MORE details on the extent and nature of the American bombing of Cambodia during
the 1970s have been revealed following the discovery of in-flight computer tapes
from the aircraft involved in the raids.
The tapes show that 43,415 bombing raids were made on Cambodia dropping more than
2 million tons of bombs and other ordinance including land mines, experimental weapons
These records exclude the B-52 raids on Cambodia which was the mainstay of the aerial
attack. Detailed records of the B-52 raids have not been released.
The United States never declared war on Cambodia and did not have Congressional approval
to attack the country. According to William Shawcross's book Sideshow airmen were
ordered to falsify written records to hide their intensive bombardment of a neutral
The policy was approved and encouraged by then US President Richard Nixon and Secretary
of State Henry Kissenger who initated it to attack North Vietnamese forces using
Cambodia border areas as a base. It was then continued to prop up the Lon Nol regime
against the KR.
Cambodia became a "free-fire" zone where except for Phnom Penh the rest
of the country could be attacked at whim. But the campaign has been called counter-productive.
KR expert Craig Etcheson said that while the bombing damaged the communist forces
it also brought them recruits.
"US airpower inflicted grievous casualities on the revolutionary forces, especially
during the 1973 dry season offensive," he said.
"At the same time, however, it radicalized an inherently conservative and apolitical
peasantry, allowing the revolutionary forces to more than compensate for their losses
of manpower on the battlefield by recruiting angry villagers.
"It was a no-brainer for the Khmer Rouge to argue that the Lon Nol government
was a puppet of evil foreign forces bent on destroying the peasant way of life."
However Steve Heder, a lecturer at London's School of African and Oriental Studies,
is less convinced about the affect of the bombing on recruitment.
Instead he contends that the then Prince Sihanouk's call to the people to go to the
jungle to fight with the Khmer Rouge was far more significant.
The American bombing campaign in Indo-China was the first example of a computerized
On board every aircraft a computer recorded what was dropped where and when. The
computers recorded every round of ammunition fired and every bomb dropped.
The computer tapes outlining the extent of the raids were discovered in recent years
by missing-in-action investigators searching for more precise information on where
aircraft might have crashed. Under the United States Freedom of Information Act the
computer tapes were released to the investigators for rotary and fixed-wing aircraft
raids but excluded B-52s. The information surrounding the B-52 raids has yet to be
However while the investigators were given the tapes, they were offered no assistance
as to finding a suitable computer to run them on or how to decode the information.
They attempted to contact the computer's designer but he had died two months before
they found his home address. However they said the widow suggested that the large
"machine" her husband had been reluctant to throw out and was now in the
garage might be what they had been looking for.
With the computer now safely in hand they set about a world wide search for a former
US military programmer who could operate it. After searching in Thailand and the
Philipines a suitably qualified person was found by coincidence two floors above
their office and he offered his services for free.
Now that the information has been deciphered it has been distributed to various organizations
that might have some practical use for it such as CMAC who provided the details to
A selection of the ammunition expended over Cambodia by fixed wing US aircraft, and
other ordnance, 1970 -1975, follows: This excludes the B-52 carpet bombing raids.
The amounts are measured in tonnage for bombs, in other cases it is rounds. Not included
for reasons of space are expenditures below 2,000 tons or 2000 rounds. The data was
supplied by CMAC:
105 HE Howitzer, 25,278; 105 WP Howitzter, 20,828; 12.7 mm ammo, 6,559; 20mm ammo
60,398; 40mm Misch Metal, 444,617; 40mm ammo, 107,202; 7.62CAL ammo, 239,868; BLU1B
Fire Bomb 4,792; BLU27 Fire Bomb 750, 20,270; BLU32b Fire Bomb, 25,784; CBU24 AN-PR/MT,
8,254; CBU25 AN-PR/MT, 19,298; CBU46 Anti-personel, 5,567; CBU49 Anti PR Mine, 4,205;
CBU52 Anti-material, 6,487; CBU58 Anti-personnel, 2,540; EX02 New Weapon, 32,000;
LAU3 Rocket Launcher, 26,214; LAU59 Rocket Launcher, 12,867; LAU68 Rocket Launcher,
13,055; M117 GP Bob (750) LD, 374,797; Mk-20 Anti-tank MTL, 31,665; MK-36 GP Bomb,
2,773; MK-81 GP Bomb (250), 34,204; MK-82 GP Bomb, 22,413;MK-82 GP Bomb (750), 850,929;
MK-82 HDGP, 50,710; MK-83 GP Bomb, 11,450.