Cave Life During The Secret War In Laos.

Cave Life During The Secret War In Laos.

Above Photo: The sign reads: “Financial office”. The bamboo supports were for sandbags which protected the cave against blast damage from US air strikes.

While I was in Nong Khiaw in northern Laos, I searched for a cave that had once been the central bank of the Communist Pathet Lao, who were fighting the US and their allies in Laos during the Vietnam War.

This was most definitely part of the ‘Secret War’ because nobody on the US side knew anything about the banking operation going on inside this cave.

Should read "BANK Office of Luang Prabang" - during the Secret War in Laos

Should read “BANK Office of Luang Prabang” – during the Secret War in Laos

During the War, the US-backed (official) Laotian government ran their northern operations out of the magnificent Royal city of Luang Prabang, while the Communists were buried deep in this cave complex in the same region, running a central bank and printing money from the bowels of the earth.

A CIA-counterfeited Pathet Lao (Laotian Communist) bank note. (© Terry Wofford, uwdc.library.wisc.edu)

A CIA-counterfeited Pathet Lao (Laotian Communist) bank note. (© Terry Wofford, uwdc.library.wisc.edu)

We set off walking through some magnificent limestone mountain scenery that had seen much bombing during the war.

Nearby mountains.

Nearby mountains.

The mountain hosting the bank cave had been carefully chosen, as it was protected from direct attack by US planes by a mountain right in front of it.

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The cave’s first line of defence against frontal attack by US warplanes

We climbed uphill, finally arrived at the bank cave, via an ill-defined path through the jungle.

The 'path' to the cave.

The path to the cave.

The first thing I noticed was scorch marks around the cave mouth and inside the cave from direct hits of napalm or other incendiary ordnance from US planes, even with the protection of the mountain.

bank cave peter alan lloyd nong khiaw secret war laos (4)

Scorch marks at the cave’s entrance

Then we headed into a claustrophobic, hot, narrow passage that led steeply down into the cave.

Not for the claustrophobic

Not for the claustrophobic

It wasn’t a pleasant walk inside the cave by any means, but we had flashlights. I’d hate to think how we’d have got out if the batteries had failed.

Flashlight Gordon

Flash(light) Gordon

Just inside the cave was the area for the ‘Bank Office’, a heavily-sandbagged hollow in the rock (the bamboo supports for the sandbags were still in place)

bank cave peter alan lloyd nong khiaw secret war laos (9)

Inside the Bank Office

Travelling further into the mountain, and by squeezing through very tight passageways, we finally arrived at the bank managers cave.

The Bank manager's office. The sign reads a very un-egalitarian 'Bank Leader Room'.

The Bank manager’s office. The sign reads: ‘Bank Leader Room’.

I was, as usual, slightly disappointed by the lack of care and management of this historically important cave. No attempt has been made to preserve the contents, which were lying strewn around in various nooks and crannies.

Dark and dangerous.

Dark and dangerous.

Unfortunately the history of all these important sites from the Secret War in Laos is poorly signposted and explained. Unless the Laos government does something drastic to preserve its war heritage, much of Laos’ oral history of the war will soon be lost, as the only people with detailed knowledge of these places continue to die off.

See the trailer for 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.

For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:

See also: http://peteralanlloyd.com/general-news/a-secret-vietnamese-cave-hospital-in-laos/

and: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-1/a-visit-to-the-mysterious-cave-of-teeth-in-laos/

and: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-1/visiting-a-north-vietnamese-army-cave-in-muang-noi-northern-laos/

Approximate location of Nong Khiaw

Approximate location of Nong Khiaw and the Bank cave in Laos

© Peter Alan Lloyd

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

UK: Amazon.co.uk: BACK Parts 1 and 2 

US: Amazon: Back Parts 1 and 2

Smashwords: Back Parts 1 and 2

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Website: www.peteralanlloyd.com

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