Heading steadily up the Mekong River on Thursday, a small convoy became the first to break the insurgent stranglehold and reach Phnom Penh with vital supplies.
Heading steadily up the Mekong River on Thursday, a small convoy became the first to break the insurgent stranglehold and reach Phnom Penh with vital supplies. With no convoys for more than three weeks, the Cambodian capital was dangerously low on food.
For the tug-boat crews, it's a highly-paid job. During the first long stretch from the South Vietnamese border, they ran into heavy insurgent fire. Every vessel was hit at one time or another. Sandbags protected the ammunition supplies.
Since the insurgent offensive began on new year's day, they've seized almost complete control of the Mekong - from the Vietnamese border to just a short distance away from Phnom Penh. Near the ferry crossing town of Neak Luong - itself besieged by insurgents for the past ten days - one naval gunboat was hit and sunk.
Phnom Penh relies on the convoy route for eighty percent of its food, oil and ammunition. Other attacks have closed the city's airport for the past two days. With the situation becoming desperate, the convoy had to succeed. But not all of the barges made it.
Helicopter gunships and T-28's gave support as the convoy entered the home stretch to Phnom Penh by attacking insurgent positions just over the river from the watching newsmen.
Phnom Penh normally requires three convoys a week to help feed its four-million people - a number swollen by refugees. Many more and larger convoys are needed quickly if President Lon Nol's government is to hold out against the growing insurgent strangle-hold.