During the Vietnam War the air base at Long Tieng was a hub of Air America, Air commando, and Raven forard air control operations.
It all shows in the grainy photograph--the short landing strip, the limestone karst jutting up at one end, the mountains and ridges rimming the base, and the shacks and buildings scattered along both sides of the runway. One of those shacks is the hooch where the forward air controllers known as Ravens drank every night. One is the home and headquarters of the Laotian Hmong leader, General Vang Pao. Another is the CIA operations shack that burned in 1971 when a U.S. Air Force F-4D dropped cluster bombs on the base by mistake.
During my first tour, I was at Ubon, Thailand, flying combat missions in F-4 Phantoms. From August 1966 to February 1967, I must have flown over the base at Long Tieng a hundred times without ever seeing it. Long Tieng is in the north central highlands of Laos, a remote, ominous territory, where the tribal Hmong scrape a living from the steep slopes and jungle ravines. A tiny settlement, it became, in the 1970s, the mountain stronghold of the Hmong, their CIA bosses, and the Ravens. Nowadays, the CIA and the Ravens are long gone, but the Hmong are still there.
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