CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Laos

A - Ca

Ahern, Thomas L., Jr. Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laos, 1961-1973. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 2006. Available as PDF file at: http://today.ttu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/06-undercover-armies.pdf.

From "Introduction": "[U]ltimate failure, in Laos at least, is an inadequate criterion by which to judge the quality of the effort devoted to a lost cause. CIA's performance there was certainly not without flaws, but the story of the 'secret war' in Laos reveals an admirable record of flexible, economical management and sound tactical judgment. An even more remarkable aspect of that record is the Agency's steady, pragmatic accommodation of cultural sensitivities and of amorphous, competitive command relationships." (p. xvii)

Anthony, Victor B., and Richard R. Sexton. The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia: The War in Northern Laos, 1954-1973. Washington, DC: Center for Air Force History, United States Air Force, 1993. [Available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB248/war_in_northern_laos.pdf]

From "Foreword": "This book describes the triumphs, frustrations, and failures of the Air Force in northern Laos between January 1955, when the United States Operations Mission began to coordinate military aid, and April 1973, when B-52s and F-111s flew the last bombing sorties over northern Laos."

Black, Edwin F. "Laos: A Case Study." Military Review 44, no. 12 (1964): 49-59. [Petersen]

Blaufarb, Douglas S. Organizing and Managing Unconventional War in Laos, 1962-1970. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Studies, 1972. [http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/reports/2006/R919.pdf]

Booth, Waller B. "Allies or Hirelings." Army 22 (May 1972): 43-47. [Petersen]

Boyne, Walter J. "The Plain of Jars." Air Force Magazine 82, no. 6 (Jun. 1999). [http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1999/June%201999/0699jars.aspx]

The author reviews the "covert" war in Laos, with an emphasis on the Hmong and the involvement of Air America and military aviation.

Branfman, Fred. "The President's Secret Army: A Case Study -- the CIA in Laos, 1962-1972." In The CIA File, eds. Robert L. Borosage and John D. Marks, 46-78. New York: Grossman, 1976.

Clark comment: This article and the book within which it is contained remain suspect as a Soviet or East German disinformation effort.

Briggs, Thomas Leo. Cash on Delivery: CIA Special Operations during the Secret War in Laos. Rockville, MD: Rosebank, 2009.

Goulden, Washington Times (12 Mar. 2010) and Intelligencer 17.3 (Winter-Spring 2010), notes that the author "served in Southeast Asia with Air America Inc. ...and then as an agency operations officer. His book is a highly readable account... Briggs offers a succinct (and unapologetic) definition of his work as a CIA special operations officer.... [H]e called in air strikes on enemy supply lines and tank parks, and arranged for ambushes of North Vietnamese troops on their trek south."

For Peake, Studies 54.2 (Jun. 2010) and Intelligencer 18.1 (Fall-Winter 2010), the author "gives vivid examples of how the roadwatch teams were trained and functioned.... Running the roadwatch teams required support and cooperation among several agencies and countries," and Briggs uses specific instances to "illustrate the level of cooperation required among the CIA, the Air Force, and the local nationals."

Wiant, AIJ 28, no. 1 (2010), finds that "[t]his uniquely personal account of Briggs' secret war running agents out of Pak Se Operational Base late in the war is a valuable contribution to the history of this shadow conflict." This book "has a great many strengths"; however, "its occasional whininess ... wears thin.... He charges windmills with some regularity and his acerbic comments about the bureaucratic layers above him periodically grate the reader."

To Jordan, historynet.com, 29 Jul. 2010, this book "gives a rare and valuable glimpse into American involvement in the little publicized secret war in southern Laos, Military Region III.... [C]overt U.S. and Lao activities around the strategic Bolovens Plateau has been largely unreported.... The book is not without flaws. Redundancy and restatement of previously reported information could have been trimmed.... Similarly, the author seems to have concentrated a little too solely on his own role and mission." Nonetheless, this book "should be read, especially by the intelligence professionals dealing with the complex, multifaceted conflicts of the 21st century."

Burchett, Wilfred G. The Furtive War: The United States in Vietnam and Laos. New York: International Publishers, 1963.

Clark comment: The author was a pro-communist Australian journalist. As expected, the book portrays the war in Laos from a strongly anti-U.S., anti-CIA slant, a view not per se damning; but Burchett has the nasty habit of bending even well-established facts to fit his particular world view.

Burke, Terrence M. Stories from the Secret War: CIA Special Ops in Laos. Durango, CO: La Plata Books, 2012.

From "Prologue": "I played a role in th[e] drama [in Laos] from 1963 to 1965.... I have not attempted to make this a historical tome, but ... to place a face on those who lived, worked and sometimes died in an effort to keep a small landlocked kingdom free." Peake, Studies 57.4 (Dec. 2013), calls this "the tale of a genuine risk-taker who overcame a low tolerance for bureaucratic niggling and achieved high office [deputy administrator of DEA]."

Castle, Timothy N. At War in the Shadow of Vietnam: U.S. Military Aid to the Royal Lao Government, 1955-1975. New York: Columbia University, 1993.

Surveillant 3.4 suggests that this book "will undoubtedly be the standard work on U.S. covert activity in Laos." It is a "very complete and balanced account" and is "scholarly, well-researched and attractive[ly] written." Wirtz, I&NS 11.4, adds that Castle's "concise outline of the secret war in Laos ... makes a welcome addition to the history of the Vietnam War."

In the same vein, Ford, I&NS 10.2, finds that Castle's "extensive research and ... synthesis of an impressive amount of primary source material" helps to untangle "the web of American bureaucracy and politics." The author details "the evolution and management of US military involvement in Laos.... Meticulously researched and presented, this book provides a glimpse into the murky world of covert military and intelligence operations and fills a glaring gap in the history of the wars in Indochina."

Tovar, IJI&C 8.3 ("B. Hugh Tovar was the CIA's senior representative in Laos from September 1970 until May 1973."), sees At War in the Shadow of Vietnam as "the best documented book on the Laos war yet to appear. Concise and readable, it raises many issues of importance to an understanding of the Laos sector of the Indochina conflict. On certain of those issues, however, the author and I are in substantial disagreement."

Tovar describes one area of disagreement as Castle's adopting of the position of senior U.S. military officers about the management of the war. In particular, Tovar argues, the CIA station chief did not "control" air operations in Laos. The "only sector of air resources in Laos which can rightfully be described as controlled by CIA" was the war-related operations of the Air America and Continental Air Service contractors. In addition, the CIA's field units worked closely with -- but did not control -- the Air Force's Forward Air Controllers, the Raven FACs. Tovar relates how, clearly more frequently than he and the ambassador would have liked, the experience was more one of begging for what U.S. air support they believed was necessary.

For Tovar, a "major weakness in At War in the Shadow of Vietnam is its failure to give adequate treatment to the war in regions of Laos other than Military Region II." But he softens that criticism by noting the implication of the book's subtitle -- that it is not a "[s]trictly speaking ... a history of the war." Overall, this book "is a very good reconstruction of a complex and not readily intelligible piece of American history."

Castle, Timothy N. One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Clark comment: For more succinct versions, see James C. Linder, "The War in Laos: The Fall of Lima Site 85," Studies in Intelligence 38, no. 5 (1995): 79-88; and Richard V. Secord, "Tragedy Strikes Laos Site 85," Air Commando Journal 1, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 9-11.

Wirtz, IJI&C 12.4, notes that Site 85 "was an Air Force effort to conduct a clandestine operation deep in the enemy's rear that reflected the service's inexperience with this kind of activity.... Castle suggests ... that organizational imperatives, as much as the need to increase military effectiveness, drove the Air Force to deploy its radar in Laos." Regrettably, to the reviewer, Castle's "narrative deteriorates into a diatribe against incompetent officers..., bureaucratic inertia and obfuscation, and greedy Vietnamese and Laotian officials."

For De Groot, I&NS 16.1, the author tells "a fascinating story, but ... seems to have been carried away by its dramatic potential.... The book is impressively well researched, but in truth this often means that a good story gets smothered in unnecessary detail. A tale suited to a long article in a military history journal is transformed into an often tedious book of nearly 400 pages."

Leinbach, Air & Space Power Journal 22.1 (Spring 2008) finds that Castle "shows, in stark detail, that both Air Force leadership and the US ambassador to Laos bungled the evacuation [of the site], holding fast to the belief that evacuation was unnecessary even after the attack began."

Castle, Timothy N. "Operation MILLPOND: The Beginning of a Distant Covert War." Studies in Intelligence 59, no. 2 (Jun. 2015): 1-16. [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-59-no-2/pdfs/Castle-MILLPOND-June-2015.pdf]

"Operation MILLPOND,... a joint CIA-Pentagon plan to attack Soviet-supplied military stores and antigovernment forces in neutral Laos." was scheduled to begin the same week as the Bay of Pigs landing. "The plan included the use of Thailand-based B-26 bombers flown by CIA contractors.... [A]s the assault on Cuba faltered, the Laos airstrikes were abruptly canceled." However, "the presidentially-authorized preparations for Operation MILLPOND became the taproot" for later operations in Laos.

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