17 March 2013

Cambodia: This Day In History

17th March, 1969

General Creighton Abrams,the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, received approval from Washington for his February 9 request  to bomb communists forces within Cambodia's border. Cambodia was a neutral force at this time in the Vietnam-U.S. conflict.

The next day 'Operation Breakfast'- the first wave of air strikes within Cambodia and part of 'Operation Menu'- commenced.

Operation breakfast and subsequent bombing missions- 'Operation Lunch,' 'Snack,' 'Dinner,' 'Supper' and 'Dessert'- were carried out in utmost secrecy; bomber pilots and navigators were only told shortly before a mission that they would likely be attacking forces within Cambodia and target coordinates were given in-flight.

General Earle G. Wheeler; Chairman of the
Joint Chief's of Staff, 1964-1970
 Chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler sent a cable to explain how press inquiries should be handled:

"...U.S. spokesman will confirm that B-52s did strike on routine missions adjacent to the Cambodian border but state that he has no details and will look into it. Should the press continue its inquiries or in the event of a Cambodian protest* concerning U.S. strikes in Cambodia, U.S. spokesman will neither confirm or deny...After delivering a reply to any Cambodian protest, Washington will inform the press that we have apologized and offered compensation."

The U.S. Foreign Affairs committee was kept in the dark over the bombings.

The success, or otherwise, o,f the bomb-drops from a U.S. military prospective is still hotly debated; many felt that the shelling simply drove the Viet Cong further into Cambodian territory.

*Sihanouk did not protest this initial bombing.

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