U.S. Army Special Warfare and the Secret War in Laos 1959-74: The Green Berets in the Land of a Million Elephants


The Secret War in Laos was one of the first “Long Wars” for special operations, spanning a period of about thirteen years. It was one of the largest CIA-paramilitary operations of the time, kept out of the view of the American public until now.

Between 1959 and 1974, Green Berets were covertly deployed to Laos to prevent a communist take-over or at least preserve the kingdom's neutrality. Operators dressed in civilian clothes, armed with cover stories and answering only to "Mister", were delivered to the country by Air America, where they answered to the U.S. Ambassador. There they were faced with the complexities of the three factions in Laos, as well as operating with limited resources – maps of the country often had large blank areas and essential supplies often didn't arrive at all. In challenging tropical conditions they trained and undertook combat advisory duties with native and tribal forces. Veterans remember Hmong guerrillas and Lao soldiers who were often shorter than the M1 rifles they carried.

The Green Berets' service in Laos was the first strategic challenge since its formation in 1952, and proved one of the first major applications of special warfare doctrine. Clouded in secrecy until the 1990s, this story is comprehensively told for the first time using official archival documents and interviews with veterans.


The author takes you back in time when people were not even thinking about Laos, any part of those countries. He takes you to Eisenhower’s Presidential address when he makes reference to communism and countries falling like dominoes. Soon Korea took the front pages, nut what most people do not know was that we started helping the French in both Laos and Vietnam to fight off communism. This is the story of our involvement of first helping the French, but then helping local tribes who fought off the NVA until we left in 1975. The author takes you through the formation of the Green Berets Lead by Col. Simmons who was part of the 6th Rangers and was one of the few men who stayed on the Philippine Island causing havoc along with tribes against the Japanese. There was a book written about his exploits, he even led a raid on a prison camp. He suggested Charlie Beckwith head up training, he would later be responsible for creating Delta Force. With all of these men were trained and after the French defeat in 54 at Dien Bien Dha. The men needed to be put in place. By 1960 men were already over there for years training and the author takes you through some of the difficulties with training especially when the French were around. In 60 the government began to change in Laos and a revolution began. This is when the Soviet Union came in with support behind a named Phouma, and the U.S. is behind General Phoumi. By 1961 with President Kennedy in the White House, he was behind everything and also created more special forces. We were training and some men were actually with Hmong and Lao tribes, these two tribes would stay on and fight against the NVA until we left in 75, they then would fight for their lives. While all of this is going on the author explains how the different ambassadors had a say in the military decisions along with men in Washington who were not involve in the military. For example, Ambassador Brown- Threex turned down raids on prison camps when they were discovered, I thought this was horrible. I can go on but first I must say, I grew up in a military home with a father who fought in WWII, Korea, and an uncle fight in Vietnam, a cousin who flew Cobra gunship helicopters in Vietnam. So I knew before I was ten years old we were fighting in Laos, and that the tribe named Hmong were some of the best fighters. I don’t know how I knew I just did sitting around listening to vet’s from different branches come and talk to my father when I was young. I also knew that like this book many men, veterans felt a loss when we left for they knew what was going to happen to most of these people left behind who had fought along with them side by side. The author does a good job in bringing this story to light and I hope people will read this book. A very good book. I could go on but I am done. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 5 stars. Follow us atwww.1rad-readerreviews.com 

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