Posted by Wes Bradford on Jul 25, 2017

Wally Christmas (RAdm, USN Ret) was stationed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from June 1974 to April 1975 while the Vietnam War was winding down. Communist insurgencies in neighboring countries were a US concern, and the US wanted to keep Cambodia a buffer state with a “friendly” government, while the US Congress cut off most funds for military activities. Wally was stationed with the Military Equipment Delivery Team assigned to support the Cambodian military and government against the Khmer Rouge which had taken over the countryside and was threatening the city. (The insurgents were mostly illiterate farmers who resented the educated “westernized” city people.)

The capital city was supplied by riverboats up the Mekong River from Vietnam, which soon became impossible because of Khmer Rouge fire from the riverbanks. US C-130 supply planes maintained an airlift, soon replaced by the Bird Airways (a “clandestine” airline). Wally was one of 6 US Naval Officers assigned to work with their Cambodian counterparts for logistics, including supplying parts for the riverboats. He spoke of isolated life in the capital with danger of terrorist acts and rocket-propelled grenades, although his life was comfortable.

On April 3, the US government began evacuating US personnel, and Wally was on the first flight out. He mentioned relief agencies, including Catholic Relief Services and World Vision, who were very dedicated but overwhelmed. When the city fell in April 1975, some of them took Cambodian infants out with them for later adoption.

(Wally’s 2nd installment talk will cover the “exciting” 2 weeks after his departure.)