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May 23, 2015

Memorial Day: Dedicated To The U.S. Secret Army In the Kingdom of Laos 1961 – 1973

 

Arlington Memorial

Photo Courtesy of Charles F. Printz

In Memory of Legions Lost and the
Soldiers of the Secret War in Laos.

“ພຣະຣາຊອານາຈັກລາວ”


_______________________________________________________

We stand in tribute of forgotten men…for their sacrifice, courage
valor and honor. We honor them by this living memorial…starkly
beautiful in its simplicity, for it stands defiantly alone, as did those
soldiers in their seasons of death. It will serve as a poignant reminder
of our battlefield allies, and is a tribute long overdue to proud Human
endeavor…courage and valor in a long war lost in the unfulfilled hopes
for Southeast Asia.

As the fallen leaves of Autumn
in unregimented ranks,
Countless unrembered soldiers
rest…eternally.
Let us now praise forgotten men…
and some there be,
Which have no memorial;

Who have perished, as though
They had never been.
But they served, they died;
for cause and by happenstance…
Expended in the hopes for Southeast Asia,
and will forever be remembered,
Mourned for their sacrifice.If by weeping I could change
the course of events,
My tears would pour down ceaselessly
for a thousand Autumns.

Thursday, May 15, 1997
Salute to Lao/Hmong Patriots
& their American Advisors
Arlington National Cemetery

 _______________________________________________________

Dedicated to:
The U.S. Secret Army In the Kingdom of Laos 1961 – 1973
The story of this Memorial is a story of sacrifice and patriotic valor by American Advisors and Hmong and Lao combat soldiers in the jungles of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.HmongGeneralVangPao’s army, once considered among the best of U.S. allies, helped the Administrations of U.S. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon in the “secret” Lao Theater. The United States in its effort to combat communist insurgency in Laos, recruited, armed, and trained ethnic minorities. Advised by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),GeneralVangPao’s army of Hmong,Kmhmu, and Lao, gathered military intelligence, rescued downed U.S. air crews, protected U.S. Air Force navigational sites in Laos, and fought North Vietnamese General Vo NguyenGiap’s ever increasing forces to a standstill in Laos for a decade.When, after the fall of Laos, the communists took control, they launched a genocidal campaign to punish or eliminate those who allied with the United States, particularly those who had served in the U.S. Secret Army. Tens of thousands of Hmong escaped across the Mekong River to Thailand and refugee camps. From there, former soldiers and their families eventually were resettled in the United States. Once here, the Hmong adjustment proved difficult, but few Americans knew of their historical alliance with the U.S. adding to their resettlement problems.Because thecampaignswagedbyGeneralVangPaoandGeneralGiap were secret, most Americans knew little, if anything, of the secret war in Laos. Not until almost 20 years after falling to the communists did U.S. Government officials publicly admit the existence and role of the “U.S. Secret Army” in the “secret” Lao Theater of Operation of the Vietnam War. Appearing before Congress, in 1994, the Honorable William E. Colby, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, talked of the “heroism and effectiveness of the Hmong struggle” and the critical role and sacrifice of the Secret Army.In part, Colby said:”For 10 years,VangPao’s soldiers held the growing North Vietnamese forces toapproximatelythesamebattlelines they held in 1962. And significantly for Americans, the 70,000 North Vietnamese engaged in Laos were not available to add to the forces fighting Americans and South Vietnamese in South Vietnam.”After Ambassador Colby’s acknowledgment, a handful of Americans who knew well the Hmong alliance with the U.S. felt it timely to seek official U.S. recognition for the soldiers of the Secret Army and their American Advisors who died in Laos. Mr.Grant McClure, a former U.S. Army Advisor to the Montagnards, became the moving force behind the idea of a permanent Memorial at Arlington to nationally and publicly honor the uncommon sacrifices of the Secret Army. Mr. McClure’s efforts brought together in common cause former CIA Station Chiefs, Vietnam Veterans, Members of Congress, and others who served in civilian and military roles, as well asLieutenantColonelWangyeeVang, founder of Lao Veterans of America, Inc.Finally, after discussions with officials of the U.S. Government and the Lao Veterans of America, whose members number some 55,000 former soldiers and their families of the Secret Army, agreement on a Living Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was reached.On May 15, 1997, some 3,000 veterans of GeneralVang Pao’s army – Hmong and Lao – dressed in jungle camouflage fatigues, flight suits, nurses uniforms stood at attention on the Mall in Washington, D.C. near the Vietnam Wall. Facing them were current Members of Congress, former U.S. Ambassadors, and the CIA Station Chiefs under whom they had served during the time of the “secret war” in Laos. A Congressional citation was read. CIA Station Chiefs paid tribute to the extraordinary contributions of GeneralVang Pao and his brave forces in the fight for freedom in Southeast Asia and assisted in handing out the Vietnam Veterans National Medal.The next day, General Vang Pao and the remnants of his army, again wearing camouflage fatigues, assembled at Arlington National Cemetery. Six deep, they stood at attention for the dedication of the Memorial Monument – a small stone topped with a copper plaque, acknowledging the “secret war” in Laos – and the Hmong, Lao, and American Advisors who valiantly served freedom’s cause in the jungles of Southeast Asia and, in so doing, died in the Lao Theater in the Vietnam War. They will now be forever known and remembered.


Contributed in Loving Respect, September 1999 by Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt,
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Author of Tragic Mountains: The Hmong,
The Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos 1942 – 1992. 

http://www.tragicmountains.org/id16.html

_______________________________________________________

Dedicated To
The U.S. Secret Army In The Kingdom Of Laos 1961 – 1973

In Memory Of the Hmong And Lao Combat Veterans And Their American Advisors Who Served Freedom’s Cause In Southeast Asia.  Their Patriotic Valor And Loyalty In The Defense Of Liberty And Democracy Will Never Be Forgotten

YOV TSHU TXOG NEJ MUS IB TXHIS
LAOS VETERANS OF AMERICA
May 15, 1997

_______________________________________________________

Dedication Ceremony Poem by Dr. Grant McClure, Counterparts: In Memory of Legions Lost and the Soldiers of the Secret War in Laos.
_______________________________________________________

We stand in tribute of forgotten men…for their sacrifice, courage valor and honor. We honor them by this living memorial…starkly beautiful in its simplicity, for it stands defiantly alone, as did those soldiers in their seasons of death. It will serve as a poignant reminder of our battlefield allies, and is a tribute long overdue to proud Human endeavor…courage and valor in a long war lost in the unfulfilled hopes for Southeast Asia.

As the fallen leaves of Autumn in unregimented ranks, Countless unrembered soldiers rest…eternally.  Let us now praise forgotten men… and some there be, Which have no memorial; Who have perished, as though They had never been.
But they served, they died; for cause and by happenstance… Expended in the hopes for Southeast Asia, and will forever be remembered, Mourned for their sacrifice. If by weeping I could change the course of events,

My tears would pour down ceaselessly for a thousand Autumns.

Dr. Grant McClure

Thursday, May 15, 1997
Salute to Lao/Hmong Patriots
& their American Advisors
Arlington National Cemetery

May 23, 2015

Ceremony at Arlington honors Hmong

Ceremony at Arlington honors Hmong

Posted: Saturday, May 16, 2015 12:00 am

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. — The old Green Beret stood as erect as age would allow and remembered his lethal times in Laos.

Arrayed before 85-year-old John H. “Scotty” Crerar were Hmong veterans, come together from Fresno; Anchorage, Alaska; and Minneapolis, all the domestic places where a lost war had cast them. Crerar was their blood brother, one who helped train them and fought alongside them.

“We had good students,” Crerar said, “but the part that people forget is that the special forces were learning, too.”

A retired Army colonel with a storied career in special operations, Crerar joined other seasoned Army Special Forces veterans, young congressional staffers and colorfully bedecked Hmong men and women Friday morning in the shadow of an Atlas cedar tree. The Hmong mark May 14-15 as the time when, in 1975, North Vietnamese forces captured the key base used by the CIA and Hmong fighters.

The tree was planted in 1997, next to a small granite marker commemorating Hmong and Lao veterans. The Hmong men, some in suits and a dozen or so in incongruously new camouflage uniforms, and the others were marking a somber anniversary.

Forty years ago, North Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao forces finished off the Royal Lao Army. It was the end of the Kingdom of Laos and the start of what is now called the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The 1975 collapse in Laos scattered the Hmong people, who previously had been recruited by Army Special Forces and CIA operatives during the extended war in Southeast Asia. The Hmong had guarded secret bases and rescued downed U.S. airmen, and they made many sacrifices.

By some accounts, upward of 30,000 Hmong died during the secret war, and that does not tally the entire cost.

“Here,” Fresno resident Richard Xiong said through a translator Friday, pointing to his right shoulder, the site of an old war wound.

It came, he said, from an AK-47.

“Here,” former Clovis resident Pasert Lee said in English, pointing to his scalp. “Do you see the scar?”

Artillery, Lee explained.

Between 1961 and 1975, Xiong said, he served with artillery units fighting the communists. Now he is president of the Fresno-based Lao Veterans of America Institute, one of several nonprofit organizations that advocate on behalf of the Hmong community.

Lee said he enlisted to fight the communists on May 21, 1968. He now lives in Anchorage, where he likewise is president of a nonprofit organization aiding the Hmong. Both Lee and Xiong said they came Friday for the same reason.

“This is a celebration for all the veterans,” Xiong said.

Nationwide, there are more than a quarter of a million Hmong living in the United States, many congregated in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina and California’s San Joaquin Valley. Their geographic concentration and the power of their story have given them a little political clout, some of which was on display Friday.

Staffers from the offices of Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Costa, among others, participated in the roughly hourlong program at Arlington National Cemetery. Lawmakers themselves, though detained at the Capitol on Friday by unexpected House votes, already had paid their respects by introducing legislation this week on behalf of the Hmong.

Bills reintroduced by Costa and others in the House of Representatives and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and others in the Senate would authorize the burial of Hmong and Lao veterans in U.S. national cemeteries. The lawmakers previously have introduced similar bills; initially, Costa said, to honor the late Hmong military leader Vang Pao, who died in 2011.

On Friday, Vang Pao’s youngest son, Fresno resident Chi Neng Vang, represented the family at the Arlington cemetery commemoration. The 30-year-old, Southern California-born Vang represented, as well, the new generation who know of the parents’ war only through stories.

“We are here,” Vang said, “to pay our respects.”

April 17, 2015

May the force be with ANA’s awesome new ‘Star Wars’ airplane – CNN Philippines

May the force be with ANA’s awesome new ‘Star Wars’ airplane – CNN Philippines.

Related: New ‘Star Wars’ teaser trailer released

A rendering of All Nippon Airways' planned 'Star Wars'-themed

The icing on the geek cake?

To coincide with the release, Japan carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) has launched a five-year “Star Wars Project” that includes a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner painted with an R2-D2 livery, proving yet again that the astromech droid does indeed have the ability to take flight.

The Star Wars-themed plane is due to start flying international routes this fall, says the airline.

The “Star Wars Project” includes a special ANA website that plays the iconic theme song and features videos and photos of the plane.

The promotional tie-in comes ahead of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Due to hit theaters December 18, it’s likely to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year.

It’s the first film in the franchise to be released under Disney’s ownership.

The studio paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012.

World’s largest 787 fleet

ANA was the launch customer for the 787, which entered service in 2011.

With 34 Dreamliners, it currently operates the world’s largest 787 fleet.

The airline has an additional 49 787s on order, says manufacturer Boeing.

Late last month, Boeing announced ANA had finalized an order for three 787-10 Dreamliners, valued at approximately $900 million at list prices.

The order makes ANA the first airline in Asia to operate the entire family of 787 Dreamliners.

This was first published on CNN.com, “May the force be with ANA’s awesome new “Star Wars” airplane.”

April 3, 2015

Thailand – Known as the “dictator law”, article 44 of the interim constitution

Don’t let lifting of martial law fool you: junta’s slide towards dictatorship warrants stronger stances from the US, EU and Japan whose business and tourism it craves

| Thursday 2 April 2015

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/02/thailand-west-get-tough-prayuth-chan-ocha-junta-bangkok

Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends a Buddhist ceremony on Thursday.

Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends a Buddhist ceremony on Thursday. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

This week’s lifting of martial law by Thailand’s military ruler, Prayuth Chan-ocha, looks like a brazen attempt to dupe key overseas allies, notably the US, the EU and Japan, into believing the country is on a return path to democracy. The Bangkok junta, which seized power from an elected government last May, plainly hopes to persuade international investors, trading partners and foreign tourists that it is business as usual in Thailand.

The reality is very different. Within minutes of Wednesday’s announcement, the regime invoked article 44 of the interim constitution that was arbitrarily imposed last year. Known as the “dictator law”, it gives Prayuth the power to override any branch of government in the name of national security, and absolves him of any legal responsibility. In key respects, the scope for abuse is more threatening than martial law.

“General Prayuth’s activation of constitution section 44 will mark Thailand’s deepening descent into dictatorship,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Thailand’s friends abroad should not be fooled by this obvious sleight of hand … that effectively provides unlimited and unaccountable powers.” In particular, unlawful detentions of civilian opponents looked set to increase, he suggested.

The junta had detained hundreds of politicians, activists, journalists and others whom they accuse of supporting the deposed government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, disrespecting the monarchy or backing anti-coup protests, Human Rights Watch said. Military personnel have interrogated many of the detainees in secret military facilities without ensuring safeguards against mistreatment. Yingluck, meanwhile, has been banned from politics and faces criminal prosecution.

The junta has detained hundreds of people accused of supporting deposed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, pictured.

The junta has detained hundreds of people accused of supporting deposed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, pictured. Photograph: Wasawat Lukharang/NurPhoto/Rex

Prayuth is as much twerp as tyrant. His insistence on the incomparable virtues of “Thai-ness” and traditional core values, and his self-proclaimed mission to restore “happiness to the people”, have invited open ridicule, even though the media and institutions are closely controlled. After political gatherings of more than five people were banned last year, university students organised “sandwich parties” – in effect, lunchtime sit-ins. When the idea spread, Prayuth’s military detained the subversive snackers for “eating sandwiches with political intent”.

The former general, who now styles himself prime minister, heads the Orwellian-sounding National Council for Peace and Order. He claims he did not want the job of national overseer, and took it out of a sense of duty. But he is quick to threaten those who question his powers or conduct. Journalists who failed to report “the truth” could be executed, he warned this month. He was not joking.

Like tinpot dictators the world over, Prayuth’s timetable for holding elections keeps slipping. Polls were supposed to be held this year. Now they may happen next year, or later. Meanwhile, the junta, helped by an appointed advisory panel and legislature, is preparing a permanent constitution whose main purpose appears to be to permanently curtail parliamentary democracy and prevent the return of the Shinawatra clan, which has won every poll since 2001.

“The charter includes provision allowing a non-elected official to assume the role of prime minister in times of crisis. The dangers posed to freedom do not need to be spelled out when autocrats brush aside the fundamental principles of democracy in the name of ‘national emergency,’ ‘public order’ and ‘crisis measures’,” said commentator Aron Shaviv.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha after the army declared martial law in May 2014.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha after the army declared martial law in May 2014. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

“The charter also suggests the 200-member senate should be nominated, and not subject to any electoral process whatsoever. And to help promote this thoroughly anti-democratic measure, the junta has enlisted the judiciary, sullying the very bedrock of democracy.”

The prospect of Prayuth’s dictatorial rule being extended indefinitely is not one that is welcomed in Washington. A public row blew up in January when Daniel Russel, US assistant secretary of state, criticised the lack of democracy. But the Obama administration is conflicted. Thailand is an old and valued ally dating back to the Vietnam war era, which has cooperated on security and military issues, drug interdiction and people trafficking.

More to the point, the US does not want to leave the strategic field open to China in its expanding tussle with Beijing for advantage and influence in south-east Asia. Japan shares Washington’s concern. Its prime minister, Shinzō Abe, recently hosted Prayuth in Tokyo. Abe urged the restoration of civilian rule, but his focus was also on maintaining a strong bilateral business and trade relationship.

China has fewer scruples. “A month after the coup, China assured Bangkok that it would continue to support Thailand’s development and hosted a delegation of senior Thai military officials in Beijing,” said Felix Chang, a Foreign Policy Research Institute analyst.

“More importantly, China won approval for a new railway that will connect Kunming and Bangkok through north-eastern Thailand. Once completed, that railway will tie Thailand’s economy (and interests) more closely to China … In February, Prayuth agreed to strengthen military ties with China,” Chang said.

The EU also has considerable leverage with Bangkok but, like Washington, has failed so far to exert behaviour-changing pressure. EU foreign ministers condemned the coup last June, suspended some official visits, and promised to keep the situation under review.

Prayuth’s regime badly needs European business and tourism, hence this week’s cosmetic and misleading announcement on martial law. As Bangkok’s third-largest trading partner and second biggest investor, the EU, acting with Washington and Tokyo, must quickly decide whether Thailand’s dismaying slide towards institutionalised dictatorship warrants a tougher stance. The answer is fairly obvious.

March 31, 2015

The Royal Lao Government never uses Ho Chi Minh Trail for transport weaponry

Boonton woman looking for MIAs, unexploded bombs in Laos

Lorraine Ash, @LorraineVAsh 5:55 p.m. EDT March 30, 2015

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.dailyrecord.com/story/news/local/2015/03/29/boonton-woman-looking-mias-unexploded-bombs-laos/70559216/

Gutbrod_2_hi-res.jpg (Photo: Photo courtesy of Eric Gutbrod).  U.S. Army Spc. Laura Gutbrod of Boonton is on a 35-day mission to southern Laos, part of a 20-person team looking for unexploded ordinance and any evidence of MIAs from the Vietnam War.

Her Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) recovery team is going over the same terrain U.S. forces bombed or traversed 50 years ago.

“Even finding one piece of tiny bone means something,” Gutbrod said in a telephone interview with the Daily Record.

American remains are transferred to an official laboratory in Hawaii for identification by forensic anthropologists, according to the DPAA, which was activated Jan. 30 and dispatches 23 such teams at sites all over the world where Americans have fought and fallen.

“They run a DNA test,” Gutbrod explained. “Once they find a match, they’re able to cross that person’s name off an MIA list, and call the family, because that person is considered found. That way, the family knows their family member passed away.”

She called the work rewarding and an example of the military pledge to leave no soldier behind.

“It’s something that I never expected I’d be able to do in a place I never expected to be,” said Gutbrod, who is stationed with the 25th Infantry Division at the Schofield Barracks in Honolulu.

Until April 9, however, her team, and two others, are sharing a makeshift 60-tent base camp at 9,000 feet, some two hours outside the city of Pakse and 17 miles away from the recovery site they’re working. Each day, she said, they fly by helicopter into the mountains and land at about 18,000 feet, after which they hike down 3,000 feet to the site.

The hiking is intense, she said, especially since the real-feel temperature in Laos is about 105 degrees this time of year.

“It is hot as can be here. There are mountains everywhere,” said Gutbrod, who is digging and working the team’s radio communications.

Presently, Laos is not in its rainy season, which runs, according to travelfish.org, from May to October.

At this time, the 23 American recovery teams, which use standard archaeology methods, include one underwater and one mountaineering team, according to Maj. Natasha Waggoner of the DPAA. Personnel on each team can include a forensic anthropologist, team leader and sergeant, linguist, medic, life support technician, communications technician, forensic photographer, explosive ordnance disposal technician, and mortuary affairs specialists.

Accounting missions began in January 1973, long before the accounting agency came into being, Waggoner said. Over the years, they’ve identified 1,983 MIAs. Currently, Gutbrod’s team is one of 16 teams conducting operations in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea as well as Vanuatu and Palau, the latter two being island nations in the Pacific Ocean.

As of now, there are 302 missing Americans in Laos, 1,269 in Vietnam, and 51 in Cambodia, according to the DPAA. An American POW/MIA investigator, stationed full time in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, pursues leads. The investigator has interviewed some 80 Vietnamese witnesses with helpful information, and, for 10 years, combed through pictures, videos, and other documents concerning U.S. POWs and aircraft wreckages in Lao archives.

“We offer a special thanks to all the governments whose efforts and dedication have enabled DPAA to further progress in achieving the fullest possible accounting of our missing,” Waggoner said. “We rely heavily on those cooperative relationships.”

According to Gutbrod, Lao government representatives are with her team whenever it goes to its recovery site.

“They’re there to survey,” she said, “just to make sure that we’re not doing something we’re not supposed to be doing here.”

When her team found a live 500-pound, cylinder-shaped American cluster bomb, partially above the surface of the ground, its explosive ordnance technicians roped off the area.

“A couple of days later, Lao officials came and took care of it,” she said.

Several search accounts of the Laos landscape reveal a 250- or 500-pound UXO (unexploded ordinance) can be destroyed onsite, but anything larger must be moved before detonation so it does not impact any nearby villages.

From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions, according to Legacies of War, a U.S.-based educational and advocacy organization devoted to addressing the impact of the Vietnam War-era on Laos.

At the time, the Americans were trying to cut off traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used by both sides during the war to transport weaponry, and support the Royal Lao Government against the ultimately triumphant Communist Pathet Lao.

Legacies of War reports 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War. Up to 80 million never detonated, leaving the country even today with a dangerous landscape that makes the cultivation of farmland nigh on impossible. Since the war, some 20,000 people have been killed or hurt by unexploded ordnance.

For nine years, the U.S. spent $13.3 million per day (in 2013 dollars) bombing Laos, according to Legacies of War. Between 1995 and 2013, it spent $3.2 million per year clearing unexploded ordinance.

The mission in Laos is the first for Gutbrod, who joined the military for practical and inspirational reasons. Joining provides steady work in an economy where that’s hard to come by, she said, but she also feels like she’s carrying on a family tradition.

Her cousin served in the Navy, she said, and an uncle recently retired from the Air Force. But she joined the Army because of her grandfather—John Gutbrod, 93, of Surf City, an Army veteran.

“My grandfather actually jumped on D-Day,” she said. “He spent most of his time in World War II throughout France and parts of Italy. After hearing all the stories he told me throughout the years, going into the Army seemed like something worthwhile to me.”

This summer, Gutbrod said, she’ll visit her family in Boonton for the first time in three years. She hasn’t seen a family member in a year.

My grandfather taught me that you can go through hell and back again,” she said, “but family is always there.”

Lorraine Ash: 973-428-6660; lash@njpressmedia.com

 

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