Secret War History Hidden Inside Caves in Laos.
Above Photo: The steep steps up to a secret Communist Administrative cave in Nong Khiaw, Laos.
On a recent trip into northern Laos, I set off on a 2km walk along the road leading out of a small village called Nong Khiaw. Crossing open, shade-less countryside, fording a stream and walking through rice paddies found me heading towards an important cave from the Secret War in Laos.
From this cave the Communist regional government (the Pathet Laos, who were being helped by the North Vietnamese Army) hid out during the Vietnam War, relatively safe from US air attack and sufficiently remote and well-defended so as not to have been dislodged by the US-backed Lao forces.
It was in the same mountain as the Pathet Lao bank cave I recently wrote about (see link below) and was protected by a mountain right in front of it, which made frontal air attacks very difficult and dangerous for US pilots.
To access the cave I had to climb up a steep, modern ladder, although the cave was accessed more precariously by a bamboo ladder during the Vietnam War.
I noticed the cave had been burned at the entrance, from napalm or rocket attacks, so some US planes had hit the cave, regardless of the ‘anti-aircraft mountain’s’ presence.
Entering the cave I could see the remains of bamboo and sandbag defences.
Also, earth and bamboo-protected bunkers where the Governor and Assistant Governor operated from were still visible. I gleaned this from some basic but helpful notes on site, but far more needs to be done to protect and explain this important history for posterity. What happened here during the war? How many people lived here?
I made my way through the cave, which was quite large compared to the others I’d recently been in.
However, it came to a dead, steep and dangerous end where the floor had collapsed far below me, so I turned back and made my way out, disturbing a colony of bats in one of the small chambers I explored.
Other than a few simple blue signs, there was little in the way of explanation inside the cave, and again it made me think that the government of Laos needs to take urgent steps to ensure their oral wartime history isn’t lost completely in the next few years, as people with knowledge of these important military sites die off.
Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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