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The Secret War (Fall 2012)

            In my whole school career never had I heard a teacher use more than one day of teaching on the Hmong people even though the schools I grew up in had a good amount students of this group. As years passed I did my own research and found that there wasn't much information about the Hmong people or also known as the "secret army" (which is probably why I couldn't find anything). At first I did not understand why the Lao Government was persecuting the Hmong people: I only knew it was because they assisted the CIA, but for the CIA’s reason I didn't know either. It was because of the Vietnam War with the purposes to spread communism into Southeast Asia which was the main historical forces. There was much replica of tension between the democracy of the U.S. and the communist party of the Soviet Union. Even after World War 2 the Soviets felt unjustified because they lost the most people as a result to the World Wars whether it were soldiers or citizens and believed that it was intentional so the communist party cannot dominate. "The Hmong was urged to join the fight against the thousands of North Vietnamese Army soldiers invading the small country of 3 million people. Neither the US nor the Royal Lao had the ability to stop this well trained army from North Vietnam, supplied by the Soviets and with many Soviet military advisors" (Whitehouse). To keep them from spreading, the U.S. got involved by assuring "that the US would not run out on them as did the French" (Whitehouse). After Colonel Billy from the CIA and also the representative of the U.S. came to Thailand to gain support from the Hmong people, it was then that General Vang Pao (one of the most influential Hmong Leaders in history) ranked up as a military leader in the Royal Lao Army.

            When the French still occupied Laos in World War 2, General Vang Pao was just a boy who was a messenger and interpreter. Because of this he was rewarded by “being sent to train as a Corporal at the French Gendarmerie NCO School in Luang Prabang” (Hamilton). It was there that he built his legacy being one of the top in his class and took the opportunity to work with Colonel Max Mesnier as a commander of Commando Special Number 4. When Ho Chi Minh took up as the Communist force in North Vietnam, there was a massive attacked ordered on Dien Pien Phu which was occupied by the French. Vang Pao was ordered to reinforce the defenses with mixed units of Hmong, Mien, Khmu and Lao soldiers but did not make in time for battle. After Laos became independent due to the French’s lost, a new struggle occurred within the country itself. With the influence of the Communist party from North Vietnam, the Communist party in Laos fought over with the Lao royal army. The royal army and its government didn’t want to change into a communist country leading to the involvement of the U.S. and mainly the CIA. Finding it a challenge to have combat in the jungle, they hired the Hmong people from the mountains to assist in their battles and General Vang Pao was to lead what was known as the “Secret Army”.

            There were three objectives this army had to fulfill: “Fight against the North Vietnamese forces in Laos, disrupt the movement of the enemy down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and rescue and us flyers shot down over Laos” (Whitehouse). Captain D.L. Hicks from the US army who was a close friend of General Vang Pao claimed many American lives were saved due to the work of these warriors. On the side this group also needed more opportunities to make a living so while they were assisting the CIA, the Hmong people were also trading Opium with the CIA to make profit. Where and who it went to did not matter; however some say it went back to the CIA using them as a way to relieve stress which effected them negatively for the long run.

            Ever since the encounter of the U.S. the Hmong made many advancements almost to a mini industrialization. For example, "Lue and Vang Toua were the first two Hmong pilots selected by General Vang Pao to get pilot training to fly T-28 bomber aircraft, under Captain Bill Lair's directions. Many would follow" (Hamilton). Serving as soldiers ranging from 12 years to adulthood, these males were taught to use old and new technological weapons to achieve their objectives. Since they were trained as professional soldiers they were given salaries to provide for their family and were able to buy new machines for their agricultural use. Fighting alongside with other soldiers of different ethnicities, many of the Hmong learned new languages in order to communicate like Laotion and English. Before the encounterment, the Hmong population was only known as the people from the mountains where they only farmed with the little material access they have and now it has changed.

            During the near end of the War it seemed there was a standstill from both sides. The only change was that many lives were taken whether soldier or civilian. Sadly the U.S. went back on their assurance to the Hmong about not abandoning them and all U.S. soldiers were deployed back home or to elsewhere. Leaving the Hmong on their own with no more sources to defend themselves, they became vulnerable to the Communist Lao Party and North Vietnam. Pao and many other Hmong refugees fled to Thailand and eventually landed in America in order to be safe. Since General Vang Pao represented the Hmong people when fighting the against the enemy meaning that whoever is Hmong, the enemy will consider them as a non-ally worthy to be attacked. Although Pao was able to flee safely, many others fell behind while running but fell into the hands of enemy soldiers being taken prisoner or put to death.

            To this day the Hmong are still being persecuted by soldiers. My relatives still call from Laos whether it is close cousins or distant through marriage or a cultural relation saying they are still suffering from the discrimination and for that they are limited to sources in order to survive. My dad’s sister called many times telling us she has moved many times in and out of the jungle because soldiers would come and rob their homes and at the end of each conversation, everyone would always ask for money because it is a necessity. I also have relatives that have contacted my family and I from Thailand and the sad thing was that the War ended a long time ago. The Hmong risked their homes in the mountains to help the CIA only to flee to Thailand from death. Some say it would’ve been better if they didn’t help at all so that they wouldn’t be targeted from the start. Even now they are still targeted and many are still hidden in the jungle not knowing the war has ended because soldiers are still killing.

            The reason why all Hmong people and not just the soldiers are persecuted is because during the war, soldiers didn't wear uniforms meaning enemies had to make a judgment call whether to kill or not. Not only were men participating in battle, women also took part doing almost the same thing males did like taking arms and running, making it harder to decipher who is civilian and who is foe. The easy way out was to wipe out all the Hmong to assure the death of all soldiers. In 2006 Roger Arnold a journalist, was captured by a group of Hmong people in the jungle. "Before me on hands and knees were hundreds of men, women, and children crying and screaming for me to save their lives from communist soldiers" (Arnold). As the first impression left Arnold, he noticed more details like civilians who lost different limbs using bamboo to keep them balance and children crying for food because they haven't eaten for so long. The worst thing was that everyone could not settle down; every day the villagers stayed prepared to abandon their homes when the communist soldiers invade. Arnold was no exception since he was the stereo typical image of an American also an enemy of the Communist Lao Government. The Hmong people just wanted peace, freedom so they could farm and rebuild their life without running. This group was not part of what the Lao Communist Party would call the Hmong rebel resistance but just civilians that needed survive when attacked. “They hope the Lao Government will allow them to surrender to the U.N. a plan which the Lao Government spokesman also ruled out" (Arnold). They’re left with no choice because they know if they surrendered in the open they would be killed on the spot which is the reason why they defend themselves. All they want is a voice to surrender with the assurance that all would be safe.

            I interviewed my father and asked his experience. It seems that he blotted out his emotions during the time but remembers everything like it was a movie. From experience I have taken note that many Hmong males if not all of them, have blocked that part of them as well because it was too extreme. Although my father was not a soldier, he experienced the same effects any Hmong did whether it'd be a soldier or civilian. This took a huge toll to them and altered their parenthood. Cutting out their emotional sides didn't help the new Hmong generation in America since school has taught people to think about their dreams and self. Current Hmong students are taught to keep their mental stability on check. However since their parents have no experience when it comes to dealing with emotions, a barrier is created and relationships from generation to generation are miscommunicated and stuck. It is important because the new Hmong generation is also part of the Secret Army. They preserve the history of the secret and if parents don't act now, the new Hmong students will be lost in their identity and not know where they came from or how they got to where they are.

            Throughout history, there were many influences that lead to the creation of the Secret Army and where they are now. The French that occupied Laos was a great impact because they supported the Democratic Party of the Lao government. But when they lost control, the Communist Party of Laos was able to take over with the help of the Soviet Union and North Vietnam. The U.S. who did not support this idea decided to attempt a resistance against these groups. Since their soldiers did not know the battle grounds, the Secret Army was created as the CIA discovered them in the Mountains of Laos. As the war ended, the biggest tragedy is that soldiers who fought alongside with the Secret Army see an injustice for letting the Hmong people take refuge in Thailand for over four decades. Even now many are still fleeing, trying to get into Thailand but are limited due to the control of the Lao Government. One of the biggest issues I realized was that Hmong people did not have their own country named after themselves. They lived with Laotians and for many years were discriminated. When my relatives and I have a get-together and listen to their conversations, many imply that they are going back after the war has settled and that the place they live in now is only temporarily. However the reality is that there is no home for them to go back to because everything is gone.

  1. Arnold, Roger. "Still a Secret War." The Digital Journalist. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec 2012. <http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0610/dis_arnold.html>.
  2. Jane Hamilton-Merrit, Jane. "Phagna Norapamok General Vang Pao." Tragic Mountains. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec 2012. <http://www.tragicmountains.org/id149.html>.
  3. Lloyd George, William. "English-Test." The secret army still fighting Vietnam war. N.p., 17 2010. Web. 9 Dec 2012. <http://www.english-test.net/forum/ftopic50810.html>.
  4. NationZone. “Laos 1962 - Secret Army.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 17 Feb. 2009. Web. 9. Dec. 2012.
  5. Moua, Nomlor. Personal Interview. 21 2012.
  6. "Secret War." Hmong: Separated by a Secret War. Oracle Education Foundation. Web. 9 Dec 2012. <http://library.thinkquest.org/trio/TR0110763/sources.html>.
  7. Whitehouse, . "A Secret Army No More." Tri Country Leader. N.p., 12 1997. Web. 9 Dec 2012. <http://www.texascherokees.org/061297.html>.