The Cambodian Campaign
The 1970 Offensive and America's Vietnam War
John M. Shaw
Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award
When American and South Vietnamese forces, led by General Creighton Abrams, launched an attack into neutral Cambodia in 1970, the invasion ignited a firestorm of violent antiwar protests throughout the United States, dealing yet another blow to Nixon's troubled presidency. But, as John Shaw shows, the campaign also proved to be a major military success.
“Along with the tactics, Shaw does an excellent job discussing intelligence, logistics, and command problems.”
“Shaw’s investigation into the primary sources of this campaign . . . has been exhaustive and is supplemented by an impressive array of interviews with key participants. . . . Shaw is one of the few historians who has attempted, fairly successfully, to paint a comprehensive picture of the Vietnam battleground, including the interplay of logistics, fire support, intelligence, communications, engineers, medical evacuation, and the like. The result is somewhat unique. Rather than just another grunt potboiler or one more general officer apologia, we have a genuine effort to examine a slice of the Vietnam War in all its myriad complexity from a staff officer's point of view. And for this we are in Shaw's debt.”
—Journal of Military HistorySee all reviews...
“As a military history, the book succeeds brilliantly. Shaw deftly recounts the planning, execution, and results of the invasion. . . . An important addition to the revisionist literature on this under-explored episode of the Vietnam experience. It is recommended for those seeking to understand the military aspects of the conflict, as well as the Nixon administration’s efforts to bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion.”
—Journal of American History
“Shaw’s book is a valuable contribution to an overall understanding of the Vietnam War because it focuses on events and operations relatively neglected by military historians. . . . Shaw provides readers a comprehensive discussion of the planning, preparation, and execution of the campaign by the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). After completing the book, readers will have a thorough understanding of the campaign and its effect on later events during the Vietnam war. . . . In a succinct volume, readers will find a book that utilizes detailed research to set the conditions for a conclusion rich in analysis and insight. Readers will find that reading this book will increase their understanding of the later years of the Vietnam War.”
“As the war in Iraq slips into its fourth year, lessons from Vietnam spring up in debates across the nation. Iraqization rings familiar to Vietnamization. . . . Our leaders in Washington and Baghdad should add The Cambodian Campaign to their reading lists.”
“A good book for serious students of the Vietnam War. ”
“Stunning in its research and highly sophisticated in its analysis, this is far and away the best study we have of the tactics and strategy used during the invasion of Cambodia.”
—Robert K. Brigham, author of Guerrilla Diplomacy: The NLF’s Foreign Relations and the Vietnam War
“A valuable contribution toward understanding one of the most controversial operations of the Vietnam War.”
—James H. Willbanks, author of Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War
“Revisionist scholarship at its best, Shaw’s work highlights once again the cruel ironies of the American agony in Vietnam.”
—Timothy J. Lomperis, author of From Peoples War to People’s Rule: Insurgency, Intervention, and the Lessons of VietnamSee fewer reviews...
Most histories of the Vietnam War either give the Cambodian invasion short shrift or merely criticize it for its political fallout, thus neglecting one of the campaign's key dimensions. Approaching the subject from a distinctly military perspective, Shaw shows how this carefully planned and executed offensive provided essential support for Nixon's "decent interval" and "peace with honor" strategies-by eliminating North Vietnamese sanctuaries and supply bases located less than a hundred miles from Saigon and by pushing Communist troops off the Vietnamese border.
Despite the political cloud under which the operation was conducted, Shaw argues that it was not only the best of available choices but one of the most successful operations of the entire war, sustaining light casualties while protecting American troop withdrawal and buying time for Nixon's pacification and "Vietnamization" strategies. He also shows how the United States took full advantage of fortuitous events, such as the overthrow of Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk, the redeployment of North Vietnamese forces, and the late arrival of spring monsoons.
Although critics of the operation have protested that the North Vietnamese never did attack out of Cambodia, Shaw makes a persuasive case that the near-border threat was very real and imminent. In the end, he contends, the campaign effectively precluded any major North Vietnamese military operations for over a year.
Based on exhaustive research and a deep analysis of the invasion's objectives, planning, organization, and operations, Shaw's shrewd study encourages a newfound respect for one of America's genuine military successes during the war.