How The Marines Pulled Off an Impossible Rescue Mission in Cambodia

After the Khmer Rouge captured an American merchant ship, Staff Sgt. Fofomaitulagi Tulifua Tuitele led his men on a mission to save the crew. They had no idea what awaited them.

Two weeks after the fall of Saigon, on May 12, 1975, Khmer Rouge soldiers on patrol boats fired a rocket-propelled grenade across the bow of the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez.

The United States didn’t recognize the Khmer Rouge’s claim of 12 nautical miles of territorial waters. When the more than 10,000-ton container ship sailed too close to Poulo Wai island on its way from Saigon to Sattahip, Thailand, the patrol boats scrambled to chase it.

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