Moua Thao

Moua Thao, born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, lived in Chico, California at the time of the interview.

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

00:45 – Clip
Moua describes town where he was born. Reflects back to 1961 when communist troops came into his town to kill people and burn homes. They had to escape to the jungle.

02:25 – Clip 2
In May 1961 they began walking to Padong to retrieve American supplies (guns, ammunition, grenades and rice), which were dropped from two airplanes. The young recruits received only three days of training on how to use equipment.

05:07 Clip 3
Communists heard that villagers had picked up guns. Communists came to village to spread false rumor that Americans needed villagers to relocate to a small nearby village. 251 villagers complied (men, women, children), and that night were taken into the jungle and killed.

08:20 – Clip 4
Talks about being sent with 150 other Hmong soldiers in 1962 to a training camp in Thailand to train for 3 months for leadership, map-reading, paratrooping, and explosives, after which they returned to Vientiane. Moua was chosen, with 24 others, to work for Air America.

10:51 – Clip 5
In 1964, Moua’s group stays with Military Region 2, under CIA and General Vang Pao, working for Air America. Two years later, they are moved to Long Cheung, where he flew small airplanes to drop supplies to soldiers fighting in front of the communists. He survived two plane crashes.

12:50 – Clip 6
In 1967, General Vang Pao ordered him into northern part of Laos to install a radar site. Communists came and took the radar. They fought in the rain almost 24-7 and he was shot in the leg. After week’s stay in hospital, General Vang Pao ordered him and 23 others to Thailand – to learn English as Second Language in order to be interpreters to train Hmong soldiers.

16:34 – Clip 7
At Lima Site 14, he was promoted to leader of Northern Commando Raiders.

19:13 – Clip 8
Talks about Commando Raiders working with CIA on rescuing, by parachute, and protecting downed American pilots from the enemy. Commando Raiders were responsible for carrying out 90-95% of CIA requests including securing Phouhouaxang (Elephant Head Mountain) and Skyline Ridge.

29:54 – Clip 9
Explains French-based education system in Laos. As a child, his education opportunities were limited by offerings and the fact that Moua was an orphan.

31:27 – Clip 10
Recalls procedures for “Kickers” to quickly distribute rice and ammunition from planes on direction from the pilot.

32:26 – Clip 11
Talks about transition from being a “Kicker” to team leader charged with protecting radar sites from communist takeover. Receives training in Thailand to be an interpreter to teach Commando Raiders.

33:50 – Clip 12
Shares he was first a paratrooper and then a paratrooper interpreter.

34:23 – Clip 13
Explains two injuries he sustained as a “Kicker” – first was a helicopter accident while rescuing a downed American.

35:15 – Clip 14
Recalls mission to take over North Vietnamese warehouse, during which 12 of his Commando Raiders were captured and three were killed.

35:53 – Clip 15
Talks about working with three Americans that supervised the Commando Raiders.

36:26 – Clip 16
Reflects on life becoming very difficult in 1973-1975, as U.S. begins to pull out of Vietnam War, cutting off all financial support, supplies, equipment, and CIA support/advise. U.S. burned all equipment. “It was like falling down a big cliff.”

38:26 – Clip 17
Recalls friend telling him that South Vietnam, Cambodia, America (after 14 years there), all of Indochina was leaving “without looking back.” Didn’t know if when the communists came, they would be killed or put into re-education camps.

40:17 – Clip 18
1975, after General Vang Pao had left Laos, when a group of Pathet Lao came looking for him, surrounding his home and asking his wife, “Where’s your husband? Where’s your soldier?” His wife ran, found him, and then, with their son, they began their escape from Laos.

44:44 – Clip 19
Describes process of applying to leave Thai refugee camp to come to America.

46:02 – Clip 20
Elaborates on immigration process (completing forms and job applications)

47:07 – Clip 21
Arrives in 1983 in Chicago. Moves to California to escape cold weather.

47:31 – Clip 22
From Merced, California, moves to Chico to join his son. Talks of difficulty of finding a job in a small town.

48:11 – Clip 23
Expresses gratitude to the American people.

48:28 – Credits

In Memoriam

Moua Thao, 73, surrounded by his family, passed away in Chico, California on Friday, March 8, 2019.  A Traditional Hmong Funeral Service was held on Saturday, March 23, 24 & 25 at Southside Community Center in Oroville, California.  Link to Obituary

It was an honor to interview Moua Thao for our Time of Remembrance project. We encourage you to listen to and be inspired by his story of courage and resilience. Moua will be missed by all.

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