OL25, Ubon Royal Thai Airbase, Thailand
OL-25 (call sign GAP, assumed since the closure of OL-26) ran Combat Skyspot/Arc Light missions primarily in Cambodia and southern Laos, after direct American military action in Vietnam sputtered to a close. OL-25 ran the last Arc Light strike of the Indochinese conflicts on August 15, 1973 (White Cell). OL-25 missions were mainly in northeastern Cambodia.
Missions to the east and south, closer to and around Phnom Penh, were either radar synchronous (using the aircraft bomb-nav system), or by LORAN (PAVE BUFF or PAVE PHANTOM), or depended upon a ground-based SST-181 WET SNOW beacon. The opening scene in the movie, "The Killing Fields", is based on a true incident, in which one of the B-52's in an Arc Light mission did not offset the target from the WET SNOW beacon resulting in about 20 tons of bombs being dropped across the beacon's location. The beacon was set up in the town of Neak Luong, about 40 miles southeast of Phnom Penh. This "short round" incident, on August 6, 1973 resulted in more than 400 friendlies killed or wounded.
Congressional criticism of the bombing had increased significantly before this incident. President Nixon concluded that unless he presented a definite withdrawal schedule, Congress would insist on immediate withdrawal and cut off all funding. This led to Public Law 93-52, which Nixon signed on 1 July 1973, effectively cutting off all funding for all combat activities by US forces in or over, or from the shores of, South Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. This was to take effect at 1200 hours on 15 August 1973.
Photos of OL-25, July, 1973
Ubon was also home to the 16th Special Operations Squadron and the Spectre gunships, and the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, the "Wolfpack".
Gene Ponce's Ubon RTAB website has many photos of the base from way back then and now : http://us-mil-thai.tripod.com/index.html
See "Call Sign Rustic: The Secret Air War Over Cambodia, 1970-1973" by Richard Wood, Smithsonian Institution Press. This work has little to do with COMBAT SKYSPOT or B-52's, but it is an excellent reference on this part of the war in Southeast Asia.
See also http://www.yale.edu/cgp/us.html, and http://www.yale.edu/cgp/maplicity.html, which links to an excellent searchable database.
ďI want this done. Now that is one thing that can turn this around some. They are running these Goddamn milk runs in order to get the Air Medal. You know what they are doing, Henry. Itís horrible what the Air Force is doing. They arenít doing anything at all worth a damn.Ē
ďThe whole Goddamn Air Force is over there farting around doing nothing and I have watched that stuff and they arenít doing a thing. I mean they get one or two trucks a day and fly 800 sorties and get 1500 Air Medals. You know thatís all it is. Itís awful.Ē
-Conversation between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, 9 December 1970.
How we came to bomb Cambodia:Transcript of conversation between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, 9 December 1970.
Continuing the brilliant leadership:Transcript of conversation between Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig, 9 December 1970.
United States bombing of enemy troop dispositions in Cambodia - particularly in the summer of 1973, when intense aerial bombardment (known as Arclight) was used to halt a Khmer Rouge assault on Phnom Penh - bought time for the Lon Nol government, but did not stem the momentum of the communist forces. United States official documents give a figure of 79,959 sorties by B-52 and F-111 aircraft over the country, during which a total of 539,129 tons of ordnance were dropped, about 350 percent of the tonnage (153,000 tons) dropped on Japan during World War II. Many of the bombs that fell in Cambodia struck relatively uninhabited mountain or forest regions; however, as declassified United States Air Force maps show, others fell over some of the most densely inhabited areas of the country, such as Siem Reab Province, Kampong Chnang Province, and the countryside around Phnom Penh. Deaths from the bombing are extremely difficult to estimate, and figures range from a low of 30,000 to a high of 500,000.
Whatever the real extent of the casualties, the Arclight missions over Cambodia, which were halted in August 15, 1973, by the United States Congress, delivered shattering blows to the structure of life in many of the country's villages, and, according to some critics, drove the Cambodian people into the arms of the Khmer Rouge.
The bombing was by far the most controversial aspect of the United States presence in Cambodia. In his book Sideshow, William Shawcross provides a vivid image of the hellish conditions, especially in the months of January to August 1973, when the Arclight sorties were most intense. He claims that the bombing contributed to the forging of a brutal and single-mindedly fanatical Khmer Rouge movement. However, his arguments have been disputed by several United States officials - including the former ambassador to Cambodia, Emory C. Swank, and the former Air Force commander in Thailand, General John W. Vogt - in an appendix to the second volume of the memoirs of then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
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