CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Laos

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Shackley, Theodore, and Richard A. Finney. Spymaster: My Life in the CIA. Dulles, VA: Potomac, 2005.

Theodore (Ted) G. Shackley, retired CIA Associate Deputy Director for Operations, died on 9 December 2002 at the age of 75. He was a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. J.Y. Smith, "Theodore Shackley Dies; Celebrated CIA Agent," Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2002, B8.

Peake, CIRA Newsletter 30.4 (Winter 2005) and Studies 49.4 (2005), notes that Shackley comments "selectively on various aspects of his career.... For those who expected a more expansive tale of clandestine operations, Spymaster may be something of a disappointment. On the other hand, what Ted Shackley was able to give us is extremely valuable -- a first hand account with lessons for all."

For Schecter, I&NS 20.4 (Dec. 2005), "Shackley's first-person account is rich in remarkable detail.... They take CIA memoirs to a new level of specificity and revelation of tradecraft that makes for fascinating, and at times hilarious and bizarre reading." Huck, Periscope (Summer 2006), feels that much was left out of this work, first by Shackley's death (not to denigrate the "tireless and faithful" work of Richard Finney to complete the book) and by the publisher's requirement that the manuscript be reduced in length.

Shaughnessy, Larry. "Air Force Hero's Actions in Laos Finally Recognized After 42 Years." CNN, 3 Sep. 2010. [http://www.cnn.com]

The White House announced on 3 September 2010 that "President Obama will award the Medal of Honor ... to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger for his valor in saving the lives of three wounded comrades at a then-secret base [Lima Site 85] in Laos in [March] 1968.... After Etchberger saved his fellow airmen, he was shot and killed by enemy fighters. His heroics were kept a secret for years because the United States wasn't supposed to have troops in Laos during the Vietnam War.... The ceremony for Etchberger, which will include his three sons, is scheduled for September 21 at the White House."

On Lima Site 85 see Timothy N. Castle, One Day Too Long (1999); and, for a more succinct version, James C. Linder, "The War in Laos: The Fall of Lima Site 85," Studies in Intelligence 38, no. 5 (1995): 79-88.

Stevenson, Charles. The End of Nowhere: American Policy Toward Laos Since 1954. Boston: Beacon, 1972.

Stockinger, Edwin. "Five Weeks at Phalane." Studies in Intelligence 17, no. 1 (Spring 1973): 11-19.

Laotian paramilitary units fight North Vietnamese regulars for Muang Phalane in 1971.

Tovar, B. Hugh.

1. "Chronicle of a Secret War." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 8, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 245-254.

Tovar was the CIA's senior representative in Laos from September 1970 until May 1973. This is a "Review and Commentary" article on Jane Hamilton-Merritt's Tragic Mountains, and warrants reading on its own merits.

2. "Managing the Secret War in Laos." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 8, no. 3 (Fall 1995): 367-378.

This is a "Review and Commentary" article on Timothy Castle's At War in the Shadow of Vietnam, and should be consulted to balance some of Castle's presentation.

Trest, Warren A. Air Commando One: Heinie Aderholt and America's Secret Air Wars. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

Clark comment: Aderholt was an Air Force officer who worked closely with the CIA in support of covert operations in the 1950s and 1960s, including in Tibet and Laos. Searle, Aerospace Power Journal (Winter 2000), says that the author "has written a good book about a great airman. Harry C. Aderholt is one of the legends of Air Force special operations, and Trest tells us why." The author "tries to address the traditional conflict between the 'Big Blue Air Force' and the Air Force special operations community." He "does this mainly through Aderholt's conflict with Gen William W. Momyer [Commander/Tactical Air Command] in Vietnam."

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Air America: Upholding the Airmen's Bond, at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/historical-collection-publications/air-america/03431_Pub.pdf.

"Overview": "A fascinating assembly of documents revealing the role that Air America, the Agency's proprietary airline, played in the search and rescue of pilots and personnel during the Vietnam War. The collection has personal accounts by the rescued pilots and thank you letters as well as commendations from various officials. It includes, for the first time, direct information about Lima Site 85 in Laos and a possible hijacking attempt in the 1964 crash of Flight 908. Other elements include the airline's role in the final evacuations from Da Nang and Saigon in April, 1975."

See Jeff Carlton, "CIA Documents Shine Light on Secretive Air America," Associated Press, 15 Apr. 2009, for a report on the 18 April 2009 symposium ("Air America: Upholding the Airmen's Bond.") at the University of Texas at Dallas at which these documents were released.

See also, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Stories of Sacrifice and Dedication: Civil Air Transport, Air America and the CIA and CIA's Clandestine Services Histories of Civil Air Transport.

Usowski, Peter S. "Intelligence Estimates and U.S. Policy toward Laos, 1960-63." Intelligence and National Security 6, no. 2 (Apr. 1991): 367-394.

"On the whole, the assessments, judgements, and forecasts contained in the estimates were clear, well-founded, reliable, and, for the most part, accurate.... The available record shows that during Kennedy's three years of dealing with Laos the impact of intelligence estimates on major decisions was limited.... In specific policy areas, however, the CIA's assessments were influential."

Warner, Roger.

1. Back Fire: The CIA's Secret War in Laos and Its Link to the War in Vietnam. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

According to Uhl, WPNWE, 16-22 Oct. 1995, Back Fire is "a useful, if somewhat anecdotal, contribution to the literature on the U.S. 'secret war' in Laos, which is rooted substantially in the recollections of former CIA operatives who were there.... Warner's extensive profiles of many of the agency's old hands in Laos reveal them to have been idealists ... [who] imagined they could beat the Communists at their own game by winning hearts and minds."

Surveillant 4.3 recommends Back Fire, noting that "Warner shows how the secret war in Laos was connected to Vietnam, and how Vietnam was central to the shifting alliances of Cold War geopolitical rivals." McGehee (from alt.politics.org.cia), comments that Back Fire shows "the inside of this major covert operation, describe[s] the varied CIA personnel involved and to some extent detail[s] the consequences of the secret operations of the CIA."

To Finney, WIR 14.6, this book "is easy to read and well cushioned with personality sketches, photographs, and some useful maps.... As an engagingly superficial account of the Laos war, Back Fire has its good points. For a serious account of the entire war, the reader would do better with Kenneth Conboy's Shadow War."

2. Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos. South Royalton, VT: Steerforth Press, 1996. [pb]

Tovar, CIRA Newsletter 22.2, notes that this is a "slightly modified version" of Back Fire. Warner's book is "highly readable," but "reiterates old charges made by other writers." In particular, the "depiction of [Ted] Shackley follows the David Corn stereotype, but is less vicious.... There seems to be an underlying assumption ... that Ted Shackley was a power unto himself in Laos. That is not so.... There is no way the chief of station could have controlled the course of events without the ambassador's full concurrence and without Washington's endorsement." The author's "coverage of the ground war in 1970-1972 is weak.... On the war in south Laos, his coverage is sound but skimpy." A similar review by Tovar appears in IJI&C 10.3.

For Prados, Journal of Conflict Studies 18.1 (Spring 1998), this work "is a skillfully woven and nicely executed history of an important part of America's war in Southeast Asia.  Its principal weaknesses are two.  First, the Hmong secret army is treated as almost the totality of the Laotian struggle....  Second, the Hmong operation itself is presented in a unidimensional way, as if the paramilitary project were simply a matter of CIA mobilization and requisite money and weapons."

Wetterhahn, Ralph. "Ravens of Long Tieng." Air & Space/Smithsonian, Oct.-Nov. 1998. [http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/ravens.html]

Long Tieng was in the north central highlands of Laos, and served as Hmong leader Vang Pao's headquarters from 1962. It was also a Lima Site from which U.S. Air Force forward air controllers (known by the radio callsign of Ravens) flew in support of the covert war in Laos. The article includes some oral history (reminiscences) by former Ravens, which makes it worth a read.

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