Photographs of the CIA’s Secret Air Base in Laos, During the Vietnam War.
Above Photo: The Main ramp of Long Chen (or Long Tieng) air base in Laos, also known as LS20-A. (© Lee Gosset)
I was recently sent some outstanding photographs of Wartime Laos and of the US’s ‘Secret’ air base at Long Chen/ Long Tieng, taken by Lee Gossett, an Air America cargo handler, Air America Pilot & Continental Air Services pilot during the Vietnam War. All the photographs are copyrighted to him.
Because the above photo of the main ramp at Long Tieng clearly showed some ‘on the ground’ buildings, I asked former CIA Case Officer, Jack Jolis, who spent a year working out of the base, directing attacks along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, what he could tell me about them. I have numbered the buildings Jack refers to on the below copy of the photograph.
Taking the large parked plane as your point of reference, if you use the plane’s left wing as an arrow, the large rectangular grey building [marked ‘1’] right off the ramp was our communal mess-hall, open to all (Agency and all air crews alike) 24/7/365. We spent a lot of time in there, as you can imagine – just waiting, when not actually eating. The large white building to the back of it was a storage/warehouse [marked 2].
The smaller grey rectangular hooch just to the left of the mess-hall [marked ‘3’] was the “air-ops center”, the closest thing there was to a “control tower” at LS-20A.
If you follow a vector from the nose of the parked plane in the rough direction of 1 o’clock you’ll reach a small white-roofed building with a larger one right behind it [marked 4]. This (both buildings) was the home/tac ops center for the famous “Ravens” — the USAF FAC/”spotters”. Mostly they “overnighted” in Udorn, but this small “compound” was their area at Long Tieng.
A little-known but major battle of the Vietnam War was fought over (and on) the ridge running up the lower right hand side of the above photograph (with the pathway running along the top). Known as the Battle For Skyline Ridge, it was fought between December 1971 and May 1972 when over 20,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked the ridge and its 10,000 Lao, Hmong and Thai defenders, with orders to capture Long Tieng from the CIA and to kill the leader of the Hmong, General Vang Pao.
The defenders eventually won this fight, but at great cost to both sides.
I have added a couple more of Lee’s Long Tieng photos below.
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 also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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