Vietnam Veteran, Robert Pempsell, participated in the now infamous incursion into Cambodia during the War. He was mentioned in a story in The Buffalo News titled: Vet helped wage the ‘other’ Vietnam War in Cambodia that was submitted by Lou Michel.
Pempsell of Bennington, New York told about his times in Vietnam when he was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade. In the spring of 1970 he was a part of the forces invading Cambodia that included the 1st Cav Division, 25th Infantry Division, 11th ARC, the 199th Brigade and several ARVN units.
The purpose of the invasion was to destroy military materiel being accumulated by the NVA across the border in supposedly neutral Cambodia. The Ho Chi Minh Trail ran to the Vietnamese border not far from Saigon, the capital of Vietnam. The move made military sense but it proved to be highly controversial back home. Unhappiness with the decision to invade the country of Cambodia eventually resulted in the death of students at Kent State University involved in protests.
In The Buffalo News story Pempsell told about the three ‘horseshoe’ ambushes his unit experienced. He said: “the enemy would surround you on three sides, from the front and on the left and right.” Pempsell said he radioed in for artillery support. But the enemy had carried out a maneuver known as “hugging the belt,” he said, and was close enough to the patrol to avoid being struck by the exploding artillery shells.
“They knew to get close on account of us avoiding friendly fire. A round going off at 30 or 40 meters away could end up injuring us instead of the enemy,” Pempsell said. “So I had to call in the Cobra gunships. They shot their rockets at close range.”
Pempsell survived the invasion of Cambodia where he served his country with distinction and war and afterwards he continued to serve he country back home in New York.