Cambodian troops have been fighting to recapture the Communist-held Pich Nil pass on the vital Highway Four, linking Phnom Penh to the sea.
Cambodian troops have been fighting to recapture the Communist-held Pich Nil pass on the vital Highway Four, linking Phnom Penh to the sea. Some of the soldiers fighting in this grim and bloody battle are scarcely old enough to handle the weapons with which they have been issued.
NBC Cameraman Jim Sturdevant found that some of the boys he met carrying machine guns along the road towards the battle-front were in their early teens, and one, armed with an AK47 submachine-gun and wearing battle-dress, said he was nine. The boys are fully-enlisted regular soldiers, fighting the same battles and taking the same risks as their older comrades.
Just how near the dangers are was brought home to Sturdevant as he continued shooting his film. He was filming a group of cambodian soldiers as they started to fill in a crater blown in the road. The hole had to be filled so tanks and armoured cars could pass.
They had brought up a truck full of rocks and dirt to fill the crater, and troops were also throwing treetrunks and pieces of debris into the hole.
A moment later there was a violent explosion as the truck hit an anti-tank mine, and Sturdevant found himself lying in the road. He got up and carried on filming, using his left eye as blood was running over his right one. Six of the Cambodian troops were so badly injured they were not expected to live.
Sturdevant himself, when he stopped filming and agreed to be evacuated, found he had injuries on almost every part of his body.