Warren “Bill” Williams

Warren “Bill” Williams, retired U.S. Air Force pilot, volunteered for Forward Air Control (FAC) assignment in Laos.

Video Timeline

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
Bill starts with explanation of how he joined the Air Force. He was recruited based on two questions: 1) Are you going to get a college degree? and 2) Do you have 20/20 eye sight? He answered “Yes” to both, and was in. Instructors introduced him to the Steve Canyon program.

01:42 – Clip 2
Shares about working his way down the line to a Forward Air Control (FAC) assignment. His instructors encouraged him to accept any offers to join the Steve Canyon program.

02:03 – Clip 3
Recalls arriving in South Vietnam and the process of being interviewed and accepted into the Steve Canyon program.

03:26 – Clip 4
Describes arrival process after stepping off Air America plane in Laos and joining a Special Attachments wing, which trained Hmong and Laotian pilots.

05:11 – Clip 5
Explains military regions of Laos and how he ultimately ended up in the Plain of Jars area.

06:13 – Clip 6
Recounts going up to military region 2 – general area of the PDJ (Plain Des Jars)

06:33 – Clip 7
Describes the Plain of Jars as a mystical place to the Hmong, but served as a supply depot for the North Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Explains connection between the Hmong and the American soldiers.

09:59 – Clip 8
Explains strategic importance of Plain of Jars: near Ho Chi Minh Trail, out of the jungle and flat – perfect for an airstrip.

11:43 – Clip 9
States that the objective (for the U.S.) was not to win, but just to be as obnoxious to the North Vietnamese as they could. “The real war was to be won at the bargaining table.”

12:00 – Clip 10
Talks about the differences between the wet season and the dry season: North Vietnamese troops retreated; U.S. troops expanded. In the dry season, the North Vietnamese retook the Plain of Jars. The Ravens (U.S. pilots) were not supposed to fly more than 150 hours in a month, but they often did. Describes their weapons, including nail-like devices and smoke rockets. Too often, areas they thought were safe to fly over, were not.

18:16 – Clip 11
Recounts closest call: “In fill/ex fill” with CIA helicopters transporting Hmong troops. Bill’s plane was leaking oil and he needed to land, using “turning traffic pattern stall.” Also recalls making one pass too many over a machine gun, but avoiding being hit.

25:41 – Clip 12
Responds to question on his interaction with the Hmong people, who did not have a presence in Vientiane (capital city). Discusses the uniqueness of each ethnic group.

27:27 – Clip 13
Elaborates on previous clip with more details on Vientiane during the Secret War years, comparing it to a “Star Wars bar.” Describes strong presence of North Vietnamese in Vientiane, which was cosmopolitan and “wide open.” Discusses value of gold.

33:19 – Clip 14
Responds to question on his transition out of Laos, referencing general who looked out for him – a  three war general. Reconsiders ending his tour and, instead, signs on for another six months at Williams (Willie) Air Force Base in Arizona.

37:33 – Clip 15
Describes his path to becoming a homeowner (avoiding “sin city”), leading to an easy readjustment to life in the U.S. No PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for Bill, which he attributes to coming into the war in the winding down years. By 1971, fewer Ravens lost their lives. Compares experience to today’s situations in Afghanistan/Iraq as well as WWII.

43:44 – Clip 16
Ends with his passion for telling stories, which he does professionally at Beale Air Force Base as part of pilot training program.

44:06 Clip 17- Credits

More Interviews

Select another Secret War interview