to not only support, but at times even finance, civil unrest.

It seems ironic, however, that Truong Nhu Tang fled Vietnam in 1977 only two short years after the communist victory when he became "...profoundly disillusioned by the massive political repression and economic chaos the new government brought with it..." and was living in exile in France when his book was published in 1985. His fleeing the very government he had supported proves that U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia was indeed a noble - but sadly in the end - misguided effort. Communist propaganda was so well orchestrated it even deceived those who had fought, bled and died for the communist reunification of Vietnam! Yet, today, leaders in the U.S. continue to trust the communist leadership that even betrayed its own allies of the NLF/PRG, encourage open trade and favored-nation status!

Of additional interest is code names that our enemy's leadership were given. Truong Nhu Tang writes:

"COSVN was, and had always been, people rather than a place. It was a leadership group made up of delegates from the Central Committee of the Worker's Party (Lao Dong), several of who became members of the NLF Central Committee as well. COSVN executed the directives of the North Vietnamese Politburo and co-ordinated the action of the Party and the National Liberation Front" [NLF].

"When circumstances required it, the various members would be called together by the permanent staff, occasionally at different locations, but commonly at the headquarters area, which we had finally reached after an exhausting journey." [When COSVN and NLF/PRG leadership moved to Kratie as a result of the 1970 U.S. Cambodia incursion] This complex so elusive to the American and regime hunters, was located on the Mimot rubber plantation, straddling the Vietnam/Cambodia border in the Fishhook area." [See map below].

"Among General Trung's more important colleagues [General Tran Nam Trung, codes names 'Hai Hau' and 'Nam Nga' - commander-in-chief of the NLF armed forces and one of COSVN's second secretaries - Vietcong Memoir, pg. 128] were Pham Hung (code name 'Bay Hong'), Politburo member and first party secretary; Pham Van Dang (code name 'Hai Van'), who was the chief of the organization; Nguyen Van Linh (code name 'Muoi Cuc'), in charge of propaganda and training; Vo Van Kiet (code name 'Sau Dan'), head of the Saigon/Cholon/Giadinh zone and Mai Chi Tho's boss; and General Hoang Van Thai, commander-in-chief of Northern forces in the South and ultimately responsible for all military affairs."

Perhaps - at long last in this report - viewers will find the significance of COSVN, these cross-border operations and their importance in history. And perhaps why attention has been diverted from the Cambodian incursions by the same intellectual types that dictated U.S. military efforts in Southeast Asia and led to tragedy not only there, but caused wounds that may never heal across these United States. One must also also wonder why during the Clinton Administration former high-level officials of the murderous Khmer Rouge have not been charged with war crimes...

With all this in mind, please read on. I believe those involved with the incursion will find this research of significant interest.


Bar.Gif


3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron Involved

 

3/17th Crossed Sabers

 

My troop alone had four fellow Troopers killed while our unit was involved in Cambodian operations, and since four were originally KIA-BNR, (two set of remains have since been repatriated) Dan and I felt we owed our fallen brothers - Thomas W. Knuckey, Phillip C. Taylor, Gregory A. Antunano, and Randall D. Dalton - a search for facts about the Cambodian incursions in which they perished supporting. We also dedicate this report to those POWs who still remain unaccounted-for. During the '70 Cambodian Incursion alone, at least 16 U.S. servicemen were listed as "killed in action, body not recovered. (KIA-BNR). This report is dedicated to their memories...to those who fought, and died, with honor.

I wish to express my sincere thanks to Dan Sutherland who was a door gunner with our Lift platoon and has first-hand experience of the '71 Incursion. Dan has sent me a great deal of information from a book entitled, "NAM, The Vietnam Experience 1965-75" which appears to be a most comprehensive historical work on the war. I thank Dan for the excepts he's sent me which are copyrighted, and expressly forbids reproduction, electronic transmission, duplication, etc., etc., without expressed permission and those found guilty will be shot on sight. (Grin). I urge all to get a copy of this comprehensive work as I have done since!

So, fearing for my life, (grin), I will only enclose some excerpts from what Dan has sent me, but the information is vital for this report.

Dan has also provided "Facts on File" (FOF) which was published on a weekly basis. Information which has provided additional "first hand" reports from the time period in question. Dan has had the courage to write his thoughts about the war in public. The articles he wrote in 1987 for his local newspaper appear on our Silver Spur pages. One, in particular -"A Trip Through the 'Gates of Hell' - is critical to our discussion. It appears below with additional comments. Events which occured during the Cambodian incursions raise some serious questions on what was going on, or perhaps better said, what WASN'T going on.

First, from my prospective, prior to the U.S. "Invasion" of Cambodia in May 1970, A Troop and other elements of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron were doing limited recon work across the fence for the 1st Cav division, which at the time was somewhat confusing because the 1st Cav Division had its own very capable squadron -- 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry -- which contained the same elements as the 3/17th and who had performed aero-scout reconnaissance at LZ X-Ray in 1965 in the Ia Drang Valley for the 1/7th.. Both the 1/9th and 3/17th were comprised of three air cavalry troops comprised of a Aero Scout, Aero Weapons and Aero Rifle platoons and a Delta Troop ground cavalry with platoons mounted on wheeled vehicles.

Important 3/17th Command Structure Revealed:

Bill Nevius who served with D Troop, 3/17th has uncovered evidence that explains why the 3/17th was assigned such missions. On 20 July 1970 the 3/17th Squadron was placed under the direct control of II Field Force. During our squadron's deployment to Vietnam it was considered an "independent" Air Cavalry squadron. Bill Demusey, another D Troop, 3/17th trooper also reports that his platoon was an advance unit for the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment's push into Cambodia in 1970.

Bill Nevius' research will give you broad insight into what other elite units were under the direct control of MACV & II Field Force, including the 1st Cavalry Division, the 11th ACR, elements of the 101st Airborne Division, and the highly secret Joint Personnel Recovery Center [JPRC] and others that were constantly involved in difficult and highly classified missions.

JPRC until March 72, was the cover organization for MACSOG-80 - Recovery Studies Division - of MACSOG which reported directly to the commander of MACV. (1)

Of particular interest Nevius finds that despite the fact the 3/17th has always been listed falling under the command of the 1st Aviation Brigade, the 1st Aviation Brigade was not even in our chain of command! This explains why the four troops of the 3/17th seldom worked together as a squadron, as was the intent when the squadron was deployed to Vietnam in 1967. It also makes finding historical documents on missions difficult to locate.

In fact, Bill Nevius has uncovered that elements of D Troop were involved in a previously unknown raid directed by G-3 of II Field Force on a POW camp during their individual troop operations.

During the '70 Incursion I was somewhat dumbfounded when "The City, " said to have contained 11,700 bunkers, was found with cooking fires still burning, arms stacked, and NVA wounded found in underground hospitals. Yet the main force from this huge sanctuary had seemingly melted into the jungle.

Nui Ba Den.Gif
Nui Ba Den
As viewed from A Troop Scout ship in Cambodia
[Courtesy of Tom White]

My personal feeling at the time was something had tipped the the enemy off of the swift aerial advance which was an American effort.

Historical information proves I was correct. Let us look at an excerpt from "NAM, The Vietnam Experience 1965-75" mentioned above.

----------------------------

----------------------------

At first glance it would appear that the "delay" was caused by some political consideration in Saigon that wanted ARVN to get involved in this mission, and let them "lead the way." Perhaps that is what we were supposed to believe? Regardless, I know now that JCS chairman, Gen. Abrams, proposed a unilateral attack by U.S. forces into the Fish Hook on 25 April. But Nixon had authorized a combined attack by U.S - ARVN forces into the Fish Hook and that decision stood on 29 April.

Remember COMUSMACV Gen. Creighton Abrams had been a long time advocate of taking the war to the NVA in Cambodia and had directed the 1st Cav operations to clear III Corps of NVA/VC strongholds. The importance of the Cambodia sanctuary was well known in November 1965 during the bloody battle in the Ia Drang valley at LZs X-Ray and Albany.

Then LTC (now Lt. Gen. Ret.) 'Hal' Moore who led the 1/7th into LZ X-Ray writes in his book, We Were Soldiers Once... And Young:

"We knew for a fact that the three North Vietnamese regiments that we had fought in the Ia Drang had withdrawn into Cambodia. We wanted to follow them in hot pursuit, on the ground and in the air, but could not do so under the rules of engagement. Washington had just answered one very important question in the minds of Hanoi's leaders.

"General Kinnard [1st Cav Division Commander] says: 'I was always taught as an officer that in a pursuit situation you continue to pursue until you either kill the enemy or he surrenders. I saw the Ia Drang as a definite pursuit situation and I wanted to keep after them. Not to follow them into Cambodia violated every principle of warfare. I was supported in this by both the military and civilian leaders in Saigon. But the decision was made back there, at the White House, that we would not be permitted to pursue into Cambodia. It became perfectly clear to the North Vietnamese that they then had sanctuary; they could come when they were ready to fight and leave when they were ready to quit.'

"General Kinnard adds, 'When General Giap says he learned how to fight Americans and our helicopters at the Ia Drang, that's bullshit! What he learned was that we were not going to be allowed to chase him across a mythical line in the dirt. From that point forward, he was grinning. He can bring us to battle when he wants and where he wants, and where's that? Always within a few miles of the border, where his supply lines were the shortest, where the preponderance of forces is his, where he has scouted the terrain intensely and knows it better than we do.'

"William Bundy was then assistant secretary of state. Of that period and that decision, he says, 'I suppose from a strictly military point of view, going into Cambodia would have been a net plus. But there was a good deal more at stake. We were trying to preserve a facade of Cambodia [and Lao] neutrality.' " [End of quote]

Earlier in his book Lt. Gen. Moore also made the following important observation regarding not revealing the use of Cambodia by the enemy forces:

"Not long after this, [the battle of the Ia Drang Valley] orders came down to all the 1st Cavalry Division brigade and battalion commanders that we were never to speculate or suggest to any reporter that the North Vietnamese were using Cambodia as a sanctuary or that they were passing through Cambodia on their way to South Vietnam. This refusal to admit what we knew was true, and what even the newest reporter knew was true, struck all of us as dishonest and hypocritical.

"General Kinnard says that this was the point at which, under political direction, the American military surrendered the initiative to North Vietnam. What it said to Harry Kinnard was that this war would never end in an American victory. Initiative had been sacrificed to the polite diplomatic fiction that Cambodia was sovereign and neutral and in control of its territory. By the time another American President lifted the restrictions and the U.S. military crossed into Cambodia, Kinnard says, it was already too late." [End of quote]

Back to the '70 Incursion. Gen. Shoemaker was a Brigadier General and "Assistant Division Commander-B" of the 1st Cav (sixth in line from Maj. Gen Kinnard, 1st Cav. Divison Commander). Lt. Gen. Michael S. Davison was the Commander of American Forces in Cambodia during the '70 Incursion following 5 May and the Commander of II Field Forces from April '70 to April '71.

[Lt. Gen. Davison was former Chief of Staff of CINCPAC from 30 August 69 - 28 March 70. -- Source: USCINCPAC site, Nov 02 -- Senior US ARVN Military Advisor of III Corps --- Source: ARVN article].

Back to "NAM, The Vietnam Experience."

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U.S. Armor.Gif
U.S. Armor rolls into Cambodia - May 1970
[Courtesy of The Learning Company®]

Cambodia Caches from 7th USAF CHECO report
Caches courtesy of the USAF CHECO Report

 

"The City"

The City Map

Courtesy of VIETNAM STUDIES web page

----------------------------

We now know that American intelligence is better than most Americans and soldiers realized at the time. SOG units working inside Cambodia had mapped trails, etc. within YARDS of what was later found. Yet there is NO mention of 'The City' or of the so-called elusive COSVN headquarters which we were supposedly after. And remember the area around 'The City' had reportedly not been targeted for heavy bombing prior to the aerial assault.

Incursion 2.Gif
[Map courtesy of "Incursion" - Notice no base camp is shown where 'The City' was located shown below]

Another map, courtesy of Dan Sutherland was uncovered which shows in more detail the areas which were bombed by B-52's in the Fishhook area on 2 May 1970. Notice some of the bombings actually overlapped into South Vietnam. It is also interesting to note none of the areas bombed where near the suspected COSVN headquarters, nor within known enemy base areas.

Incursion-3a.Gif

Naval Blockade of Cambodia Seaports

It is also important to mention that during the time of the Cambodia Incursion the U.S. also blocked the southern shipping ports of Cambodia. In fact Dan has uncovered some interesting facts.

The southern ports of Cambodia had long been a infiltration route, primarily of Soviet weapons, for the NVA. It was known as the "Sihanouk Trail" which brought weapons NORTH from the sea ports and ran into the Ho Chi Minh Trail about the vicinity of Tay Ninh to Fish Hook area.

From the book "Inside the VC and NVA":

As many of you well know Cambodia and Laos were never "neutral" countries. Only to the media and perhaps the American people. Sihanouk gladly allowed his southern ports to be used for infiltration of war material into Cambodia. Much of the material from the Sihanouk trail was infiltrated through the U-Minh forest into IV Corps (which A-Troop operated in from Dec '69 to April '70 out of Soc Trang) and through the area we are discussing here in III Corps near Quan Loi.

These were two MAJOR infiltration routes into South Vietnam. "Inside the VC and the NVA" also mentions that until 1970 when the ports were closed by the U.S. blockade, 80% of the supplies flowing into the south came from the Sihanouk Trail, and not the Ho Chi Minh Trail from the north. I found this of interest, since if the ports had been closed earlier it could have made a tremendous difference since that was the main pipeline into South Vietnam. One has to wonder why the decision wasn't made earlier to blockade the ports?

In John Prados' work entitled, "The History of the Vietnam War" in his chapter Widening the War: Cambodia 1970, states in part:

Diversion?

Now, let's take a little "leap" here. If COSVN headquarters was the main objective of the '70 Incursion, why did ARVN start several major offensives SOUTHWEST in the Parrot's Beak area PRIOR to the US thrust into the Fish Hook area where COSVN was thought -- and indeed was located?

Incursion Map.Gif
[Map courtesy of; "NAM, The Vietnam Experience 1965-75"]

Wouldn't these preliminary thrusts by ARVN logically pull NVA forces from the Fish Hook area to counter that offensive?

If your intent was to capture COSVN(2) forces in the Fish Hook, does the early ARVN push into Cambodia make sense? Of course not! But if you wanted to draw their main forces AWAY from something, it DOES make strong military sense. Again, Gen. Abrams was a very capable leader.

I "suggest" that it might well have been a ploy to divert NVA forces FROM the Fish Hook area. AND the lack of bombing of the area around 'The City' was perhaps no accident? Maps Dan sent me indicate there was a huge rubber processing plant in that area known as Terre Rouge. It is also important to note that my original suspicions of a diversion are only being reinforced by additional information Dan Sutherland and others have been able to uncover and are shown in the updates below.

A FAC pilot who was involved in the '70 Incursion has posted the USAF CHECO report with important maps at "Air Support Cambodian Invasion" on the web. According to that report, the U.S. 7th Air Force had voiced their concerns in MARCH 1970 that the enemy would be allowed to escape from the Fish Hook area without sealing the back-side of the operation prior to U.S. forces crossing the border! The report states in part:

"On 27 March 1970, an ad hoc planning group meeting was held at MACV headquarters. During this meeting, 7AF representatives emphasized the need for complete photo reconnaissance and urged that ARVN airborne units and interdiction airstrikes be used to seal the back- side of the FISHHOOK. Neither idea was incorporated into the campaign plan which the ad hoc group proposed and the Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command (COMUSMACV) forwarded to the JCS on 29 March."

However, John O'Brien who served with the 173rd Airborne states there was a plan to seal the backside but that the operation was canceled:

"I am a 173rd vet and have an interesting item to add. Two days before the incursion we were put on alert and there were rows and rows of parachutes lined up along the runway at LZ English, We were going to act as the blocking force as part of the hammer and anvil operation. Luckily someone must have realized that it would not be a good thing to have a lot of casualties at that stage of the war and the jump was canceled. So I think there was a lot more consideration given to an airborne operation and until a later date than shown in the diversion chapter."

John O'Brien
B/3/503
173rd Airborne Brigade
April 70 - April 71

Nonetheless, when President Nixon addressed the American people on the evening of 30 April '70, the President stated in part:

Other ARVN Operations - the Great Tip Off?

From the May 14-20, 1970 "Facts on File" we read:

And from the same publication of the same date we read the following important report:

I would also like to point out since we first posted this report some other facts have come to light about the purported "delay" or "postponement":

And, in an excerpt from A Viet Cong Memoir

"Then on March 18, 1970, while Sihanouk was vacationing in France, his opponents struck, deposing him as head of the Cambodian government. Sihanouk's removal was for us a cause of instant anxiety, as we now looked over our shoulders at Cambodia, not as a refuge but as a potential danger. With Sihanouk's less-than-farsighted minister Lon Nol in power, Phnom Penh immediately began to stare in our direction with undisguised hostility. Sensing the possibility of entrapment between a Saigon/American offensive from the east and Royal Cambodian Army pressure from the west, COSVN did not wait to monitor developments in the Cambodian capital. On March 19 the permanent staff moved out toward positions that had been readied deep inside Kratie. By the time troops from the American 25th Division struck the headquarters area during the American/Cambodian incursion, the COSVN command staff had been gone almost two months."

 

BACK IN CAMBODIA IN 1971

Many Americans remember the infamous 1970 Cambodia incursion because of the massive protests and the killings at Kent State, but few know about the 1971 Cambodia incursion.

From A Viet Cong Memoir by former PRG Minister of Justice, Truong Nhu Tang.

"During the ARVN push into Cambodia in the winter of 1971, Route 7 would again become the scene of vicious fighting. At that time, Saigon forces suffered severe local defeats at Chhlong near the great Chup rubber plantation and at Dampierre, where the PLAF 5th Divsion screen was now holding against the Lon Nol army."

It was in this lesser known incursion that ARVN armor again went back into the Fish Hook area with America air support including A Troop, 3/17th Air Cavalry. Dan Sutherland has first-hand information on this particular operation). The ARVN column was badly mauled by a large force of NVA. Dan reports in his articles below:


 

A Trip Through the 'Gates of Hell'...
by Dan Sutherland - April 1987

'Death in Nam was just a heartbeat away,' soldier writes, as he recalls one afternoon of horror...

The Register Star -- April 7, 1987

By Dan Sutherland

In reality we were outstandingly successful in the jungles of Nam -- we all didn't die.

Out in the jungle our bush soldiers were under stress constantly. They were driven and pushed by zealous officers, sometimes to the brink of mental breakdown.

Sometimes after we dropped infantry for a sweep through the jungle, a sniper would become attached to them, killing them at random. If they didn't find him and kill him, he would follow them and kill them. When you live in the sights of a sniper, you had better do some fast living because you ain't got long.

On top of that, you had bunker complexes and booby traps to contend with. It amounted to 365 days of trying to stay alive in a place where everything you touched was potential death.

I remember we used to joke about life expectancy, but in the bush it was no joke. If you screwed up, nine times out of 10 you never got another chance. Death in Nam was a heartbeat away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Early in 1971, we began a series of major attacks into Cambodia, jointly planned and carried out by American and South Vietnamese forces.

Air Cavalry support was provided to South Vietnamese ground forces who crossed over the border into Cambodia.

I had been assigned as a door gunner with the 3rd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry. I was then just 18 years old.

Our unit received orders to rendezvous at a border base camp called Haymaker where we were to link up with a South Vietnamese armored brigade which was to proceed north and relieve the battle-weary soldiers under siege at Snoul, Cambodia. At Snoul, they were ordered to retreat south toward this armored column and to link up with them.

At Haymaker, the orders were given to begin the operation and the large column of infantry supported by the 5th Armored Cavalry Unit proceeded up the highway toward Snoul. They were to open the highway and make a safe route home for their beleaguered comrades at Snoul.

American high command gave strict orders that no American ground forces or advisers were to be used on ground operations -- an order that was never carried out due to disobedience and humanitarian reasons.

We were flying gun cover over the column, flying up beyond their rear. I remember the helicopters were as thick as bees around a beehive.

Our Kiowa and Cobra gunships were working the flanks of the jungle along the road. It was pretty heavy jungle on either side of it, kind of like a tunnel without a roof.

Armored personnel carriers (APCs) and tanks were each carrying 20 to 25 Vietnamese infantry soldiers. The column was moving fast and had no warning of what was to be their doom.

The NVA were dug in heavy on the side of the road and allowed the point vehicle to pass by. When the major part of the column moved in just right, the North Vietnamese hit them with everything they had.

Their trap was deadly, and I had a front row seat.

We were coming up the road, low leveling over the column, carrying some advisers to scout the road ahead with a Vietnamese colonel. Below us, not more than 75 feet, tanks and APCs began blowing up. Others were getting trapped behind crippled vehicles.

It was the beginning of the end for them. Tracers were flying everywhere. Armor was backing up and going forward, slamming into lame vehicles trying to dislodge them so they could somehow form a line.

Vietnamese infantrymen who were riding on the equipment ran desperately from the exploding vehicles. As I watched, trying somehow to shoot into enemy positions, I saw soldiers fall from the intense rocket and machine gun fire.

The officers and Vietnamese colonel on our ship were frantically trying to communicate to the ground forces, but everything was chaos, and they started screaming at the pilots to put them on the ground.

In a matter of minutes, 80 tanks, tracks, trucks and jeeps were sitting disabled on the red dirt road. I watched as 2,000 Vietnamese soldiers were running for their lives down the highway, some fighting back if they still had their weapons, with North Vietnamese regulars right behind them in slaughtering pursuit

ARVN Tracks Burning on Hwy 13
[Dan Sutherland Photo]

Gunships of the "Blue Max" [2nd Battalion (Aerial Artillery), 20th Artillery - 1st Cavalry Division * ] were now arriving on this horrendous scene and they started to lay down a blanket of fire to cover the retreating Vietnamese. Some were shooting into the tree line, anything to stop the slaughter.

Back toward Vietnam, you could see the helicopters traveling back and forth, ferrying out wounded to the aid stations and re-arming their rockets.

At this time, about an hour into the battle, I had been carrying wounded. Several times I had to kick in the face Vietnamese who weren't hurt, because they were trying to climb on board with the wounded. Some of the cowards even fired on the door gunners who had thrown them off.

I had two inches of coagulated blood on my flight deck and still we were taking out wounded. I remember one American captain we picked up looking at me in shock. I had so much blood on me and my chopper, he threw up.

I don't think anyone can imagine the horror we saw that day. All day we were taking the wounded to the Loc Ninh hospital. That place looked like the gates of hell. There were wounded men everywhere and bodies that weren't bagged with tags on their toes and shirts.

Advisers were in shock. Men were crying. Medics and surgeons were giving up. We continued to fly all day and as the sun was going down, were ordered to fly back to our base camp.

I can still feel the air I felt that afternoon. Nobody was talking. Our chopper was a mess. It was quiet except for the whop, whop, whop of chopper blades. I remember looking at my body as though my eyes had left my head and were somehow looking back at me.

That night I laid on my bunk and thought about tomorrow. Maybe we'd fly dust off. Maybe we'd be shot down. That night, I thought maybe I'd just put a .45 in my mouth a blow my head off...

Printed with permission of Dan Sutherland

* - Webmaster's Footnote: From late April 1970 until the Troop's departure from Vietnam, the Silver Spurs were either under the operational control (OPCON) of the 1st Cavalry Division or working directly with elements that remained in-country from the 1st Cav Division. Records indicate not long after the '71 incursion above the Troop was moved to Lai Khe and Quan Loi security was completely transferred to ARVN.



Additional Information on May 1971 Incursion
From Facts On File

FOF - May 13 - May 19, 1971:

    Saigon drives in Cambodia. South Vietnamese forces launched two separate drives against Communist concentrations in Cambodia May 11 and 15. Little contact was made with the enemy in either operation.

    In the first action, announced May 15, a force of about 5,000 South Vietnamese troops, assisted by American air support, swept a 25-mile stretch from the Cambodian town of Kandol Chrum on Route 7 southward to Kompong Trach, an area ranging 75-100 miles northwest of Saigon. Operating up to 12 miles inside Cambodia, two task forces were moving southward from Kandol Chrum to meet a task force heading northward from Kompong Trach. Casualties through May 15 were listed as 14 enemy soldiers and one South Vietnamese killed.

    Field commanders said the purpose of the offensive was to disrupt a complex of "Communist command and control facilities, headquarters and training areas" in eastern Cambodia that were being used to attack the two adjacent South Vietnamese provinces of Haunghia and Longan, west of Saigon.

    The second South Vietnamese drive, disclosed May 16, was concentrated in the Parrot's Beak of eastern Cambodia to the south of the first operation. More than 1,000 Saigon troops were participating. In support of both operations, the U.S. May 14 flew 320 helicopter gunship missions and 32 bombing missions. The South Vietnamese air force flew 124 helicopter sorties and 32 bombing missions in the same sectors.

Comment: Seems like a lot of air ops for operations where "little contact was made with the enemy in either operation."

FOF - May 27 - June 2, 1971:

    North Vietnamese capture Snoul. North Vietnamese troops launched heavy assaults against the eastern Cambodian rubber plantation town of Snoul May 26 and drove out its 2,000 South Vietnamese defenders May 31. The Associated Press reported that the South Vietnamese had lost 200 men killed or wounded and had pulled back into South Vietnam, 10 miles to the southeast. A South Vietnamese military spokesman June 1 denied that Saigon troops had been routed and said they were still inside Cambodia. U.S. planes supported the South Vietnamese troops in the battle.

    About 1,000 North Vietnamese had struck at Snoul May 26 and forced their way into the town the following day. The attackers at first were thrown back by the South Vietnamese with the aid of American air strikes. The South Vietnamese also claimed to have beaten back four other North Vietnamese assaults in the vicinity of Snoul. The North Vietnamese launched a heavy attack about a quarter of a mile west of the town May 27 but were stopped again by government troops. Saigon headquarters said 99 enemy soldiers were killed in the three-hour battle.

    The Saigon command reported May 29 that the fighting for Snoul was over and that its forces were in complete control. The battle, however, flared up again the following day and the North Vietnamese captured the town May 31. AP dispatches quoting field reports, said that 80 South Vietnamese tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps and trucks had been abandoned by the retreating defenders. They also were said to have destroyed 12 artillery pieces before pulling out.

    Lt. Col. Le Trung Hien, a Saigon military spokesman, June 1 provided a contradictory version of the fighting at Snoul. Denying that the government troops were driven out by heavy Communist attacks, Hien said the pullout was a "preplanned" "realignment" to cope with the coming rainy season. South Vietnamese troops had taken similar action at Snoul in May 1970, Hien recalled. The colonel said that during the latest withdrawal Saigon tanks and American and South Vietnamese air strikes had killed more than 700 North Vietnamese troops along Routes 7 and 13, the roads used by the South Vietnamese to withdraw. Hien said South Vietnamese casualties during the pull-back were six wounded. He did not give government losses for the overall battle. Hien contradicted an AP report that government forces had pulled back to Locninh, South Vietnam. He insisted they were still in Cambodia. The U.S. Defense Department said June 1 that the South Vietnamese withdrawal "appears to be from here to be orderly and according to their plan."

    The North Vietnamese capture of Snoul gave them control of parts of Routes 7 and 13 leading into the northern provinces of South Vietnam's Military Region III, which included Saigon and 11 surrounding provinces. [End]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Newsletter comment: After reading Lt. Col. Hien's and our Defense Department statement of June 1, 1971, you would think Dan was in a different battle wouldn't you? The fact is, two columns of ARVN armor was badly mauled by the NVA. Dan reports remaining armor trapped on Hwy 13 were hit by U.S. air support to prevent their capture which resulted in significant loss of life to ARVN forces inside those vehicles. Let's take a look at a later report, which probably is closer to the truth, but certainly is not the 'whole truth' on ARVN casualties:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FOF - May 27, June 2, 1971:

    Snoul Battle Report: - South Vietnamese forces, in their retreat from Snoul, Cambodia May 31, had suffered heavier losses than originally reported by government authorities, according to a report by Saigon military sources June 3. The sources claimed that the 2,000-man government force involved in the fighting for the strategic rubber plantation town for five days had lost 100-200 killed and 400-500 wounded. About 380 were evacuated and 200 were missing. The retreating governent forces were said to have left behind 50 trucks, 10 tanks, 14 armored personnel carriers, and 22 mortars. Most of the equipment was in operating condition. Some of the artillery was said to have been turned against the South Vietnamese by the Communists.

    Maj. Gen. Nguyen Van Hieu, who had commanded the South Vietnamese 5th Division at Snoul, insisted June 3 that the official government casualty figures released in Saigon the previous day were correct. He said his forces had lost 37 killed, 167 wounded and 74 missing. North Vietnamese casualites were 1,043 killed, he said. Hieu was reported June 9 to have been relieved of his command.[End]

[For more detailed information on this battle, please see: Snoul Battle and its Consequences by Tran Van Thuong]



Obviously the Fish Hook region in Cambodia WAS a NVA and NLF stronghold! Perhaps the biggest in Cambodia! And as reported, we didn't bomb specific areas in the Fish Hook prior to U.S. advances into Cambodia in 1970 nor later in 1971 when ARVN was trying to advance two large columns to Snoul to relieve their fellow troops being overwhelmed. As reported above, these two ARVN columns were ambushed by a LARGE NVA/NLF force and wiped-out almost in the same area!

Why didn't U.S. forces bomb in front of the ARVN advance in 1971? And of further intrigue, why would a reinforcement mission by ARVN for their beleaguered brothers at Snoul, garner "U.S. intelligence types" at Quan Loi (as reported to this newsletter) prior to and during the ARVN advance? Much of this operation made little sense to me at the time.

NOT UNLESS, and this was pure speculation when I first started this report, THAT THERE WERE POW CAMPS IN THAT AREA! That perhaps our former enemy was using them as human shields? Then, and only then - at least in my mind - do any of these operations make ANY military sense!

Back to "NAM, The Vietnam Experience 1965-75": Please note emphasis is mine.

----------------------------

and later

[Lt. Gen. Davison was former Chief of Staff of CINCPAC from 30 August 69 - 28 March 70. -- Source: USCINCPAC site, Nov 02 -- Senior US ARVN Military Advisor of III Corps --- Source: ARVN article]

----------------------------

The paragraph above certainly suggests our intelligence indicated COSVN was in that area. Yet we had no SOG reports indicating such, nor advance bombing of the area "the City" was to be found. Why? Again, I point out Gen. Abrams was a most capable commmander. The assumption COSVN was located in the Fish Hook area had to be based on some kind of intel. [See 15 April 2001 update below] [Late in the war, COSVN was moved back into South Vietnam near Tay Ninh and is now a tourist attraction! And I noted in subsequent updates that COSVN had been located in the Mimot Rubber Plantation]

PERSONAL SPECULATION

SOG intelligence in the border area was later proven to be highly accurate, yet there was NO indication - on record thus far - of SOG finding the area of 'The City' prior to the incursion in '70.

Yet, for some reason, there appears to be an assumption that COSVN was in THAT area which was verified above by Truong Nhu Tang. (3) Yet we failed to heavily bomb that area not only in '70, but despite the findings from the '70 incursion, we failed to bomb the same area later in early '71 (which Dan was personally involved with) that was advancing through the same AO and resulted in heavy ARVN losses and also, sadly, some from our own unit who Dan knew personally.

While the lack of bombing is this specific area in 1970 might possibly be just a "mistake," you cannot explain the lack of bombing in advance to a much needed ARVN thrust in 1971 in the same region. Not unless that is, there was something there we did not want to destroy.

 

15 April 2001 Important Update
COSVN Location WAS known!

Now we have evidence of how we knew COSVN was in the Fish Hook region. This in from Gary Lorentzen and posted with his permission. We thank Gary for sharing it with us.

As a preface Gary states: "You can use it for your newsletter. It's not meant to be a scholarly effort at documentation or research...just oral history as I experienced it and my interpretation of the events."

Dear Roger,

I discovered this site with the article about Cambodia '70 searching for information on the Cambodian Invasion. I read the account with interest. I was stationed in Pleiku province near the tri-border area in 1969-70, and was directly involved in the intelligence gathering effort in monitoring and locating COSVN headquarters. I was assigned to the 330th Radio Research Company (National Security Agency/Army, aka Army Security Agency or ASA unit). We had a variety of missions, but mine was COSVN.

The account written in the Northwest Veteran's newspaper and the North Vietnamese view of the campaign into Cambodia were very interesting to me. I have always maintained that the short-term 'victory' of US troops in Cambodia was a long-term defeat for the general US war effort for a variety of reasons. First and foremost was the propaganda factor. But secondly, the strategy it seems to me failed miserably and resulted in the eventual take-over of Saigon in '75. My colleagues and I came to the conclusion that the results of the invasion would be a catastrophe for the US in the long run. And we concluded that in April of 1970, before the invasion even occurred. But we knew it was going to happen.

To make a long story short, in mid-March of 1970, after a number of years of researching, constructing, and monitoring the vast communications network of the NVA and COSVN, their protocols and networks simply disappeared from the airwaves. It meant that they were going through a complete 'communications change.' It's as if you woke up one morning, and all of the radio stations and television stations you were used to hearing and watching, were suddenly gone. There would be programming, but nothing would be on the same frequency or the same station. You wouldn't know where to find your favorite program or radio personality. All the station call-signs would be different and on different channels.

This, of course, was a terrifying crisis in intelligence for the US effort. It fell to Radio Research units to recover and reconstruct the networks...that was our job. We worked feverishly for weeks exploring the radio frequencies trying to identify familiar sounding transmittors or that unique 'touch' that a code sender has on the key. It wasn't until the last week of April that the network began taking shape again, but we still didn't have COSVN. Dan Polkinghorn, from Mansfield OH, made the discovery, and through Radio Direction Finding, COSVN was located just inside the Cambodian border in the Fishhook area.

Although Nixon had been waging a secret war in Cambodia and Laos, and there had been increasing evidence that there was a build-up of NVA troops along the border area, it would have been a very public incursion into Cambodia, and against all international law to violate Cambodia's official neutrality. With the location of COSVN geographically inside the Cambodian border (previously it had been located on the SVN side of the border), Nixon could claim that NV was violating international law, and with the new pro-US Cambodian regime in place, could invade without worrying too much about international reaction or repercusions. There were important NSC meetings then on April 27 (emergency meetings concerning the crisis had been going on since March 27, after it had become clear what was happening), and Nixon announced the invasion-which-was-not-an-invasion, on April 30. The first US troops made their incursion then on May 1.

Interestingly enough, before the April 27 meetings, the military had already begun to mobilize I Corp and II Corp troops, including the 101st and the 4th Infantry stationed from the Central Highlands up to the DMZ, and removing them to the Fishhook area. They were already in place, poised and ready to attack, when Nixon made the television announcement. It seemed to the few of us intelligence gathering folks, that it was extreme folly to empty I and II Corps of US troops, leaving only a scattering of ARVN troops to defend the regions. Our units were forced to remove to the coastal areas, because we had no protection any more from the 4th Infantry. We were top-secret security clearance/crypto folks who were trained only minimally for combat, and therefore, for security reasons, had to get out of harms way.

The reality is, as the whole political situation at home and abroad backfired on Nixon because of Cambodia, it was absolutely necessary for him to step up the Vietnamization efforts, and the result was that the northern provinces were never again truly under US control. The NVA and VC began moving into the areas to the north by the middle of Summer '70, and the ARVNs simply couldn't stop them. It became clear to us, that our units would never go back to the Central Highlands because it was simply too risky, should our equipment, codes, etc., be breached, or that one of us should be captured. (Really, a similar scenario to the recent incident with the US 'spy' plane in China, although we are not at war, so through negotiations we were able to bring the soldiers home. In VN, it would've been a very different ending...).

Based on the above experience, I, too, would have to say that Cambodia '70 was THE turning point in the war, after which the fall of Saigon was inevitable.

Gary Lorentzen, MA
330th RR/Ap 69-Jan '71
MOS: 05H2LRU (High Speed Morse Intercept/Russian Linguist)

 

AIRFIELDS

In the article Steve Golding posted, there is mention of a large rubber plantation that U.S. forces pulled back to just prior to B-52 bombings and a nearby airfield. That plantation COULD POSSIBLY be the Terre Rouge area near 'The City.' Was it not bombed prior to the 70 and 71 Incursions because of it being "owned" by the French as some have suggested?

Further research by Dan Sutherland uncovered airfields were located at Snoul, Mimot, Krek, Chup, and Sen Mondrom. The original author of Did U.S. Knowingly Kill POWs in 1970 has confirmed the B-52 bombing he mentions in his article occurred just outside the rubber plantation at Mimot. The Mimot plantation area and airfield may well be the common factor between the article Steve Golding posted and the research shown here.

Dan Sutherland dug even deaper. The following is from FOF - April 23 to April 29, 1970, prior to U.S. ground forces purportedly crossing into Cambodia:

As you will find U.S. intel had knowledge of POW camps in the region. And thus the advance thrust by ARVN on 29 April was to DRAW NVA forces from that region. Not to capture COSVN, but to perhaps repatriate - or possibly as some have suggested to eliminate POWs. But I lacked specific information to support my "theory" when I first posted this article. Evidence shown in the updates would indicate what originally was speculation concerning a diversion on this author's part is based on facts. We now know that the ARVN "diversion" drove NVA forces further West and North into Cambodia beyond the 21-mile restriction put on U.S. forces. COSVN, and some American POWs, simply moved deeper into Cambodia prior to and during the U.S./ARVN drive into the Fish Hook area.

In fact, the information from A Viet Cong Memoir, certainly indicates the commanders of COSVN were moving out towards Kratie on 19Mar70!

PART II -- EVIDENCE OF POW CAMPS

Initially, I had no hard evidence of the existence of POW camps in the Fish Hook area. I must give full credit to fellow Silver Spur, Dan Sutherland, who reported the following.

"Facts on File." This was a weekly publication not known to me until Dan sent me excerpts. The excerpts would provide evidence for my "theory" above. The first was reported immediately following the events of the Son Tay prison camp raid in North Vietnam.

----------------------------

Nov 26 - Dec 2 1970 edition, page 866.

----------------------------

The operation mentioned above is of importance. It indicates that such classified raids to free POWs were in operation during 1970. At least in South Vietnam. But this still did not indicate POW camps in the Fish Hook area. So Dan dug even further....

----------------------------

From "Facts on File," 14 Jan - 20 Jan 1971 edition.

I must also point out, the 1st Cavalry Division was privy to securing the negotiated release of three American POWs from the NLF near the Cambodian border in the vicinity of Tay Ninh in January, 1969. The three Americans were SP/4 James W. Brigham of Ocala, Forida -- SP/4 Thomas N. Jones of Lynnville, Indiana, and PFC Donald G. Smith of Akron, Pennsylvania. Brigham later died from a massive infection which had set in during his captivity. This incident was reported in the book, Incursion.

PERHAPS AN ANSWER...

From the extensive work by John "M.G." Brown, Moscow Bound, we may have perhaps found an answer to why certain areas were not bombed near the Fish Hook area of Cambodia. It is well documented that the U.S. leadership feared escalating the war to involve the Soviet Union and/or China on a large scale. They feared such open hostilities might lead to WWIII. This fear may also explain why the seaports of Cambodia were not closed prior to 1970 since Soviet ships were involved. The memory of the Cuban Missile Crisis may have influenced U.S. policy makers.

For instance, during the Laotian Incursion (Lam Son 719) in 1971, the following was reported by FOF, Feb 18 - Feb 24 1971:

John Brown reports on pages 554-556:

Did We Knowingly Kill POWs?

While I haven't specifically answered Steve's question - Did the U.S. Knowingly Kill POWs in 1970? - we at least have a clearer picture of what may well have been in the Fish Hook area of Cambodia, specifically near Mimot. And perhaps why certain areas were not bombed by B-52 strikes in 1970 and 1971. The real answers probably will never be disclosed. I would suspect the late President Nixon might have known, and perhaps Henry Kissinger who will probably take many secrets to the grave. There are perhaps two possibilities. 1) There is a good chance that the U.S. was at least reluctant to bomb targets where Soviet advisers may have been located to avoid a direct confrontation with another super power which many planners feared could lead to WWIII. This had been the case in North Vietnam where SAM sites reportedly operated by Soviet technicians were not targeted. At least not until the Christmas bombings late in the war. This thought is also supported by strong statements made both by China and the Soviet Union, especially in regards with 1971 Lam Son 719 ARVN offensive into Laos for the purpose of cutting the Ho Chi Minh trail, or, 2) U.S. command knew of American POWs being held in certain areas of Cambodia and declared specific areas "no-fire" zones where only forces conducting SAR (Search & Rescue) operations could call in air support or artillery. Such "no-fire" zones were standard practice when conducting SAR missions for downed aircrews.

It is also important to mention that press reports from this time period certainly suggest the U.S. destroyed many of the rubber plantations in eastern Cambodia adjacent to III Corps reportedly with the use of defoliants and bombing. Some foreign correspondents suggested at the time, possible U.S. covert involvement. The rubber plantations provided Cambodia its largest export.

Cambodia Authorized Recon Areas from 7th USAF CHECO report
Map courtesy of the USAF CHECO Report

 

----------------------------

Footnotes:

See: Appendix


Bar.Gif


Please read: Part III - Updates, Documents & Summation

Updated and Revised: May 2004

Startling Information Continues to Surface!


Bar.Gif