Tua Vang, born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, currently living in Oroville, California.
Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.
00:00 – Introduction
00:44 – Clip 1
Tua Vang explains of Hmong people, where they are from, and that they participated in the Secret War.
02:40 – Clip 2
Explains Hmong migration to northern Laos and that Hmong means “Free”; therefore they did not wish to be controlled by others.
04:05 – Clip 3
Discusses French colonization of what becomes Indochina. Describes Hmong conflict with French over taxes. Also explains origin of their written language.
06:39 – Clip 4
Explains French connection between General Vang Pao (first Hmong officer in the French Army) and how this lead to contact with CIA operative Bill Lair, who led the PARU* (Police Arial Reinforcement Unit) program in Thailand – and the beginning U.S. military covert actions in Laos.
11:37 – Clip 5
Explains development of the coalition between U.S. and Hmong. Lair questions if Gen. Vang Pao can help combat expansion of North Vietnamese troops. Gen. Vang Pao, with 1,000 Hmong volunteers and three days training, demonstrated survival skills and fighting ability. Describes Long Cheng airstrip, which rapidly became one of the busiest airstrips in the world – but did not exist on any map .More air suppot was needed. This was where the Ravens entered into the Secret War.
20:42 – Clip 6
Recounts end of Vietnam War in 1973. Due to no support from the U.S., they could: 1) stay and surrender to the communists – and be killed; 2) resist the communists – and be slaughtered; or 3) leave. General Vang Pao reached out to U.S. Ambassador to ensure that high-ranking officers and families could be air-lifted to Thailand. Due to severe limitation on airlifts, the rest were abandoned. His family, therefore, needed to start their escape from Laos. Tua, who was 2 at the time, describes family’s harrowing escape.
26:42 – Clip 7
Describes lengthy stay in Thai refugee camp, where his family was in regular contact with Jerry Daniels (CIA case officer to Gen. Vang Pao).Tua’s father was reluctant to leave for the U.S. because his parents were still stranded in Laos. Jerry Daniels gave his father a “TA number” (Travel Agent), which allowed the family to leave. It took the advise from a humanitarian doctor to convince Tua’s father that he needed to think of his children’s futures, which would be more promising in the U.S.
32:25 – Clip 8
Recalls arrival in San Francisco and seeing for the first time a major city – with hills. Enters 4th grade in a small public school in Oroville, California, and explains his transition into rural America, where the misconception is that Lao are Chinese. No one has heard of Laos. Being a small kid and a refugee, he was an easy target for bullying. Explains fact that Hmong banding together to support and protect one another was a good thing, but unfortunately, led to gangs.
36:41 – Clip 9
Remembers wondering about his personal history as a refugee. It was during an AP History class that he realized Laos and the Secret War were not included in the curriculum. When he entered CSU, Chico, he thought for sure the Secret War would be included in his U.S. History course. It was not. However, his professor encouraged Tua to start researching, documenting, and this missing chapter in the Vietnam War story.His personal interest in his family’s and country’s history became a passion.
40:13 – Credits