In the Post's Feb 11 - 24 edition in his travel article about
Highway 1, John Westhrop wrote: 'East across the Mekong river is Neak Luong, a
city flattered when an American B-52 mistakenly dropped its load there.'
That's surely the first time Neak Luong has been classified a city. The
river-crossing settlement has never been more than barely a town: Westhrop's
juggling of semantics conjures utter devastation and calamitous casualties in
grotesque factual distortion of the kind favored by his idol John
If a city is flattened then minimum casualties will surely be
10,000 dead, may be 20,000. The reality was a hundred plus killed when a
careless air crew forgot to flip a switch and the plane homed in on a beacon in
Neak Luong. A string of bombs plastered the main street and the Western anti-war
movement howled in rage. The incident fueled the opening scenes of the
anti-American film The Killing Fields.
But just months after the tragedy
Neak Luong was hammered by clinical Khmer Rouge rocket and artillery attacks in
early 1974 that left a thousand dead, and wounded countless more. The
regrettable American accident that killed dozens was trumpeted as villainy; the
communists' deliberate attack that killed a thousand got ignored, and the bias
is still being perpetrated twenty years later though Westhrop can't match the
obscenity of that other Highway One raconteur Sue Downie whose disturbing
catalogue of pro-Hanoi inaccuracies climaxes with accusation that the United
States slaughtered thousands of Quang Tri civilians in 1972 when it was Downie's
Hanoi friends who conducted the butchery. This from a BBC reporter!
Westhrop's selective reference to Neak Luong insults the memory of the epic
heroism of its Lon Nol soldiers who held out against the Khmer Rouge in a savage
siege launched on the first day of 1975. Neak Luong commanded control of the
Mekong river: if the Rouge could choke Pochentong airport with rockets and seal
the river at Neak Luong, Phnom Penh would be devoid of supply routes.
garrison at Neak Luong held and held and held. Churned by relentless Rouge
shelling, its supply situation critical, its sole medical staff of one doctor
and nine nurses eventually withdrawn by helicopter in shattered exhaustion,
without bandages or medicines or hope, it still fought and held in desperation
to survive until the June monsoons of salvation would swell the Mekong into an
angry yellow cauldron that would break its banks and broaden to flood guerrilla
gun emplacements. Week after week and month after month the battered garrison
clawed to hang on to save the nation from Khmer Rouge horror.
make it. Neak Luong was finally overwhelmed on the afternoon of April 1. It did
not surrender. Final radio communiqués received in Phnom Penh indicated the last
of its soldiers fighting hand-to-hand. None of the garrison or civilians
escaped: 'Fate unknown, and the thousands of Rouge who had besieged Neak Luong
surged to join the final battle for Phnom Penh.
American intent in both
Vietnam and Cambodia was honorable. The United States sought to support people
under threat from an ideological system they clearly had no interest
- Richard Briggs, ACE School, Phnom Penh