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The United States Secret War In Laos

In 1954 the Communists began a major push toward communism throughout Southeast Asia. The newly independent country of Laos was strategically located to play a role in stopping the spread of the communists. President Eisenhower recognized the importance of stopping communism and began planning a strategy for SE Asia including Laos. In the late 1950's US Special Forces began a military advisory role with Laos. Training began taking place in Laos, Thailand, and the USA. Over time at least one thousand Lao officers and NCO's came to the USA for training at several military bases. In 1962 an agreement was reached in Geneva to guarantee neutrality for Laos. Promptly the North Vietnamese Army began using Lao neutral lands to move men and supplies into South Vietnam. The US was not supposed to be in Laos either and all involvement was clandestine, hence the name "Secret War". President Kennedy supported the war in SE Asia and increased US participation with men and equipment, including Green Berets who worked closely with indigenous forces in South Vietnam and Laos including covert missions. US Presidents Johnson and President Nixon continued increasing US involvement with Laos even after drawdown began in 1969. Laos was divided into five Military Regions,(MR). Military Region 1 consisted of Royal Lao Armed Forces and Special Guerrilla Units, (RLAF & SGU) and commanded by Gen. Tiao Sayavong. Military Region 2 consisted of RLAF & SGU and commanded by Gen. Vang Pao. Military Region 3 consisted of RLAF & SGU commanded by Gen. Nouphet Daoheaung. Military Region 4 consisted of RLAF & SGU and commanded by Gen. Soutchay Vongsavanh. Military Region 5 had only RLAF and commanded by Gen.Thonglith Chokbengboun. The Central Intelligence Agency and US Special Forces both supported covert operations in Laos with ground and air operations. Special Guerrilla Units (SGU) were created along the model of Special Forces Special Operation Units. They monitored the Ho Chi Minh trail with Road Watch Teams, and had Commando Raider Teams which would rescue American pilots and call in air strikes on enemy forces. Ho Chi Minh Trail ran through Military Region 3 and Military Region 4. During the war the SGU's were advised and paid by CIA and Special Forces officers. In the end, 50,000 Lao soldiers were Killed In Action; at least 120,000 were wounded, and thousands were Missing In Action. These sacrifices were made combating North Vietnamese communists and no doubt reduced the number of US casualties tremendously. In 1973 the US signed the Paris Peace Accords ending our involvement in Southeast Asia. The anti-communists continued their fight against the communists infiltrating Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam until the war ended in 1975. These battles, weary soldiers lost support of the USA Congress and the USA people. Several thousand patriots who had fought at the side of the USA military became prisoners in harsh reeducation camps. Many lucky refugees from Laos were able to escape to the USA and they have become legal citizens of America. Even though the war in Laos was called The Secret War, there were 40,000 US service men stationed in Thailand, 600 US Special Forces, 20,000 Thai volunteer troops, and 20,000 South Vietnamese troops helped the RLAF & SGU. Those who were on the other side were 40,000 Pathet Lao, (Lao communist), 50,000 North Vietnamese troops, 10,000 communist Chinese and the Russians. During the U.S. Secret War, Laos was the most bombed nation on Earth. For nine consecutive years, the U.S. dropped bombs on Laos, more than all bombs dropped in both WWI and WWII combined. There are half a million people from Laos, from all ethnic groups, living in the USA today. Many are suffering from combat wounds and PTSD's debilitating effects. Yet none are eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration, including Health Care and Burial in national cemeteries with military honors. Khao Insixiengmay
Executive Director, RLAF & SGU Senior Advisor of Lao-Hmong American Coalition Life member of US Special Forces Association Member of the Association of the United States Army Member of American Legion

Gen. Silac Pathammavong

Chief of J1 Supreme Command of RLAF

Mathew Kukielka
Member of AUSA Gen. John W.Vessey, Jr. Chapter

Jeff Arnold
SFA Chapter XX Vietnam War Veteran

Mark Carroll
Friend to Lao Veterans