8/31/16

Seasonal Flashbacks

It was about this time of the year, in 1969, that Pathet Lao forces, heavily reinforced by North Vietnamese Army units, regained control of the Plain of Jars in Laos. This began a 'see-saw' of losses and gains in the Lao civil war that would continue for the next few years.

This was the United States' "secret war" in Laos.  As you can see:

  • Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War (210 million more bombs than were dropped on Iraq in 1991, 1998 and 2006 combined); up to 80 million did not detonate.
  • Nearly 40 years on, less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed.More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occurred in Laos.
  • Each year there are now just under 50 new casualties in Laos, down from 310 in 2008. Close to 60% of the accidents result in death, and 40% of the victims are children.
  • Between 1993 and 2016, the U.S. contributed on average $4.9M per year for UXO clearance in Laos; the U.S. spent $13.3M per day (in 2013 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos.
  • In just ten days of bombing Laos, the U.S. spent $130M (in 2013 dollars), or more than it has spent in clean up over the past 24 years ($118M).
the Laotian civilian population is still paying for all of this military excitement. It's easier to be a rabidly super-patriotic flag-waver if you don't trouble yourself with these little details.

The most spectacular dustup came at Long Tieng and Skyline Ridge, in northern Laos.

From the Wayback Machine:


Pulling the safety wires on external Mk 82 500 pound GP bombs


M117 750 pound GP's, internal stores


072, a B-52D, loaded and nearly ready to launch on a strike near Long Tieng. 072 was the second ship of Copper cell - call sign Copper 2.


Copper 1, seen from Copper 2, en route to Long Tieng. B-52's flew in 3-ship cells, with the 1st on the attack axis centerline, and the other two displaced 500 feet laterally either side. They would be stepped 500 feet in altitude, and in trail by either 1 mile or 2 miles, depending on mission parameters.


Munitions area at U-Tapao RTAB. By this time in the war, we were launching a good many BUFFs from this base on the Gulf of Siam, rather than from Guam or Kadena.


Another shot of the munitions area, with the main runway beyond