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  • Increasing the Odds

    OPERATION HIGH DRINK, along with the invention of helicopter aerial refueling, enabled US Air Force search and rescue units in Southeast Asia to recover downed Airmen in any location.Helicopters no longer had range or weight limits based on fuel. Beginning in 1967, rescue forces and tankers

  • Forward Air Controllers and the Secret War

    In 1959, the North Vietnamese began building a secret road system through Laos and Cambodia. Named the Truong Son Road – but known to Americans as the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” – this supply line consisted of a network of roads and logistic bases concealed by the jungle.Laotian neutrality, based upon the

  • From Butterflies to Ravens

    Stringent rules of engagement over Laos necessitated the use of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) to ensure no mistakes occurred that could have resulted in the death of friendly ground forces.In 1964 a handful of US Air Force Air Commandos entered Laos to serve as FACs. As airstrikes increased, more

  • Raven Forward Air Controllers

    Beginning in 1966, USAF pilots with a minimum of six months of combat experience in South Vietnam as forward air controllers were eligible to apply for the classified Steve Canyon Program.Using the call sign Raven, these pilots mostly flew unmarked armed Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs, wore civilian clothes,

  • Artillery Threat

    North Vietnamese artillery units equipped with 130 mm cannons supported their infantry and armor forces attacking into Laos. These accurate weapons ranged seventeen miles and posed a dangerous threat to the Hmong and allied forces defending Laos and were a primary target for the Ravens.To deal with

  • Support from a Distance: PROJECT WATER PUMP

    In 1964, the US Air Force began providing aircraft and flight instruction to the Royal Lao Air Force (RLAF). Under the codename WATER PUMP, USAF Air Commandos at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB), Thailand, trained RLAF, Thai, and other Lao forces. Eventually, this included this included the

  • Chao Pha Khao

    The Chao Pha Khao, the call sign used by Hmong North American T-28 Trojan pilots, contributed greatly to the war effort in Laos and served as source of pride for the Hmong people.During PROJECT WATER PUMP a total of thirty-four Hmong and one Khmu person completed the six-month training program to

  • Robins and Backseaters

    Flying with the Ravens at Long Tieng were Hmong “backseaters” using the call sign Robin. Selected by local commanders with the approval of Laotian Major General Vang Pao, these men played a crucial role in the air war over Laos.Mostly veteran guerilla soldiers, they translated radio calls between

  • United We Stand

    Despite language and cultural barriers, a strong bond formed between US Air Force Ravens and the pilots and backseaters from the RLAF. They worked closely together, entrusting one another with military support, and, in some cases, their lives.Other USAF personnel were deployed to Laos under PROJECT

  • US and Hmong Exodus

    The Ravens departed Laos in June 1973, following the Paris Peace Accords, which led to the US exit from Southeast Asia. The three ruling factions in Laos signed a cease-fire later that year, and by the end of 1973, all US military personnel had left.In just two years, the communist-backed Pathet Lao