CIA activities in Laos

Vietnamese soldiers in Laos

CIA activities in Laos started in the 1950s. In 1959, U.S. Special Forces began to train some Laotian soldiers in unconventional warfare techniques as early as the fall of 1959 under the code name Erawan. Under this code name, General Vang Pao, who served the royal Lao family, recruited and trained his Hmong soldiers. The Hmong were targeted as allies because after President Kennedy took power, he refused to send more American soldiers to battle in Southeast Asia. Instead, he called the CIA to use its tribal forces in Laos and ‘make every possible effort to launch guerrilla operations in North Vietnam’ with its Asian recruits.’ General Vang Pao then recruited and trained his Hmong soldiers to ally with the CIA and fight against North Vietnam. The CIA organized the Hmong tribe to fight against the North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao. The Pathet Lao were the communists in Laos. The CIA-backed Hmong guerrillas used Air America to ‘drop 46 million pounds of foodstuffs….transport tens of thousands of troops, conduct a highly successful photoreconnaissance program, and engage in numerous clandestine missions using night-vision glasses and state-of-the-art electronic equipment.’ This was the largest paramilitary operation in which the CIA participated, spanning 13 years. The CIA was responsible for directing natives of Laos to fight the North Vietnamese. Although such efforts were ultimately a failure, the CIA nonetheless still boasted of helping the people of Laos combat the communist threat.  Along with its humanitarian efforts, the CIA also conducted a massive bombing effort in Laos from 1964-1973. 580,000 bombing missions took place over the nine-year campaign, but it is not known how many of them were dropped by the United States Air Force and how many were dropped by the CIA. By the summer of 1970 the CIA owned airline Air America had two dozen twin-engine transports, two dozen STOL aircraft and 30 helicopters dedicated to the operations in Laos. This airline employed more than 300 pilots, copilots, flight mechanics, and airfreight specialists flying out of Laos and Thailand. Although the bombing campaign was eventually disclosed to the American public formally in 1969, stories about the Laos bombing effort were published prior to that in The New York Times. Even after the United States government made the war public, the American people were in the dark as to how large scale the bombing campaign was. …”
Spectator: What exactly was the CIA up to in Laos in the 1960s?
NPR: ‘America In Laos’ Traces The Militarization Of The CIA (Audio)
Forbes: A Look Back at the CIA’s Dirty War in Laos
YouTube: The CIA’s Secret Operations in Laos During the Vietnam War | Documentary |1970

American helicopters land at Khe Sanh base, on the Laos border on February 1, 1971

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in CIA, Henry Kissinger, Ho Chi Minh Trail, John Kennedy, Laos, Lyn. Johnson, Nixon, R. McNamara, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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