Posted by Wes Bradford on Aug 15, 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. 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 closing in on the capital city. (The insurgents were mostly illiterate farmers who resented the educated “westernized” city people.)

On April 3, 1975, air evacuation began (Operation “Pull Eagle”) of US and other foreign personnel and selected Cambodians. Wally was on this flight (to Thailand) after his in-country duties had been terminated. By April 10, the road to the airport was cut off, and helicopter evacuation began on April 12 with the closure of the US Embassy. On April 17, the Khmer Rouge forces entered the city, greeted by cheering crowds (possibly hoping to avoid harm to themselves). By the end of the same day, the Khmer Rouge began force-marching the city inhabitants into the countryside to “live off the land” with no other assistance. Other foreigners left behind described these chaotic events; they took refuge in the French Embassy until they could be evacuated. (A video clip from the “Killing Fields” film was shown of this day’s events; the film was about a New York Times reporter who had stayed behind.)

The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot were ultra-Maoists who wanted to return their country to an agrarian Marxist “past”. They summarily executed anyone who showed signs of education, literacy, or foreign influence. An estimated 1.8 million lives were lost, a massive genocide of their own people.