Report: Weight of US Bombs 5 Times Greater

The total weight of bombs that the US dropped on Cambodia during its war with Vietnam may have been five times greater than previously thought, according to a new academic study.

The bombing of Cambodia also began in 1965, more than three years earlier than is widely believed, according to historians Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan whose analysis of US Air Force data re­leased in 2000 appear in the October issue of Canada’s The Walrus maga­zine.

Air Force data indicates that 2,756,941 tons of bombs were drop­ped in 230,516 sorties over 113,716 sites between 1965 and 1973, the authors say.

This surpasses the bomb weight dropped by the allied forces on all combat theaters during the whole of World War II, which totaled 2 million tons, they write.

“Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having ‘unknown’ targets and another 8,238 sites have no target listed at all,” the report states of the Cambodian bombing raids.

Writing in 1979, journalist William Shawcross put the total at less than 20 percent of the Owen-Kiernan figure, or 539,129 tons dropped be­tween March 18, 1969, and Aug 15, 1973.

The Air Force data say US bombing in Cambodia began in 1965. However, this earlier bombing amounted to only 214 tons over three years, did not involve B-52 bombers and was likely only tactical support for secret US ground incursions, Owen and Kiernan say.

“Previously, it was estimated that between 50,000 and 150,000 Cam­bodian civilians were killed by the bombing,” the authors write. “Given the fivefold increase in tonnage revealed by the database, the number of casualties is surely higher.”

Since the release of the Air Force data in 2000, demining organizations have been using the information “but have done so without noting its full implications, which turn out to be staggering,” Owen and Kiernan claim.

But Khem Sophoan, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Committee, said he had known the total was over 2 million tons for six years.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said the bombing encouraged rural Cambodians to join the Khmer Rouge. But he said he was not concerned with the numbers of bombs dropped. “We are Bud­dhists…so we try to forgive and forget,” he said.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle could not be reached for comment.

Dien Dell, who commanded the Khmer Republic’s Second Division in Kandal province in 1972 under the US-backed Lon Nol regime, said Americans should have no regrets over the bombing.

“I think it’s normal to get support from America,” he said, adding that the bombs helped fend off the Vietcong and the Khmer Rouge. Critics of the bombing “don’t know well about the situation,” he said.



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