Operation Chenla II

Operation Chenla II or Chenla Two was a major military operation conducted by the Khmer National Armed Forces (FANK) during the Cambodian Civil War from 20 August until 3 December 1971.


During the days of Prince Norodom Sihanouk's rule in Cambodia in the 1960s, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and their Viet Cong (VC) allies were able to use base areas in Cambodian territory in order to provide logistical support for their combat troops within South Vietnam. Following the March 1970 coup led by the pro-U.S. General Lon Nol, the PAVN aggressively expanded their control over the provinces of northeastern Cambodia, coming dangerously close to the capital Phnom Penh.

Initially, the small, largely untrained and poorly-equipped FANK was not up to the challenge, especially against the larger and more experienced PAVN/VC forces. However, by the summer of 1971, and with massive American and South Vietnamese assistance, the FANK grew into a force of more than one-hundred thousand men.

During the period between September 1970 and June 1971, the FANK won its first victories after they successfully dislodged elements of the PAVN 9th Division along Route 13 and in some parts of the Mekong Delta.

By April 1971, Marshal Lon Nol decided to renew the offensive against the PAVN/VC forces, taking advantage of the high morale among the FANK troops following the partial success of Operation Chenla I. For the FANK everything was at stake, as many reserves and prestige were invested in the operation. The FANK High Command's main objective was to reopen all of Route 6 and to secure the road between Kampong Cham and the isolated garrison at Kampong Thom. A FANK task-force of ten infantry battalions – again including a large percentage of Khmer Krom troops – gathered into three brigade groups supported by armour and artillery was assembled for the operation, which relied heavily on U.S. air support to soften an estimated two PAVN divisions in the region.[1][2]


Operation 'Chenla II' was launched on 20 August 1971, again catching the PAVN/VC by surprise. Initially, the FANK task-force commanded by Brigadier-General Hou Hang Sin achieved their objective, as the FANK were able to retake Barai on 26 August and Kompong Thmar on 1 September. But as FANK formations were advancing towards PAVN/VC-held territory along Route 6, they were heavily exposed to attacks without adequate protection from their flanks. There was heavy fighting as the FANK 5th Brigade Group advanced towards Phnom Santuk while Tang Krasang was retaken on 20 September. On 5 October, three FANK brigades were committed to capture the areas around Phnom Santuk. The fighting there grew in intensity as the Cambodians and the PAVN engaged in heavy hand-to-hand combat. Phnom Santuk was eventually retaken, and the first phase of Chenla II was declared officially concluded on 25 October, although real military success had not yet been secured.

Victory celebrations had hardly started at Phnom Penh when on the night of 26 October, barely hours upon the conclusion of the consolidation efforts of the second phase of the operation, the PAVN 9th Division, reinforced by the VC 205th and 207th Regional Regiments, launched an all-out assault on the Cambodian positions located along Route 6 from the Chamkar Andong rubber plantation.[1] At the same time, the FANK 14th Battalion at Rumlong was encircled and isolated. During the following days, the 118th, 211th and 377th Battalions were forced to retreat to Tang Kauk, while the 61st Infantry Brigade pulled back to Treal, held by the 22nd Battalion.

The FANK launched an unsuccessful counter-attack on 27 October, and the Cambodian corridor along Route 6 was crushed by PAVN/VC troops after weeks of heavy fighting. Elements of the PAVN 9th Division then launched a final attack which ripped apart several FANK and Khmer Krom battalions, causing the disorganized Cambodian troops to abandon several key positions on 1 December. The operation was terminated two days later.


For the PAVN/VC forces the battle ended with a decisive victory, as they were able to secure their strongholds in northeastern Cambodia without having to expand their control inside Cambodian territory. As usual, another battlefield victory for the PAVN/VC meant another propaganda opportunity. On 8 December 1971, North Vietnamese propaganda boasted that "By October, that is, in two months, the operation was stalemated and 4,500 enemy troops were annihilated and hundreds more captured. The 2nd and 43d Brigades were badly battered. Ten battalions and seven companies of infantry and a tank company were mauled, 39 combat vessels were sunk or set afire, nine aircraft were downed and seven 105mm artillery pieces, many vehicles and large quantities of military equipment were destroyed".2

Indeed, the final attack on FANK positions during the month of December virtually wiped out ten infantry battalions (including the sacrifice of the best Khmer Krom battalions) and resulted in the loss of another ten battalions-worth of equipment, which included two howitzers, four tanks, five armoured personnel carriers, one scout car, ten jeeps, and about two dozen other vehicles.[1][2] Militarily and psychologically, the damage suffered during Operation Chenla II was a big one from which the Cambodians would never recover. From then on, the Republican government focused on consolidating its hold over the key urban centers, the main garrisons and the lower Mekong-Bassac river corridors, thus leaving most of the countryside virtually open to Khmer Rouge recruiting drives.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Conboy, Kenneth; Bowra, Kenneth (1989). The War in Cambodia 1970-75 Men-at-arms series 209. Osprey Publishing Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 978-0850458510.
  2. ^ a b Conboy, Kenneth (2011). FANK: A History of the Cambodian Armed Forces, 1970-1975. Equinox Publishing (Asia) Pte Ltd. p. 10. ISBN 9789793780863.


  • John S. Bowman, The Vietnam War, Day by Day, Mallard Books, New York 1989. ISBN 0-7924-5087-6
  • Sak Sutsakhan, The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington D.C. 1980. – available online at Part 1Part 2Part 3 Part 4.
  • Royal College Of Defence Studies 1975 Course – The War in Cambodia Its Causes And Military Development And The Political History Of The Khmer Republic 1970 – 1975.

External links

9th Division (Vietnam)

The 9th Infantry Division is a division of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), first formed from Viet Cong units in 1964/5 in the Mekong Delta region.

Battle of Kampot

The Battle of Kampot was a major battle of the Vietnam War, also a part of the Cambodian Civil War. From February 26 to April 2, 1974, Cambodian government troops battled Khmer Rouge guerillas for the control of Kampot city.

Cambodian Civil War

The Cambodian Civil War (Khmer: សង្គ្រាមស៊ីវិលកម្ពុជា) was a military conflict that pitted the forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (known as the Khmer Rouge) and their allies the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the Viet Cong against the government forces of the Kingdom of Cambodia and, after October 1970, the Khmer Republic, which were supported by the United States (U.S.) and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

The struggle was complicated by the influence and actions of the allies of the two warring sides. North Vietnam's People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) involvement was designed to protect its Base Areas and sanctuaries in eastern Cambodia, without which the prosecution of its military effort in South Vietnam would have been more difficult. The Cambodian coup of 18 March 1970 put a pro-American, anti-North Vietnamese government in power and ended Cambodia's neutrality in the Vietnam War. The PAVN was now threatened by a newly unfriendly Cambodian government.

Between March and June 1970, the North Vietnamese moved many of its military installations further inside Cambodia in response to the coup and the establishment of a pro-American government, capturing most of the northeastern third of the country in engagements with the Cambodian army. The North Vietnamese turned over some of their conquests and provided other assistance to the Khmer Rouge, thus empowering what was at the time a small guerilla movement. The Cambodian government hastened to expand its army to combat the North Vietnamese and the growing power of the Khmer Rouge.The U.S. was motivated by the desire to buy time for its withdrawal from Southeast Asia, to protect its ally in South Vietnam, and to prevent the spread of communism to Cambodia. American and both South and North Vietnamese forces directly participated (at one time or another) in the fighting. The U.S. assisted the central government with massive U.S. aerial bombing campaigns and direct material and financial aid.

After five years of savage fighting, the Republican government was defeated on 17 April 1975 when the victorious Khmer Rouge proclaimed the establishment of Democratic Kampuchea. The war caused a refugee crisis in Cambodia with two million people—more than 25 percent of the population—displaced from rural areas into the cities, especially Phnom Penh which grew from about 600,000 in 1970 to an estimated population of nearly 2 million by 1975.

Children were widely used during and after the war, often being persuaded or forced to commit atrocities. The Cambodian government estimated that more than 20 percent of the property in the country had been destroyed during the war. In total, an estimated 275,000–310,000 people were killed as a result of the war.

The conflict was part of the Second Indochina War (1955–1975) which also consumed the neighboring Kingdom of Laos, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam individually referred to as the Laotian Civil War and the Vietnam War respectively. The Cambodian civil war led to the Cambodian Genocide, one of the bloodiest in history.

Dien Del

General Dien Del (1932 - February 13, 2013) directed combat operations in Cambodia, first as a general in the Army of the Khmer Republic (1970–1975) and then as a leader of Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF) guerrilla forces fighting against the Vietnamese occupation (1979–1992).

Dien Del died in a hospital in Phnom Penh on February 13, 2013. His body was cremated at the Tuek Thla Pagoda in Tuek Thla, Phnom Penh.

Khmer Air Force

The Khmer Air Force (French: Armée de l'air khmère; AAK), commonly known by its americanized acronym KAF (or KhAF) was the air force component of the Khmer National Armed Forces (FANK), the official military of the Khmer Republic during the Cambodian Civil War between 1970 and 1975.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1971)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1971, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the Khmer Republic, the United States and their allies.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (A–F)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War, a war fought by America to try to stop communism in Southeast Asia, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their assorted allies. This is not a complete list. Operations are currently listed alphabetically, but are being progressively reorganised as a chronology.

List of battles (geographic)

This list of battles is organized geographically, by country in its present territory.

Operation Chenla I

Operation Chenla I or Chenla One was a major military operation conducted by the Khmer National Armed Forces (FANK) during the Cambodian Civil War. It began in late August 1970 and ended in February 1971, due to the FANK High Command's decision to withdraw some units from Tang Kauk to protect Phnom Penh after Pochentong airbase was attacked.

Phnom Santuk

Phnom Santuk is a hill and cultural site in the Cambodian province of Kampong Thom. Located in Ko Koh village, Ko Koh commune, Santuk District, it is the most sacred mountain of the province. The summit is accessed by a stone pathway with many statues flanking the way. At the top is a white-walled temple and many shrines and deities, including several reclining Buddhas made out of rock, measuring more than 33 feet (10 m) in length. Monks inhabit the site.

Sihanouk Trail

The Sihanouk Trail was a logistical supply system in Cambodia used by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and its Viet Cong (VC) guerillas during the Vietnam War (1960–1975). Between 1966 and 1970, this system operated in the same manner and served the same purposes as the much better known Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Truong Son Road to the North Vietnamese) which ran through the southeastern portion of the Kingdom of Laos. The name is of American derivation, since the North Vietnamese considered the system integral to the supply route mentioned above. U.S. attempts to interdict this system began in 1969.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.

American military advisors began arriving in what was then French Indochina in 1950 to support the French in the First Indochina War against the communist-led Viet Minh. Most of the funding for the French war effort was provided by the U.S. After the French quit Indochina in 1954, the US assumed financial and military responsibility for the South Vietnamese state. The Việt Cộng, also known as Front national de libération du Sud-Viêt Nam or NLF (the National Liberation Front), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, initiated a

guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese government in 1959. U.S. involvement escalated in 1960, and continued in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, with troop levels gradually surging under the MAAG program from just under a thousand in 1959 to 16,000 in 1963.By 1964, there were 23,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, but this escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer was alleged to have clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft. In response, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson broad authorization to increase U.S. military presence, deploying ground combat units for the first time and increasing troop levels to 184,000. Past this point, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) engaged in more conventional warfare with US and South Vietnamese forces. Every year onward there was significant build-up of US forces despite little progress, with Robert McNamara, one of the principal architects of the war, beginning to express doubts of victory by the end of 1966. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. The U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968, proved to be the turning point of the war; despite years of American tutelage and aid the South Vietnamese forces were unable to withstand the communist offensive and the task fell to US forces instead. The Tet Offensive showed that the end of US involvement was not in sight, increasing domestic skepticism of the war. The unconventional and conventional capabilities of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) increased following a period of neglect and became modeled on heavy firepower-focused doctrines like US forces. Operations crossed international borders; bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were used by North Vietnam as supply routes and were heavily bombed by U.S. forces.

Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began as part of "Vietnamization", which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the communists to the South Vietnamese themselves and began the task of modernizing their armed forces. Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case–Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the NVA in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3.8 million. Some 275,000–310,000 Cambodians, 20,000–62,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, and a further 1,626 remain missing in action. The Sino-Soviet split re-emerged following the lull during the Vietnam War and confllict between North Vietnam and its Cambodian allies in the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea, and the newly-formed Democratic Kampuchea begun almost immediately in a series of border raids by the Khmer Rouge and erupted into the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, with Chinese forces directly intervening in the Sino-Vietnamese War. The end of the war and resumption of the Third Indochina War would precipitate the Vietnamese boat people and the bigger Indochina refugee crisis, which saw an estimated 250,000 people perish at sea. Within the US the war gave rise to what was referred to as Vietnam Syndrome, a public aversion to American overseas military involvements, which together with Watergate contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.

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