Photo: Baci ceremony, Luanag Prabang.

Culture and politics forum

What happened to the Americans captured by the Pathet Lao?

Posted by MADMAC on 16/9/2009 at 14:06

I have done a lot of reading on this subject. The government of Laos itself has been vague and non-commital on exactly how many were held, where they were held, and what happened to them. To my knowledge, only one was ever released, and one escaped. What of the rest? I am sure that they are all long since dead - probably executed at the end of the war. Has anyone here heard anything on this subject while visiting Laos?

#1 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somsai on 16/9/2009 at 19:18

I don't think it was a take prisoners kind of scene.

#2 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568


Posted by MADMAC on 16/9/2009 at 20:58

"I don't think it was a take prisoners kind of scene."

Well prisoners were taken - we know that. The question isn't were they taken or not, it is a question of what happened to them. Someone in Laos knows the answer to that question - and it's well past time to answer it and return remains to the families (I am assuming remains are all that's left to return).

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somtam2000 on 17/9/2009 at 07:16 admin

It's a good question, but not sure if the dude with the answers is a regular Travelfish reader... given they're cagey on what happened with the Royal family, what's a few Americans servicemen and/or mercenaries?

Aren't also a number of the remaining MIA actually believed to be servicemen who "went native"? I ask because when I was in Salavan I met a Lao guy who had pics of minority groups in far eastern Salavan province. One of the women in the pic, I'd guess her to be late teens, obviously had mixed parentage. Obviously her Dad wasn't in the pic, nor was her mother, I guess she could belong to a missionary... When we asked after the village we were told it was only reachable by helicopter or by walking a long long long time! Our man had been there on a helicopter, some governmental mission, though the details were pretty sketchy.

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Posted by Rufus on 17/9/2009 at 07:17

Some are probably living in villages somewhere leading much happier lives than if they were back in the USA.

#5 Rufus has been a member since 22/4/2007. Location: Laos. Posts: 973

Posted by exacto on 17/9/2009 at 07:43

When did you see this picture somtam2000? I ask because if the young lady was in her late teens, that means she must have been born more or less in 1990, right? That would be more or less 15 years after the war ended, although given how young US servicemen usually were during that time, the numbers could add up.

I wonder if that sketchy activity your man mentioned was one of the JTFFA (Joint Task Force Full-Accounting) missions. Every so often they are able to identify and repatriate the remains of a US serviceman from the war era.

I don't know Rufus, life in the states can be pretty nice sometimes. When were you last here and where did you visit? In southern Utah we've got nice communities with good people and spectacular scenery. Folks come to visit from all over the world. You might even like it! No Beer Lao however, which is definitely a minus...

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Posted by Rufus on 17/9/2009 at 08:12

Been to LA, NY, and Minnesota. Absolutely hated LA with a passion, but loved the last 2, especially Minnesota. That was in winter as well - went ice fishing and snow mobile driving. Great fun.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 17/9/2009 at 08:20 admin

Can't recall for sure which trip to Salavan it was, but think my first, so that would be 2001ish... yes I know, I should keep a diary! The photo was quite old, I'd have guessed p'haps 5-6 years old, but difficult to tell.

The woman in the photo was intriguing, but the idea of villages only really within reach by helicopter was also pretty fascinating. I think Salavan has incredible potential as a trekking area -- one day perhaps.

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Posted by somsai on 17/9/2009 at 09:25

You have to consider there were quite a few Russians in Laos in the 80s. I have a freind who has been to every province, can read write and speak with great fluency and specializes in young Lao girls, I'd call him a love tourist. I expect to see many kone sot in every province soon.

Everywhere has potential Somtam, it's just a question of guides. A look at a map and then a look at google shows many many small villages are off all roads.

#9 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by MADMAC on 17/9/2009 at 12:39

Somsai makes a good point - I met

"Some are probably living in villages somewhere leading much happier lives than if they were back in the USA."

Do you believe that Rufus? These guys were killed - I have zero doubt about that. At least some would have returned home (probably all) had they been allowed to. One, ONE, was released. Where did the others go?

Somsai, since you speak Lao and are connected there, this would seem to be a good mission for you. You can find out.

I met a guy in Savankhet when I was there who spoke German! He was sent to East Germany two decades ago to study and learned German there. His English was terrible, even worse than my Thai, but we could communicate quite easily in German.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somtam2000 on 17/9/2009 at 12:43 admin

Interesting, the guy in Salavan who showed me the pics also was shipped to East Germany for training.

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Posted by somsai on 17/9/2009 at 18:39

A couple thingst to consider Mac.

The US and Lao PDR have a very good working relationship in country, perhaps one of the best of the western nations. (birds of a feather) They cooperate closely on a whole host of issues especially MIA. More than likely, informaly, the issue has been discussed many times in depth.

On a humanitarian level I would guess the Lao govt wishes to assist all it can to recover war dead. I'm fairly discreet when discussing the war with Lao people, after all I have family on both sides, as do most folks. It was a long long time ago when most people weren't even born.

Martin Stuart Fox believes there were around 200 thousand killed including the Hmong after 75. I'd think most of those 200 thousand have long since turned to dirt, and were never buried. Probably most were Vietnamese in the vicinity of the HCM trail. Around 500 US were lost.

Of more current interest there are quite a few folks lost to UXO to this day. I don't know the numbers, probably 60 or 80 per year. Some former US service people from those times work to bring health care and education to areas affected by the war. They are more concerned with the here and now.

#12 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by MADMAC on 18/9/2009 at 01:38

"Martin Stuart Fox believes there were around 200 thousand killed including the Hmong after 75. I'd think most of those 200 thousand have long since turned to dirt, and were never buried. Probably most were Vietnamese in the vicinity of the HCM trail. Around 500 US were lost."

200,000 after 75? Certainly not mostly Vietnamese.

"Of more current interest there are quite a few folks lost to UXO to this day. I don't know the numbers, probably 60 or 80 per year. Some former US service people from those times work to bring health care and education to areas affected by the war. They are more concerned with the here and now."

I find the UXO work interesting, but actually getting hired is another thing all together. If I were looking for work I would consider it, but it's not easy work to get.

Also, I agree that it's an ongoing issue - but a seperate one from the POWs. I would really like to find out what happened to them and why. I mean, obviously a lot of people would like to know. But it seems to me that this issue should be settled soon - before those in the know die of natural causes.

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


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