The CIA’s Secret Airlines in Laos during the Vietnam War.
Above Photo: Laotian officials and villagers line up for the arrival of a flown-in Bigwig. (Micky Finn)
I was recently sent some outstanding photographs of Laos and elsewhere by a reader of this site, Andrew Finn, whose father, George Merideth Roy (“Micky”) Finn, was a pilot in Laos with two CIA-owned airlines.
One was called Continental Air Services (CASI).
And he also flew for a little-known CIA-owned airline called Bird & Sons Inc, which was subsequently acquired by CASI.
These airlines were used in much the same way the CIA used Air America in south-east Asia. Under cover of what looked like privately-owned airlines, they ferried Hmong and Royalist Lao troops, supplies and weapons around Laos, during the Vietnam War and the not-so-secret war in Laos.
They also transferred a considerable amount of humanitarian aid – medical supplies and food – to remote villages during that time as well.
Before he flew in Laos, Micky Finn had worked for US intelligence for years, flying in many countries around the world, including the Congo, Iran and Jordan, where he taught King Hussein to fly.
During his time in Laos Micky Finn frequently flew General Vang Pao and other senior Hmong generals around the country.
Jack Jolis, a CIA Case Officer who operated out of Long Tieng, Laos, believes he was flown by Micky Finn during his time in-country, in a Pilatus Porter.
Jack said, that the ‘Customer’ (namely, CIA operatives) of proprietary airlines such as CASI and Air America didn’t think of them as different entities, with one exception – CASI only used fixed wing aircraft in Laos; it didn’t have helicopters, so for operations using helicopters, Air America were contracted.
“Whereas Air America was really a 100% wholly-owned subsidiary of the Agency, CASI was in fact an Agency-owned subsidiary of an actually independent, non-Agency, working airline, called Continental Air Lines,” he said.
“I remember at the time being told that it was a complicated, convoluted somewhat schizophrenic arrangement which had been put together, not surprisingly, by the then-Wall Street lawyer who would later become the head of the Agency itself, my old friend William J. Casey — who had friends both on the Continental board of directors and high in the Nixon administration….”
For a modern-day take on the Vietnam War, POWs/MIAs and Adventure Backpackers trekking into the war-ravaged jungles of Asia, see the trailer for our latest film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil:
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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