Fighting along the east bank of the Mekong river -- the gateway to Phnom Penh (Khmer Republic) -- has escalated in the last two weeks.
GV Troops construct base camp
SV PAN ditto (3 shots)
GV Men on road through paddy fields (2 shots)
SV Troops through banana plantation
SV Troops firing (2 shots)
CU PAN Troops discover bunker (2 shots)
CU Bunker and man into bunker (2 shots)
SV Troops look on
SV Peasant out of bunker & gets cigarette from soldier
GV & SV Troops down road & firing into brush (8 shots)
SV Boy soldier fires down road
SCU Dead Khmer soldier
SCU Medical team attends wounded soldier (3 shots)
Initials SGM/1527/71 SGM/6120
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Background: Fighting along the east bank of the Mekong river -- the gateway to Phnom Penh (Khmer Republic) -- has escalated in the last two weeks.
Communist forces are attempting to set up permanent positions, within rocket range of Phnom Penh, before the monsoon rains begin to fall in earnest. Their attempts have brought them within 12-miles of the capital's eastern access as they drove Khmer defenders from Preah Prasap on Saturday (12 June). Victories, however, have not been without great loss. Pounded by Khmer artillery and American air support, communist losses have been reported as approaching 1,000 killed.
To keep the combined North Vietnamese and Viet Cong away from Phnom Penh, where they would wield a psychological club being able to rocket the city during the rainy season, Khmer forces have been sweeping large areas to relieve the communist pressure.
Road clearing operations, such as this one filmed by cameraman Jim Gerrand, are designed to keep the area from Prek Tameak (on the Mekong) to Kompong Chamlang free of communist forces.
SYNOPSIS: The goal is to form a sixteen-mile defence perimeter around the eastern approaches to Phnom Penh. To this end Khmer forces such as these men at Prek Tameak work, with meagre available material, to construct operational base camps.
From these camps clearing operations are launched to rid the area of the Ninth North Vietnamese Division or at least drive them beyond the 16-mile limit before the monsoon rains fall.
On such occasions troops scour the countryside attempting the scatter any possible ambush attempts and looking for caches of men or material. In this case a bunker is found and an intelligence officer fires warning shots into the hidden cavern. But inevitably a man must go inside.
There is only one man and he is unarmed. Interrogation soon shows him to be a villager who took cover at the sound of gunfire the advancing Khmers laid down before them.
Using machine guns, rifles, mortars and artillery pieces the soldiers -- most of these Vietnamese-born Khmers who have returned to fight -- continue the search as the firing grows more intense. The need is great. Should the combined forces of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong not be driving from this area before the rains, then the enemy will be in perfect position to rocket Phnom Penh at will. And with the ground muddied, dislodging them becomes a near impossibility Losses would be incredibly higher than the one man lost as on this mission. The medical teams would be caring for wounds much more severe than the facial scratches suffered by this trooper when he dived for cover.