This Day In History: The US Withdraws Its Forces from Cambodia (1970)

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Today in History the United States began to withdraw its forces from Cambodia. They returned to their bases in South Vietnam. During their operation in Cambodia, some 345 Americans had died in combat and another 1700 wounded. The Americans had been supported by their South Vietnamese allies and they have suffered almost 900 dead and over 3000 injured. Tens of thousands of South Vietnamese troops remained in Cambodia after the US withdrawal.

theĀ US and South Vietnamese units launched a limited invasion of Cambodia to clear a region near the border with South Vietnam of any North Vietnamese army units. In total, some 80,000 troops were involved in the incursion into Cambodia.

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US helicopters over Cambodia

The Americans and the South Vietnamese army attacked North Vietnamese positions inside Cambodia. They had been able to operate inside Cambodia as the central authority in that country had collapsed. In fact, the Cambodian government was besieged in its capital. The Americans had launched the invasion of Cambodia, after a prolonged aerial bombardment. They then used helicopters to drop men into Cambodia where they attacked North Vietnamese and local communist units, the Khmer Rouge. The fighting was intense and savage. The South Vietnamese army came by road in support of the Americans. The Americans and their Vietnamese allies are believed to have killed many Communists.

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American troops in Cambodia

The Americans had decided on the incursion to stop Communist units from attacking South Vietnam from Cambodia. More importantly, the North Vietnamese used the country to supply its forces and the Viet Kong guerrillas in South Vietnam. This was the Ho Chi Ming trail. The Americans did manage to disrupt the Ho Chi Ming trail and the flow of supplies to the Viet Cong. In fact, it is generally accepted that the incursion was at best only a limited success. The South Vietnamese troops who remained were not very successful in disrupting the supply of arms and supplies to the communist forces in the south. The incursion did nothing to improve the strategic situation in South Vietnam.

The invasion or incursion into Cambodia was very controversial and became a rallying point for the rapidly growing anti-war and peace movement. During the protests,some four students were killed by the National Guard during protests against the invasion of Cambodia. President Nixon had ordered the incursion into Cambodia without consulting Congress and this caused uproarĀ and a political crisis. The Senate and Congress immediately sought to pass legislation that would limit the power of the President to declare or expand a war.

 

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