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LS 85: In the Jaws of the Enemy

Ridgeline on Phou Pha Thi and the COMBAT SKY SPOT radar site known as LS 85 (or Site 85). (U.S. Air Force photo).

Ridgeline on Phou Pha Thi and the COMBAT SKY SPOT radar site known as LS 85 (or Site 85). (U.S. Air Force photo).

Reconnaissance photograph of LS 85 six days after it was overrun. (U.S. Air Force photo).

Reconnaissance photograph of LS 85 six days after it was overrun. (U.S. Air Force photo).

"... it appears we may have pushed our luck one day too long in attempting to keep this facility in operation ..."
- Cable from William Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Laos, to the U.S. State Department, March 11, 1968

In the fall of 1967, the U.S. secretly put a modified COMBAT SKY SPOT radar on a remote Laotian mountain close to North Vietnam. The installation became known as LS 85 (or Site 85).

The location of LS 85 created complicated military and political problems. It was only 15 miles away from the border with North Vietnam and was surrounded by numerous communist troops. Moreover, the U.S. could not legally have an overt military presence because of official Laotian neutrality.

The top-secret radar program, code-named HEAVY GREEN, was manned by hand-picked, volunteer USAF technicians. These men were "sheep dipped" -- they "officially" left the Air Force and became civilians but remained under its command. When the mission was over, they were to be reinstated in the Air Force with no loss of rank or pay.

LS 85 guided bombing strikes, code-named COMMANDO CLUB, began on Nov. 1, 1967. For the next 4-1/2 months, LS 85 technicians guided USAF strikes against North Vietnam despite some of the worst weather encountered during the ROLLING THUNDER campaign. They also directed thousands of air strikes against communist forces in Laos.

On the night of March 10, 1968, this thorn in the side of the enemy became the scene of heroism and tragedy. Specially-trained enemy troops scaled the cliffs and overran LS 85, killing most of the technicians there.

Click here to learn more about LS 85.

COMBAT SKY SPOT
Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger: Belated Medal of Honor

Click here to return to the Laos: Plain of Jars Overview.

 

Find Out More
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Lectures
Dr. Timothy N. Castle: "Reflections on Heroism at Lima Site 85" (00:43:56)
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