A crack unit of Khmer shock troops -- newly formed to specialise in night-fighting -- was pushing into an area west of Phnom Penh at the weekend, towards a government battalion cut off in recent heavy fighting with Communist forces.
A crack unit of Khmer shock troops -- newly formed to specialise in night-fighting -- was pushing into an area west of Phnom Penh at the weekend, towards a government battalion cut off in recent heavy fighting with Communist forces. Because of their night-fighting role, soldiers in the new unit have won the nickname of "The Cats".
Visnews cameraman Neil Davis accompanied The Cats on a daylight patrol towards the beleaguered battalion. Their objective was a village, just abandoned by the Communists, where they prepared to set up a night attack.
SYNOPSIS: West of Phnom Penh, a new unit of Khmer government troops started a major operation last week. Specially trained in night fighting, the troops are known as The Cats. Their strategy is to probe Communist-held territory by day, and attack established positions by night.
Captain Lam Sup, who commands the unit, gives his final orders. He fought with the French against the Viet Minh, and with the Americans and South Vietnamese against the Viet Cong. All his men are members of the Khmer Krom -- Khmers born in South Vietnam who have returned to fight for their mother country. On this mission, they're operating near the scene of heavy fighting a coupe of days earlier. Up ahead, there's badly mauled battalion of government troops, still cut off by the Communists.
The daylight objective is a village. The troops move in cautiously, but discover it deserted. It had been recently occupied by Communists, they say. Once the village has been thoroughly searched, the troops prepare for a night attack. They are led by the so-called Black Cats -- the shock troops of the outfit -- distinguished by their all-black uniform. By operating in this way, the Khmers have realised in eighteen months what it took the South Vietnamese many years to learn -- that the Communist forces must he matched at their own game, night fighting.