Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia
To keep Phnom Penh supplied until the rainy season, a major U.S. airlift began.
Fuel and ammunition were transported from U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand by a
civilian airline called Bird Air (BirdAir), whose crews, mostly ex-Air Force men, flew
C-130 transports "borrowed" from the U.S. Air Force without charge and with
their markings painted out.
During January, Bird Air flights to Phnom Penh's
Pochentong Airport were stepped up from three or four a day to ten and then
to twenty, while the Air Force turned over another seven C-130s to make the
additional flights. On February 14 three chartered DC-8 cargo jets, each
capable of carrying 45 tons of freight -- three times the capacity of the
C-130s -- joined the munitions lift. Twelve days later, the jets began
hauling rice from Saigon as well. By March, Phnom Penh was living and
fighting on the 1,000 to 1,500 tons a day being landed at Pochentong
under sporadic rocket and artillery fire.
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