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Armee Clandestine

The Laotian Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU) were allies of the United States working side by side with USforces in Vietnam from 1961 to 1975. The SGU were recruited and fought under the direction of the US CIA and US Special Forces. Many of them helped to block enemy forces on the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail as well as assisting in the calling in of tactical and strategic air strikes and several downed pilot rescue missions. After US Forces left South East Asia, many of these soldiers fought for years.

The Armee Clandestine of General Vang Pao was a 20,000 man force of minorities of the northeast, which was supported by the CIA and fought bravely in defense of their mountainous homeland. Colonel (later Major General) Vang Pao, an officer of the Royal Lao Army (FAR) who was also a Meo tribal leader and an able guerrillachieftain. Vang Pao had participated in French-organized guerrilla operations during the first Indochina war and had impressive leadership qualities.

Major General Vang Pao fought alongside the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam war. He died Thursday, 06 January 2011. General Pao was born December 8, 1929 in the Xiangkhuang Province of northeastern Laos. He worked as a farmer in Laos until Japanese forces occupied the region as part of the French Indo-China War. During the conflict he fought alongside fellow Laotians to protect his country against the Japanese invasion.

Following the war, Vang Pao continued to serve in the army of the Kingdom of Laos under the King of Laos. General Pao received the honored title of Phagna Norapramok, roughly translated as ``Lord Protector of the Country'' from the last King of Laos, King Savang Vatthana.

During the 1960s and 1970s, General Pao led the Secret Army, during the Secret War, where they fought against the Pathlet Lao and the People's Army of Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism into Southeast Asia. General Pao commanded the Military Region Two where he successfully fought to prevent the capture of this region by the communist forces of the North Vietnamese Army. Additionally, he was an ally of the Central Intelligence Agency and organized 39,000 guerrilla warriors to aid downed American pilots and defend American outposts from the enemy.

Gradually, the number of tribal irregulars built up to about 30,000,of whom about half were organized into some 30 full-time battalions. Although managed largely by CIA, the program received a major contribution from AID. "Refugee relief," for example, was an AID-sponsored program fully integrated with the tribal effort, which sustained the families of the guerrillas and thereby provided a reassurance essential to morale; AID's medical assistance program was a similar, vital service to the irregular forces. AID also conducted educational and minor development programs that buttressed the appeal of Vang Pao to his people.

On March 27, 1975, North Vietnamese-Pathet Lao forces launched a strong attack against Vang Pao's Hmong defenders. The attackers rapidly captured the Sala Phou Khoun road junction and then drove south along Route 13 as far as Muang Kasi. Souvanna Phouma, wishing to avoid bloodshed, ordered Vang Pao only to defend himself and refused to allow air strikes in his support. The Pathet Lao singled out the Hmong as enemies to be shown no quarter. Pathet Lao radiobroadcasts spoke of "wiping out" these special forces who had stood in their way for fifteen years.

Realizing that the Hmong were being abandoned and the penalty they faced if left to the mercy of the Pathet Lao, Vang Pao requested evacuation for his soldiers and their families to safe haven in Thailand. The CIA station at Udon Thani offered to evacuate families of key officers. Vang Pao requested an airlift for 5,000. Facing an ultimatum, Vang Pao and twelve Hmong leaders signed a treaty on May 10 reminding the United States of the pledges made to them and agreeing to leave Laos and never return. In the next days a motley collection of planes piloted by United States volunteers, Hmong, and Lao flew out a few hundred Hmong. Vang Pao himself left on May 14, eluding the T-28s at Vientiane.

After the war, General Pao emigrated to the United States in May of 1975. He actively worked to ensure the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Hmong and Lao immigrants in America and to ensure equal rights for them. Additionally he worked to help facilitate U.S.-Lao relationships and helped the Hmong community embrace their new identity as Hmong-Americans.

General Vang Pao dedicated his life to fight for freedom and democratic rights for all Southeast Asians. He relentlessly worked to improve the Hmong community and the world around him. General Vang Pao's legacy will not only be his leadership and accomplishments, but first and foremost, his service to his country and community.

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Page last modified: 08-06-2012 14:42:44 ZULU