Places To Go – Alternate

No… this isn’t an alternate place to go. This is a place that was most often called “Alternate” by Americans “visiting” there…. Lima Site 20a.

“Alternate” was the epicenter of the Royalist war against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army in Northern Laos. “Epicenter” hardly describes the place at the height of the war. It was the heart and soul of the Hmong armed forces. Their leader, Vang Pao (often just VP), and all his senior officers lived at “Alternate.” VP and the officers had their houses along the runway. There are stories of children playing right by the runway.

Seems the Laotians now spell it “LONGCHENG.” Photo courtesy of Don Duval

Long Tieng, with a variety of other spellings including Long Cheng, was the town that grew up around “Alternate.” At least 50,000 civilians and refugees lived there. Families of the Hmong army and air force also lived in Long Tieng. By 1968 VP had recruited 40,000 Hmong infantry. At one time, Continue reading

Ho Chi Minh Trail


From around 1963 to 1973 the US waged a secret war in Laos. A large portion of that war was against the Ho Chi Minh Trail… or the “Trail”… or just the HCMT.

Even though I’ve been writing about the “Secret War” in Northern Laos, the biggest goal of this “Trail ride” is to see the Trail  up close and personal. So, I thought I should start writing a little about that.

Since my time there, I’ve had a growing desire to see The Trail for myself. Now I’m going to do it on a “trail bike”… on an on/off-road motorcycle. Check out the following video for a glimpse of what I’m talking about:

Ho CHi Minh Trail Ride.

Starting in the early 1960s and for over ten years, Americans waged war on the HCMT. It was mostly Continue reading

Places to go – LS-85

“… it appears we may have pushed our luck one day too long in attempting to keep this facility in operation …” 

Cable from William Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Laos, to the U.S. State Department, March 11, 1968

I don’t know if Sullivan really sent that cable… I just read somewhere that he did. But if he didn’t send it, he should have.

I’ve had several false starts trying to write about Lima Site – 85… Phou Pha Thi. There a mish-mash of confusing information available, so it’s hard to tell what really happened there. One problem is the tragedy was classified (mostly “top secret) longer than most others. Some documents are still classified or redacted more than fifty years later.

So I give up. I can’t possibly describe everything here. It would take a book, and even then I’m not sure I could make definitive conclusions. The problem is everyone writes from their “side.” Perhaps the most telling is a book written from the North Vietnamese side.

At the end of this, I’ll give you links and places where you can get more information. For now, here’s the extra short version: Continue reading