North Vietnamese invasion of Laos

North Vietnam supported the Pathet Lao to fight against the Kingdom of Laos between 1958–1959. Control over Laos allowed for the eventual construction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that would serve as the main supply route (MSR) for enhanced NLF (the National Liberation Front, the Vietcong) and NVA (North Vietnamese Army) activities in the Republic of Vietnam. As such, the support for Pathet Lao to fight against Kingdom of Laos by North Vietnam would prove decisive in the eventual communist victory over South Vietnam in 1975 as the South Vietnamese and American forces could have prevented any NVA and NLF deployment and resupply if these only happened over the 17th Parallel, also known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a narrow strip of land between North and South Vietnam that was closely guarded by both sides. It also helped the Pathet Lao win the Kingdom of Laos, although the Kingdom of Laos had American support.

Prelude to conflict

Souvanna Phouma announced that, with the holding of elections, the Royal Lao Government had fulfilled the political obligations it had assumed at Geneva, and the International Control Commission (ICC) adjourned sine die. Phoui, less scrupulous about preserving Laos's neutrality than his predecessor, angered Moscow and Hanoi by admitting diplomats from Taipei and Saigon.

The Soviet Union and North Vietnam, already upset by the departure of the ICC, which they had seen as a restraining influence, protested. The United States worked out an agreement with France that reduced the role of the French military mission and enlarged that of the Programs Evaluation Office, which embarked on a major strengthening of its staff and functions.

Occupation of Lao villages by North Vietnam and Pathet Lao (December 1958)

The occupation in December 1958 by North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao security forces of several villages in Tchepone District near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North Vietnam and South Vietnam was an ominous development. The Laos government immediately protested the flying of the North Vietnamese flag on Laotian territory. Hanoi claimed the villages had historically been part of Vietnam.

With regard to precedent, this was a decidedly modest claim - nonetheless, it represented a unilateral reinterpretation of the French map used by the Truong Gia Armistice Commission in the summer of 1954 to draw the DMZ, and, backed by force of arms, constituted nothing less than aggression. Phoui received extraordinary powers from the National Assembly to deal with the crisis. But the failure to regain their lost territory rankled the Laotian nationalists, who were hoping for a greater degree of United States assistance.

The Ho Chi Minh trail from the very beginning was using Vietnamese and Laotian people as seen in a captured Vietcong's photo, circa 1959

One of Washington's major preoccupations was the danger that the Royal Lao Army would integrate the Pathet Lao troops without the safeguard of "screening and reindoctrinating" them. The embassy was instructed to tell the government that it would be difficult to obtain congressional approval of aid to Laos with communists in the Royal Lao Army. Before the final integration of 1,500 Pathet Lao troops (two battalions) into the Royal Lao Army could take place as planned in May 1959, the Pathet Lao used a quibble about officer ranks to delay the final ceremony.

As monsoon rains swept over the Plain of Jars one night, one of the two battalions slipped away, followed soon after by the other, near Louangphrabang. The event signaled a resumption of hostilities. In July, Phoui's government, after protracted cabinet deliberations, ordered the arrest of the LPF deputies in Vientiane--Souphanouvong, Nouhak, Phoumi Vongvichit, Phoun Sipaseut, Sithon Kommadan, Singkapo, and others. Tiao Souk Vongsak evaded arrest.

North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao attack (1959)

The Ho Chi Minh Trail running through Laos, 1967.

Fighting broke out all along the border with North Vietnam. North Vietnamese Army regular units participated in attacks on July 28–31, 1959. These operations established a pattern of North Vietnamese forces leading the attack on a strong point, then falling back and letting the Pathet Lao remain in place once resistance to the advance had been broken. The tactic had the advantage of concealing the North Vietnamese presence from view.

Rumors of North Vietnamese in the vicinity often had a terrifying effect. Among the men who heard such rumors in the mountains of Houaphan Province that summer was a young Royal Lao Army captain named Kong Le. Kong Le had two companies of the Second Paratroop Battalion out on patrol almost on the North Vietnamese border. When they returned to Xam Nua without encountering the enemy, they found that the garrison had decamped, leaving the town undefended.

Direct North Vietnamese involvement in Laos began taking another form wherein aggression was difficult to prove. Two months after the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina, the North Vietnamese established a small support group known as Group 100, on the Thanh Hoa-Houaphan border at Ban Namèo. This unit provided logistical and other support to Pathet Lao forces.

In view of the reversion to a fighting strategy, the North Vietnamese and Lao parties decided to establish an upgraded unit. The new unit, known as Group 959, headquartered at Na Kai, just inside the Houaphan border, began operating in September 1959. Its establishment coincided with a major effort to expand the hitherto small Pathet Lao forces.

According to an official history published after the war, its mission was "serving as specialists for the Military Commission and Supreme Command of the Lao People's Liberation Army, and organizing the supplying of Vietnamese matériel to the Laotian revolution and directly commanding the Vietnamese volunteer units operating in Sam Neua, Xiangkhouang, and Vientiane." These actions were in violation of the obligation Ho Chi Minh's government had assumed as a participant in the 1954 Geneva Conference to refrain from any interference in the internal affairs of Laos.

The Vietnamese party's strategy was by now decided with regard to South Vietnam. At the same time, the party outlined a role for the LPP that was supportive of North Vietnam, in addition to the LPP's role as leader of the revolution in Laos. Hanoi's southern strategy opened the first tracks through the extremely rugged terrain of Xépôn district in mid-1959 of what was to become the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Phetsarath and Sisavang Vong, viceroy and king, died within two weeks of each other in October 1959.

See also


Further reading

1959 in Laos

The following lists events that happened during 1959 in Laos.

Albert Santoli

Albert "Al" Santoli is an American writer and Founder as well as President of the Asia America Initiative. He served in combat as a rifleman for the 25th Infantry Division in Dau Tieng. He is currently an adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics and teaches a course on "Counterterrorism through Cultural Engagement and Development."

Cherzong Vang

Cherzong Vang (April 13, 1943 – November 10, 2012) was an Asian-American and Hmong-American community leader from St. Paul, Minnesota. He was an elder of the Hmong people in Laos and the Lao-American community in the Twin Cities of the United States.Cherzong worked with students, including many Hmong-American students, in the St. Paul, Minnesota school system, whose parents came to the United States in the 1970s, 80s and 90s as political refugees fleeing persecution by the Pathet Lao government in Laos.

Hmong Americans

Hmong Americans are Americans of Hmong or Miao descent from China, Southeast Asia, most notably from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Hmong Americans are one group of Asian Americans. Many Laotian Hmong war refugees resettled in the US following the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos and Laotian Civil War during the Vietnam War. Following the Vietnam People's Army invasion and take over of the Royal Kingdom of Laos, beginning in December 1975, the first Laotian Hmong refugees arrived in the US, mainly from refugee camps along the Mekong river in Thailand. Thousands of Laotian Hmong fled persecution, human rights violations, military attacks, ethnic cleansing, and religious freedom violations, at the hands of Marxist and communist forces, including those of the Lao People's Army. However, despite the tens of thousands of Hmong people persecuted and killed, only approximately 3,466 were reportedly granted asylum as official refugees at this time under the Refugee Assistance Act of 1975.

J. Vinton Lawrence

J. Vinton "Vint" Lawrence (June 25, 1939 – April 9, 2016) was an artist and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary officer from their elite Special Activities Division. Under the name of "James Vinton", he was stationed in Laos from 1962 to 1966 and had a close relationship with the Hmong leader Vang Pao in the U.S. war in Southeast Asia. Lawrence's CIA colleague in Laos was the CIA paramilitary expert Anthony Poshepny (aka "Tony Poe").Lawrence was married to National Public Radio reporter Anne Garrels. His letters to her during her time in Baghdad, Iraq, during the 2003 U.S. invasion of that country, are included in her book, Naked in Baghdad (ISBN 0-374-52903-5). He toured with her and shared the podium with her during her book readings. He and his wife received an AudioFile Earphones Award for their narration. An artist by profession, he occasionally wrote about U.S. foreign policy issues. As an illustrator and caricaturist he was regularly employed by The New Republic and The Washington Post. He died on April 9, 2016.Lawrence was the great-grandson of Charles A. Coffin, cofounder and first president of General Electric corporation.

Jane Hamilton-Merritt

Jane Hamilton-Merritt (born Mary Jane LaRowe, 1937), in Noble County, Indiana is a retired college professor, photojournalist, author, and animal rights and animal husbandry advocate. She resides in Redding, Connecticut. In 1999, she was inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Some of her work has focused on breeding and raising Llamas and Alpaca.

Kingdom of Champasak

The Kingdom of Champasak (Lao: ຈຳປາສັກ [càmpàːsák]) or Bassac, (1713–1946) was a Lao kingdom under Nokasad, a grandson of King Sourigna Vongsa, the last king of Lan Xang; and son-in-law of the Cambodian King Chey Chettha IV. Bassac and the neighboring principalities of Attapeu and Stung Treng, emerged as power centers under what was later to be described as the Mandala Southeast Asian political model.

Kingdom of Laos

The Kingdom of Laos was a constitutional monarchy that ruled Laos beginning with its independence on 9 November 1953. The monarchy survived until December 1975, when its last king, Savang Vatthana, surrendered the throne to the Pathet Lao, who abolished the monarchy in favor of a Marxist state called the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which has controlled Laos since.Given self-rule with the new Constitution in 1947 as part of a federation with the rest of French Indochina, the 1953 Franco-Lao Treaty finally established a sovereign, independent Laos, but did not stipulate who would rule the country. In the years that followed, three groups led by the so-called Three Princes, contended for power: the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right-wing party under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing, North Vietnamese-backed Lao Patriotic Front (now called the Pathet Lao) under Prince Souphanouvong and future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane.

Kingdom of Luang Phrabang

The Kingdom of Luang Phrabang was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. When The kingdom split, Muang Phuan became a tributary state of Luang Prabang. Then as the years passed, the monarchy weakened even more, that it was forced to pay tribute at various times to the Burmese and the Siamese. After a particularly destructive attack by the Black Flag Army in 1887, the kingdom chose to accept French protection.

Kingdom of Vientiane

Kingdom of Vientiane was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. The kingdom was a Burmese vassal from 1765 to 1778. It then became a Siamese vassal until 1828 when it was annexed by Siam.

Lao Human Rights Council

The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. (LHRC) is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental (NGO) refugee and human rights organization. It is based nationally, and internationally, with chapters in Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. researches, and provides information and education regarding the plight of Laotian and Hmong people, and refugees persecuted in Laos, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Thailand.

It was founded by Dr. Pozbeb Vang, Vang Pobzeb of Greenbay Wisconsin.

The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. is currently headed by Vaughn Vang, an educator, and former political refugee from the Royal Kingdom of Laos, who is a Hmong-American—and who was born, and grew up, in Laos prior to the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos and Marxist takeover in 1975.

Lao Issara

The Lao Issara (“Free Laos”) was an anti-French, non-communist nationalist movement formed on October 12, 1945 by Prince Phetsarath. This short-lived movement emerged after the Japanese defeat in World War II and became the government of Laos before the return of the French. It aimed to prevent the French from restoring their control over Laos. The group disbanded in 1949.

Lao Veterans of America Institute

The Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI) is a national non-profit organization based in Fresno, and the Central Valley, of California, with chapters throughout California. It is one of the largest ethnic Lao- and Hmong-American veterans organizations representing tens of thousands of Lao Hmong veterans who served in the Vietnam War in the Royal Kingdom of Laos as well as their refugee families who were resettled in the United States after the conflict.The Lao Veterans of America Institute was founded in California in the early 1990s by Col. Wangyee Vang, PhD., a Hmong-American community leader, Vietnam War veteran, and former Colonel in the U.S. "Secret Army" and Royal Lao Army in the Kingdom of Laos.

Lee Lue

Major Lee Lue (1935 – 12 July 1969) was a Laotian Hmong fighter bomber pilot notable for flying more combat missions than any other pilot in the Kingdom of Laos. Lee Lue flew continuously, as many as 10 missions a day and averaging 120 combat missions a month to build a total of more than 5,000 sorties. Lee Lue was the leader of the special group of Hmong pilots flying T-28Ds from Long Tieng against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese positions. The group was funded by the CIA and was part of the regular Royal Lao Air Force, but took orders directly from MR2 Commander Gen. Vang Pao. He was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and killed over Laos near Muang Soui on 12 July 1969. At the time of his death, he had flown more combat missions than any pilot in history.A motto attributed to him was "Fly 'til you die."

He was posthumously promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Military history of Vietnam

Army and warfare made their first appearance in Vietnamese history during the 3rd millennium BC. Throughout thousands of years, wars played a great role in shaping the identity and culture of people inhabited the land which is modern day Vietnam. Along with Myanmar, and a lesser extent, Thailand, Vietnam is regarded as one of the most militaristic countries in Southeast Asia. There is even a higher level belief Vietnam might be the most militaristic nation in Southeast Asia, and one of Asia and the world's most militaristic countries.

The military history of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam began when Japan invaded French Indochina and soon defeated the French resistance. Since then, Vietnam has fought in many conflicts in Indochina.

Project 404

Project 404 was the code name for a covert United States Air Force advisory mission to Laos during the later years of the Second Indochina War, which would eventually become known in the United States as the Vietnam War. The purpose of the mission was to supply the line crew technicians needed to support and train the Royal Laotian Air Force, while Raven Forward Air Controllers were brought in to supply piloting expertise and guidance for running a tactical air force. The two programs together comprised Palace Dog.

Project 404 began in 1966, as a successor after the completion of Operation White Star, was smaller in scope, and was an adjunct to the various covert ground operations succeeding White Star. Because Laos was ostensibly a neutral party to the conflict between the United States and North Vietnam, the airmen did not wear United States Air Force uniforms, but instead worked in civilian clothing.

Royal Lao Army

The Royal Lao Army (French: Armée royale du Laos – ARL), also designated by its anglicized title RLA, was the Land Component of the Royal Lao Armed Forces (FAR), the official military of the Kingdom of Laos during the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos and the Laotian Civil War between 1960 and 1975.

Sang Kittarath

General Sang Kittirath was a prominent military leader during the Laotian Civil War in the Kingdom of Laos. Between January 1955 and January 1965, he was successively the commander of Military Region 2 and head of the Ground Forces Command. His performance as commander of the losing side at the Battle of Lak Sao in early 1964, plus the loss of support from its political patron Major-General Phoumi Nosavan, led to Sang's resignation from command.

Vang Sue

Major Vang Sue (Su, Seu) (also transliterated as Vaj Xwm) (January 30, 1945 – October 18, 1972) was a Laotian Hmong fighter pilot. Recipient of the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew over 4,000 combat missions as a T-28 bomber pilot. Vang trained briefly with Hmong fighter ace Lee Lue before Lee was shot down and became General Vang Pao's preeminent pilot after Lee's death. He frequently flew 15 days consecutively, and often as much as 15 sorties in a day. Renowned for his daring and bombing accuracy, Vang was shot down by anti-aircraft guns and killed in October 18, 1972.

Military engagements of the Laotian Civil War
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