South vietnamese Marines were taking part in the battle for the heavily-contested Pich Nil Pass, 62 miles (101 Kms) southwest of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, on Thursday (21 January).
South vietnamese Marines were taking part in the battle for the heavily-contested Pich Nil Pass, 62 miles (101 Kms) southwest of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, on Thursday (21 January). The South Vietnamese effort is part of a combined operation with Cambodian troops to dislodge Communist forces from the pass which dominates Highway Four linking Phnom Penh with the country's deep-water port of Kompong Som.
In an effort to clear the pass, the Cambodians are pushing from the north while the South vietnamese attack from the south. On Thursday, it was reported that Cambodian forces had actually battled their way into the pass ending three days of frustration for the government troops. According to the report, the Cambodians raised the Cambodian Republic's flag above the pass after capturing the holiday chalet of ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
But the rest of the pas is said to be still in Communist hands.
In their operation on Thursday, the South Vietnamese Marines were brought into the battle area by helicopter and were supported by armoured personnel carriers and air strikes.
The Marines fought with a Communist force of unknown size. Before they answered the attack, the Marines evacuated refugees -- some of whom were wounded. The South Vietnamese said they killed 30 Communists for the loss of four of their own men and 15 wounded.
On Friday (22 January), the South Vietnamese forces along Highway Four clashed with the Communists three times and advanced one mile (2 Kms) closer to the peak of the pass. A South Vietnamese military spokesman and a few miles of the road was still in Communist hands.
A total of 13,5000 troops are involved in the push under American air cover to win control of the vital road which was cut for the first time in November last year.