Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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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 Geneva Accords of 1962, prevented the overt use of American ground troops to block the Trail. However, the US obtained permission from the Laotian government in 1964 to conduct bombardment strikes, known as aerial interdiction, over the trail.

As the air war intensified over Laos, the need emerged for Forward Air Controllers (FACs) to locate targets and direct airstrikes accurately. Initially filled by American civilians, Central Intelligence Agency operatives, or local nationals, the amount of air operations required specially trained US Air Force FACs to handle the workload.

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