Hmong… The USA’s Best Ally

This is the first of a multi-part series about the best ally the United States has had… ever… the Hmong in Laos. I can only give you a brief idea of their story… who they are, what they sacrificed, and what they continue to sacrifice. Telling the complete story would take many book volumes. My goal here is for you to come away from with at least some understanding of what the Hmong people gave to the United States.

Anyone who thinks he understands the situation here simply does not know the facts.

Attributed to an early Ambassador to Laos, source unknown

Trying to understand the Second Indochina War is, at best, complex and confusing. At worst, it was a quagmire that no one really understood, and that’s why it became such a mess. That’s truer of Laos than any other part of the war. So… how did this whole mess get started?

As I go along, I will give you Amazon links to some of the books I own or have found valuable. Note that this is not a “Pay-per-click” deal. However, I am paid a small (tiny) commission if you buy something you click on. These clicks help with a small percentage of the costs to operate this site.

If you are new here, you’ll notice that I called it the “Second Indochina War.” Most people in the United States call it the Vietnam War, and it’s called the American War in Vietnam. It involved more than the Americans and Vietnam. Laos, Cambodia, and to some extent, Thailand were also involved. Since it involved all of Indochina, most of the world outside of the US and Vietnam call it the Second Indochina War.

It was the “Second” one because the first one (duh) started in 1946 when the French tried to reclaim its colonial territories held before WWII. Again, the First Indochina War encompassed mostly the same territories as the second one. Then the region was known as “French Indochina.”

The colored area shows French Indochina of the 1930s

The First Indochina War ended in 1954 following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The United States involvement began toward the end of that war when the U.S. gave military aid to the French. It was too little, too late.

During the siege at Dien Bien Phu, American pilot James “Earthquake McGoon” McGovern and first officer Wallace “Wally” Buford were shot down while flying a C-119 cargo aircraft on a resupply mission to the French. McGovern and Buford were flying missions for the CIA owned “CAT”… the forerunner of Air America. They crashed and died near the village of Ban Sot in Laos. This was the first shoot-down of Americans in Indochina.

[I’ve created a glossary for terms like CAT or Air America. Click on the highlighted term, and a glossary will open up in a new tab.]

I contend that the Second Indochina War began before the ink was dry on the Geneva peace accords that ended the First Indochina War in 1954. Those peace accords created North and South Vietnam with provisions for an election to unify Vietnam would be held in 1956. That election was never held. The accords also affirmed an independent Laos.

The US began sending aid… and military advisors to the region almost immediately. President Eisenhower’s administration began providing “military training assistance” to South Vietnam only 3 weeks after the accords were signed. Likewise, some US military advisors were sent to Laos.

On 8 September 1954, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was formed with its principal objective of protecting Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam from Communist aggression.

Pewwwww! All that background stuff and barely a mention of Laos. I’ve it’s like stepping into the abyss. Well… here are a few more tidbits directly related to Laos:

  1. Two months after the peace accords, North Vietnam formed Group 100 to direct, organize, train, and supply the Pathet Lao in order to gain control of Laos.
  2. In Dec ’58, North Vietnam launched an invasion of Laos and occupied parts of Northern Laos.
  3. In May ’59, North Vietnam established Group 559, which began operation of the Trường Sơn Strategic Supply Route… AKA, the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
  4. In Sep ’59, North Vietnam formed Group 969, which was an expanded version of Group 100. Group 969 assumed control of Pathet Lao forces.
  5. As he left office, President Eisenhower told incoming President Kennedy that Laos “was the key to Indochina.”
  6. Laos erupted into Civil War between the North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao and the US-backed Royal Laotian Government. Laos became President Kennedy’s first crisis.
  7. In early 1961 Kennedy pressed for a ceasefire. In May, the Pathet Lao accepted the cease-fire at the behest of the North Vietnamese. The North Vietnamese used this “ceasefire” to capture and consolidate their hold on the Ho Chi Minh Trail… in particular, the transportation hub of Tchepone.

Starting in 1953 and continuing until 1975, Laos’s government was referred to as the Royal Laotian Government. It was a Constitutional Monarchy which, in this case, meant it had a King, but the real power rested with the Prime Minister and his cabinet. However, the real form of the government morphed many times over the years. To keep from getting too sidetracked, I won’t go into details here. Instead, if you want a better understanding, click the sidebar below.

Sidebar 9 – The Royal Laotian Government(s): (opens in a new tab)

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand all of the elements of the civil war in Laos. It wasn’t a two-sided conflict like most civil wars. Instead, there were at least three factions at war with each other. Princes and other royalty all vied for control of the country. They all claimed loyalty to the King, but they were mostly loyal to their own position.

Add to that, a Royal Laotian Army Captain named Kong Le staged a nearly bloodless coup d’état. He captured the administrative capital of Vientiane and took over for a few months. However, it was short-lived. A counter-coup ensued and ran Kong Le “outta Dodge.”

Kong Le and his 1200-man force trekked north and joined with the Pathet Lao. However, Kong Le soon flipped back as a “Neutralist.” No one really knew who Kong Le and his army would fight for. When they did engage, they fought poorly. Kong Le promoted himself to General at the head of his own private little army. In the end, when “General” Le faced mutiny from his subordinate commanders, he fled to exile and never returned to Laos.

The “Adventures of Kong Le” are but one instance of how complicated everything was in Laos. There were many factions (often blood relatives) and lots of infighting between them.

Sidebar 10 – Kong Le – Supper Hero or Super Villan?

Before we leave Kong Le in our dust, I need to mention that he set up “shop” with his “Neutralist” army in Moung Soui, a little bit Northwest of the Plain of Jars. Moung Soui was also known as Lima Site 108 (LS-108). LS-108 changed hands between the Pathet Lao (NVA) and Royalist forces several times.

In chapter 31, “Why Me (Again),” A-1 pilot Bill “Bags” Bagwell tells of his close air support mission to friendly forces as the Pathet Lao were capturing LS-108 in June of 1969. Shot down on that mission, “Bags” gives a dramatic description of ejecting from a burning A-1E.

Communist North Vietnam’s intentions toward Laos were clear. They wanted control of Laos and, in particular, control the territory needed for the development of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In the midst of the Cold War, the United States was not about to let that go unanswered. However, the US (Kennedy, in particular) had been promoting the goal of a neutral Laos.

This was a departure from the previous President Eisenhower’s approach. Eisenhower wanted a strong Royal Laotian Government Army to counter any Communist advances. Kennedy’s approach was for a Neutral Laos with a coalition government. He felt such a “Neutral” coalition would prevent a complete Communist take-over.

I want to note here that the North Vietnamese were signatories to many agreements calling for the neutrality of Laos and the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces over the years. North Vietnam never had any intention of honoring any of their agreements. They were focused on their goal and did anything necessary to accomplish it. When it came to international agreements, they simply nodded their heads yes, signed the agreements, and then went on and did what they always intended to do. Here are four of many examples:

  1. The Geneva Accords of 1954.
  2. The 1959 agreements on the neutrality of Laos.
  3. The 1962 Geneva Peace Conference which specified the neutrality of Laos and called for the withdrawal of all but a handful of foreign military.
  4. Ultimately, following the peace agreements of 1973, the US withdrew… the North Vietnamese did not abide by their agreements. In 1975, the North Vietnamese completely ignored the 1973 Paris Peace agreement, invaded and conquered South Vietnam.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… ok… back in Northern Laos, the North Vietnamese supported Pathet Lao were attempting to gain ground in the early 60s. Following North Vietnam’s invasion of Laos, they established their operations base at Sam Nuea (many other spellings) in Northeast Laos. Opposing them was a small guerrilla force with a charismatic leader named Vang Pao.

Hmong guerilla fighters circa early 1960s

As a young teenager, Vang Pao worked with the Free French to protect the Hmong from the invading Japanese during World War II. The French recruited Vang Pao again during to First Indochina War to help them against the Viet Minh.

Most Americans who worked with Vang Pao always referred to Vang Pao as “VP.” (Probably not to his face.) So, while he certainly deserves the title “General Vang Pao,” I’ll use the vernacular “VP” most often to keep things simple.

After the Viet Minh (forerunner to the North Vietnamese Army) invaded Laos in 1953, VP led a group of Hmong irregular guerillas against the Viet Minh. VP performed so well, he was sent to the French Officers School and became a 2nd Lieutenant. As the French departed the region, VP was given increasing responsibility within the Royal Laotian Army. In 1958 he had been promoted to Major, and by 1960 he was a Lieutenant Colonel.

VP’s (and his Hmong followers) hatred of the North Vietnamese was further increased when the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rustled cattle from his home village of Nong Het. Nong Het is only about seven miles from the border of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese intrusion left the people of Nong Het cold and hungry.

VP appealed to a CIA representative named Stu Methven for help. Methven couldn’t do much to help against the North Vietnamese but was able to provide an airdrop of blankets, sweaters, rice… and of all things, an anvil to the Hmong village.

When Methven returned to visit VP in Nong Het, a village-wide event was held in the CIA man’s honor. All of the villagers gathered to greet Methven… wearing olive-drab sweaters from the airdrop 

And so, VP’s relationship with the US and the CIA began.

A detailed description of these meetings between Methven and VP is in chapter 2 of “Battle for Skyline Ridge: The Cia Secret War in Laos”

Soon after taking office, President Kennedy was faced with the deteriorating situation in Laos. Fighting was underway as the NVA was moving into Northern Laos. Publicly, Kennedy announced he would seek a “neutral Laos.”

However, as the situation quickly worsened, Kennedy prepared to use air power against the Pathet Lao and NVA. B-26 aircraft and personnel were deployed to Thailand under the code name “Millpond.”  Preparations for the air attacks were completed. The aircraft were loaded, armed, and ready to fly their first attack. However, before the aircraft launched, the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba caused Kennedy to rethink his options. The planned air attacks from Operation Millpond were called off.

I should mention that Operation Millpond was initially to be more than just the B-26s. All branches of the US military, especially Marines on Okinawa, were alerted to support the action if needed. Also, note here that the CIA was set-up as part of operation Millpond.

Kennedy decided not to take direct military action in Laos. Rather, he increased his attempts to achieve a neutral Laos. No matter how admirable the goal of neutrality was, it had the effect of backing the United States into a corner. There was no way the United States could take overt military action while “advertising” to the world the goal of neutrality.

Simultaneously, the CIA began to take covert action to slow the Pathet Lao/NVA in their advances. A CIA man named Bill Lair met with VP early in 1961 to talk about what was needed for the Hmong people. (Most documents use the name “Bill Lair,” however his full name was James William Lair.) Lair assured VP that the United States could provide the Hmong with the food and supplies they needed… and weapons, ammunition, and support they wanted.

VP supported the Royal Laotian Government and, more importantly, saw it as his duty to protect the Hmong by fighting against the Communists. During that 1961 meeting, VP convinced Lair that he and his Hmong guerillas would fight the Communists “at all cost.”

Following the meeting with Lair, VP convinced the Hmong elders that the United States would provide the support they needed and not abandon them when the going got tough. Simultaneously, Lair briefed his CIA superiors, and a few days later, they received approval from Washington to equip and train 1,000 Hmong irregulars. (Most sources cite the 1,000 to be trained, but a few go up to 4,000.)

And so it began. The United States started training and sending arms to the Hmong guerillas. For the United States, the Hmong became their surrogate army against the North Vietnamese.

Vang Pao circa 1961

“Communism was spreading in our part of the world—pouring into Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam. We had to find a way to stop them. The US had the vision to stop them from spreading into these countries. I aligned with the US because they were the most powerful country in the world at that time. The United States had won World War I and World War II, and I assumed that winning the Vietnam War would be no problem.”

GEN. VANG PAO, St. Paul, interview 2006

All comments are welcome. Comments are moderated and will not immediately appear when you post them. Usually, comments will be posted within 24 hours in most cases.

Sidebar 10 – Kong Le: Super Hero or Super Villain?

Kong Le is probably the least understood and most misunderstood character of the Laotian Civil War. As a Captain in the Royal Laotian Army, he led a coup d’état against the Royal Laotian Government. When a counter-coup “ousted” him, he took his forces and joined with the Pathet Lao… only to flip-flopped sides, and rejoined forces with the Royal Laotian Army… all within a period of about three years.

Kong Le – The Asian Napoleon? – A Super-Hero or Super Villan

Kong Le was born to a farmer. His father was a “Kha,” and his mother was Lao. The Kha were an ethnic minority and, at the time, considered the lowest on the “totem pole.” (Kha means slave.) Kong Le took over the “family business” when his father died… he was only six years old… or perhaps ten, depending on the source.

At 17, he joined the French Army to fight against the Viet Minh. After the French were defeated, he transferred to the Royal Lao Army. There he caught the attention of American advisors. He showed promise as a leader and was sent to Ranger school in the Philipines. He excelled at ambush and guerilla operations.

Back in Laos, Kong Le was promoted and became a leader of a “crack” Parachute Battalion. His battalion was used in an attempt to curb the Pathet Lao’s activity. The battalion was under-supplied, under-armed, and rarely paid. The United States was sending in arms, munitions supplies, and money for the Royal Lao Army. That US support should have been available to Kong Le and his troops. But corruption was rampant within the government. Military generals and government leaders were using foreign aid to line their own pockets.

Finally, Kong Le and his troops had enough. On 10 Aug 60, Kong Le let his parachute battalion into Vientiane and seized power. It was a nearly bloodless coup d’état. Only six were killed. It’s important to note that the arms Kong Le’s forces used were US weapons.

Kong Le, 1960. Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma in the background. The strings tied around Kong Le’s right wrist were to protect him from “spirits” and prevent him from harm.

Kong Le was a “neutralist.” He wanted all foreign interference and the corruption it brought gone from Laos. He believed the ongoing Civil War was caused by foreign intervention and wanted to stop all the “infighting.”. He especially blamed the United States “aid” because of the corruption it was causing and wanted the United States out. As a Neutralist, Kong Le proclaimed:

“I am for Laos and the Lao people, for honesty and purity, and against corruption”

“This fratricidal fighting among Laotians must cease!” 

Kong Le as reported in Time, 22 Aug 60

Kong Le accused that the Prime Minister at the time, Somsanith Vongkotrattana, had “exchanged our country for American Money” and wanted the U.S. military training mission out of the country. He also wanted the North Vietnamese out of the country’s affairs.

Kong Le wasn’t wrong. The government was corrupt, and outside interests were fueling the civil war. The United States supported the Royal Laotian Government to block Communist expansion while North Vietnam, along with their benefactors China, and Russia, supported the Pathet Lao to further their own interests.

When the coup succeeded, Kong Le did not name himself as the leader of the country. Instead, Souvanna Phouma was again installed as Prime Minister. Souvanna, who was in and out as prime minister four separate times from 1951-1975, was himself a Neutralist. Souvanna thought he could bring together a coalition government and, therefore, peace to Laos. He wanted to unify the country by “neutralizing” the government. This would mean that the Pathet Lao would have “a seat at the table.”

The U.S. Government (CIA, State Department, etc.) was concerned that with Souvanna as Prime Minister and the Pathet Lao allowed into the government, Laos would be lost to the “Reds.” Keep in mind, the “red scare” was still a great concern in the United States. (By today’s rhetoric, maybe it still is.)

Soon after Kong Le’s coup d’état, a sort of shadow government was formed in Savannakhet (Southern Laos) by General Phoumi Nosavan. General Phoumi, who had been the head of the Royal Lao Army at the time of the coup, was right-wing pro-western, and pro-American. The United States, still under President Eisenhower, immediately began to supply General Phoumi with arms and munitions to counter the new government. General Phoumi organized the “Committee Against the Coup d’état” and vowed to remove Kong Le from Vientiane. Note that General Phoumi had been Kong Le’s “boss” at the time of the coup, and Phoumi was not a happy general.

Interestingly, a 6 Dec 60, a CIA secret analysis of the situation predicted, “If Souvanna were to lose out and the anti-Pathet Lao government takes over, Kong Le would probably join the Pathet Lao.” The analysis suggested that a quick counter-coup victory was unlikely and that Laos was headed toward civil war.

However… a successful counter-coup a few days later is exactly what happened.

Having seen the “writing on the wall,” Prime Minister Souvanna fled to Cambodia on 9 Dec. On the next day, one of Souvanna’s ministers flew to Hanoi to conclude an agreement with the USSR to provide arms and supplies to Kong Le. All was arranged with the agreement that Kong Le would join forces with the Pathet Lao.

I don’t know if Kong Le himself had knowledge or agreed to this at the time. In any case, on 11 Dec, Russian aircraft landed at Watty airport with arms, munitions, supplies, and… six 105mm Howitzers. None in Kong Le’s nor the Pathet Lao’s soldiers knew how to operate the cannons, so they were manned by North Vietnamese troops. The Soviet Aircraft continued the build-up over the next days.

On 13 Dec, General Phoumi launched the counter-coup. After a short but fierce battle for the Capital of Vientiane, Kong Le and his forces withdrew to the Plain of Jars (PDJ). Between 15 Dec and 2 Jan, the Soviets made 184 airlifts to the PDJ in support of Kong Le. During this time, the Pathet Lao claimed to support the Neutralists against the “Right-Wing American stooges.”

Souvanna was out, and a new Prime Minister was in. General Phoumi was made head of the new armed forces.

Most sources agree that while Kong Le likely had Laos’s interests at heart, he was naive to the realities of the larger world. The Communists duped him into believing that they too wanted a neutral Laos. Not realizing that they were telling him what he wanted to hear, he joined forces with the Pathet Lao.

Laos continued in turmoil and intermittent fighting until another Geneva conference established a “new” “Neutralist” government, taking over in July 1962. The United States was one of fourteen nations signatory to the agreement. Once again, Right-wing General Phoumi was out, and Neutralist Souvanna was back in.

In November, Souvanna appointed Kong Le as head of the Neutralist Army. For the time being, the forces of all three factions (Right-wing, Neutralist, & Pathet Lao) were merged into one army. However, there were right-leaning Neutralists and left-leaning Neutralists. There was a series of assassinations in the early spring of 1963. Kong Le’s deputy was one of those killed. Other assignations followed. The Pathet Lao government ministers feared for their lives, causing them to flee Vientiane.

Sources seem to be all over the place on exactly when Kong Le split with the Pathet Lao and again sided with the Royal Laotian Government’s Right-Wing arm. New York Times or “Time” articles use weasel words like “before long” to describe the time frame when things happened. In this case, “before long” means sometime between July 1962 and March 1963.

So… “before long,” Kong Le made agreements for his Neutralist forces to be supplied by the United States. And “before long,” the left-leaning Neurtalists left Kong Le and joined forces with the Pathet Lao. And “before long,” Kong Le once again aligned with General Phoumi. And “before long,” the Pathet Lao / North Vietnamese began attacking Kong Le’s positions. Vang Pao’s forces were brought in to support Kong Le. In fact, the only thing that saved Kong Le’s position was the support provided by Vang Pao’s Hmong forces.

Kong Le (left) and Vang Pao (right) early 1960s

Pewwwwww! Like everything in Laos, turmoil prevailed throughout. Changing loyalties and infighting continued until outright civil war broke out again in 1963.

Somehow, by 1964 Kong Le emerged as some kind of superhero to the Lao people. His position of neutrality, demand to get rid of foreign interference, and anti-corruption stance brought him widespread support. Realizing he had been tricked into supporting the Pathet Lao, he also became staunchly anti-communist and anti-North Vietnam. At the time, he was quoted as saying:

The pro-Communist lackeys of North Vietnam evil policy is to make the Kingdom of Laos a new kind of colony of international Communism

May 23, 1964 New York Times Article, Man in the News; Key Laotian General; Kong Le

Many Laotians believed he was the return of the legendary (mythical) King Setthathirath. The belief was that when Vientiane was in trouble, King Setthathirath would return to save the day. The May 23, 1964, issue of the New York Times article said, “To them, Kong Le is 10 feet tall, rides a great white horse and is indefatigable, unbeatable and immortal.”

That New York Times article concluded with, “… he appears destined to play a major role for years to come.”

Some have likened Kong Le to an “Asian Napolean.” With many of the Lao people seeing him as Setthathirath, he likely saw himself as the Napolean for his country. He believed it was his destiny, and the spirits were giving him signs. He told of being given confidence when he saw an omen: it was raining lightly and unexpectedly saw a frog swallow a snake! Perhaps he believed it meant he was the frog and the snake was the corruption and foreign interference he sought to eliminate. Personally, I suspect it was opium… the one cash crop of Laos.

Despite his notoriety and popularity in 1964, his successes were short-lived. While he was an excellent small unit field commander, he didn’t fare well as a self-appointed General at the head of the “Neutralist” army. When things were going well, he was upfront, “leading the charge.” When battles weren’t going well, he would excuse himself with migraine headaches. There were also occasions where he “retired” from battles to serve as a Buddhist monk.

His shortcomings as a General led to distrust and discontent among his subordinate commanders. The “Neutralist” army began to divide into pro-Pather Lao and pro-Right Wing supporters. Four battalions broke off, calling themselves the Patriotic Neutralists, and joined forces with the Pathet Lao.

As things degenerated, battalions began to mutiny in protest to Kong Le’s leadership. By late summer, 1966, he had lost the confidence and support of most of his officers. After some infighting, three of his officers rose to the top and took control of the remnants of Kong Le’s Neutralist army. Kong Le fearing his life was in danger, took refuge in the Indonesian embassy in Vientiane. On 17 October 1966, he left Laos. He spent the rest of his life in exile, living in the United States for a while and then France.

I think there is no doubt that Kong Le truly had Laos’s best interests at the core of his beliefs. Unfortunately, he was an idealist. His lack of political savvy in the government and lack of effective leadership at the military’s highest levels failed to bring about his dream of a Laos free from foreign intervention.

kongle-portrait

Upon his death, in January 2014, an article in New Mandala said of him,

“Kong Le went from soldiering to politics, only to discover that he was no politician; being a patriot was not enough to save his country from itself.

The spirit and the dream continued while history took another path. May his spirit rest in peace while his dream lives on.”

New Mandala- The colonel from Savannakhet – 24 Jan 2014

So… was Kong Le a Super-Hero or Super-Viillain ? You be the judge.

Follow the Great HCMTrail Ride

This post is to tell you how to follow along with the great HCMTrail Ride in “sorta real-time.” It’s sorta real-time because I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post while I’m in the jungles of Laos. I’m told there is reasonably good cell phone coverage throughout the country…  but I’m not sure there will be much at places like The Dogs Head, or the Chokes. So I’ll be posting when I can.

There are four main companies in Laos providing coverage. They sell sim cards with a data plan. But unlike most of the US unlimited data plans, their data plans are quantity restricted. So I’ll be getting buying a sim card that you get a specific amount of data. Then you refill the card as you go. I don’t know how well it will work out in “real-time,” but we’ll see.

I’m going to use a “multi-media” approach. I’ll be posting on YouTube, Facebook, and here on the website. Since I won’t have unlimited internet time, I won’t go around to the usual social media sites to notify everyone when I’ve posted something. So… if you want to follow along, you need to “subscribe” to the three places I’ll be posting.

I’m taking a GoPro and a drone for videos which I’ll post on YouTube. This will probably some of the best stuff from the HCMT. Go to YouTube to subscribe. When you get to YouTube, click on subscribe and the little bell that pops up next to it. You’ll get a notification every time I post a new video.

Click here to go to the Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride YouTube videos.
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Click on SUBSCRIBE and then the little bell that pops up

I’ll post pics and a little bit of story to telling you what’s going on the HCMTrailRide FaceBook page. Go there and click both the Follow and Like buttons so the Facebook stuff will pop up in your news feed.

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Click Follow and Like to have the HCMTrail Ride show up in your news feed.
You can comment here too.

I’ll be posting the longer stories along with pics right here on this website. I intend to write about each day as I go along. I want to be sure to tell you about everything while it’s fresh in my mind. To get emails of each post, enter your email address it the little box under the top banner pic. Then click on subscribe.

I promise I won’t blast you with a bunch of junk mail or spam. You can always unsubscribe to any of the places you’ve subscribed to.

I have built-in lots of flexibility to the schedule. Except for the beginning and end dates, nothing is “cast in blood.” So… over the next few days (before I go), tell me what you want to see or know about. Leave me a note either on FaceBook or here.

Click here for the schedule

I also welcome your stories or comments about any of the places I’ll be going. I hope lots of folks will share stuff.  I’ll respond as I get a chance. If you’ve got a long story about a place I’m going, you are welcome to post it too. Keep in mind that this web site is moderated, so if you post a question, comment, or story here, it may not appear right away.

“Quickie” questions or comments will probably work best on FaceBook.

That’s all for now. I’ll “see ya” on “The Trail.”

Places to go – The PDJ

“Whoever controls the PDJ, controls Laos”                       

Unknown                          

I know… I said I would talk about “The Alamo” next in the series of “Places to Go.” But, I really can’t do that without talking about the PDJ and all that went with it first. Besides, the PDJ would likely be our first stop on the “Northern Loop.” So here we go.

Most aircrews simply referred to the region as the PDJ. The initials come from the name the French gave the region during their colonial reign: the Plaine des Jarres. Hence, the abbreviation, PDJ.

“Plaine des Jarres” translates to Plain of Jars. The name comes from the massive stone “jars” that were either human burial urns… or places to store rice-wine scattered around the region. Depending on who is telling the story, the PDJ is from several hundred square miles… up to 3,000 square miles.

Plaine des Jarres
Plane of Jars

 For this discussion, the importance of the PDJ isn’t the jars. Rather, it is the years of see-saw battles for control of the PDJ. You see… Continue reading