Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War years, one of the largest Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations ever undertaken took place in the small Southeast Asian Kingdom of Laos. Hundreds of thousands of Laotian civilians were killed in the fighting or in retaliation for their support of American troops.

The interviews in the Refugee Stories from the Secret War section posted below are accounts from local Hmong and Mien survivors of the Secret War. They have shared their stories so that teachers and their students can learn about a hidden or under told history still missing from most textbooks. Their interviews also provide invaluable insights to understanding the challenges faced by refugees, such as language barriers, cultural differences, huge shifts in geography, and loss of homeland and heritage. A number of our interviews are from refugees who served in the Secret War as soldiers and even as Robins, also known as Backseaters to Raven pilots.

The interviews in The Ravens: American Pilots in the Secret War section provide first-hand accounts of what it was like to overnight become a former U.S. Air Force pilot and begin fighting in a country (Laos) where, according to President Nixon, “there are no American combat forces.” Trading in their uniforms for civilian clothing, while piloting unarmored, small, prop-driven aircraft with the following mission: “fly low and slow, spot the enemy, and direct the winged artillery of American air strikes from adjacent South Vietnam, Thailand, and U.S. aircraft carriers.” – Christopher Robbins, The Ravens.

Our goal is to provide educators with a unique and growing collection of primary sources about this little-known chapter in our recent history, thereby making the teaching of the Secret War an integral part of a unit on the Vietnam War. The resources complement California’s Assembly Bill 78  and the more recent Assembly Bill 2064.

Note: Funding for the recording and editing of Secret War interviews has been provided by the Elk Grove Unified School District in partnership with the Sacramento Education Cable Consortium (SECC).

Interviewees – Refugee Stories from the Secret War

Chaosarn Chao
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Chiem-Seng Yaangh, Ph.D.
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Joe Kaojio Liow Phan
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Kal Phan
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, high school principal for Sacramento City Unified School District and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Kathy Chao Rothberg
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and currently living in San Pablo, California.

Kaying Thao-Yang
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, teaching in the Elk Grove Unified School District and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Lue Vang
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, worked with the Hmong communities in both Folsom-Cordova Unified and Sac City Unified. Currently living in Sacramento, California.

Maykou Vang
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and currently living in Clovis, California.

Melissa Chin
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, elementary school principal for Elk Grove Unified School District and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Moua Thao
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, currently living in Chico, California.

Pang Yang
Born “by a waterfall” on escape route to Thailand, and currently living in Elk Grove, California.

Peter C. Vang
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand. First “backseater” (Robin) flying along with Raven pilots during the Secret War in Laos.

See Lor
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, currently living in Elk Grove, California.

Steve Ly
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, and currently living in Elk Grove, California.

Tua Vang
Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, currently living in Oroville, California.

Interviewees – The Ravens: American Pilots in the Secret War

The Ravens were fighter pilots who served as Forward Air Control (FAC) in the covert operation in conjunction with the CIA in Laos during America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Working with the Hmong Army, The Ravens provided direction for most of the air strikes against communist Pathet Lao targets and the People’s Army of Vietnam.

Gene Hamner
Retired U.S. Air Force Pilot, volunteered for FAC assignment in Laos, currently living in Galt, CA.

Jim Lemon
Retired U.S. Air Force pilot, stationed in Thailand pre Secret War, FAC assignment in Laos, currently living in the Reno, NV.

Joe Scheimer
Retired U.S. Air Force pilot, volunteered for FAC assignment in Laos, currently living in the Sacramento area.

Tom Palmer
Retired U.S. Air Force pilot stationed in Japan at the start of the Vietnam War, volunteered for special program/assignment in Laos, currently living in CA.

Warren “Bill” Williams
Retired U.S. Air Force pilot, volunteered for FAC assignment in Laos.

Interviewees – The Killing Fields of Cambodia

Kimith So
Born in Cambodia, escaped to Thailand, currently teaching in Elk Grove Unified and living in Elk Grove, California.

Interviewees – Insights on Cultural Competence and Teaching English Learners

Larry Ferlazzo
Award-winning English and Social Studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School (Sacramento City Unified School District).

For a quick window into Larry’s insights on working with English Language Learners (ELLs), please view this short clip from his interview.

Lorie Hammond
Professor emeritus/author, CSU Sacramento. Worked with Mien student population in Washington Unified School District. Currently living in Davis, California.

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