Long Tieng

In 1962 the CIA first set up a headquarters for General Vang Pao in the Long Tieng valley, which at that time had almost no inhabitants. By 1964 a 1260m-long runway had been completed and by 1966 Long Tieng was one of the largest US installations on foreign soil, becoming one of the busiest airports in the world.

North Vietnamese forces began to threaten Long Tieng in late 1971, and came close enough to start shelling the area on December. In early January, 19,000 North Vietnamese forces launched a four pronged attack on Long Tieng from all sides, encircling the site, capturing several facilities and positions, and installing antiaircraft batteries. Despite subsequent claims of victory from communist forces, the 10,000 defenders of Long Tieng, a mixture of Hmong, Thai, and Lao, had not been overrun, and in mid-month reinforcements appeared in the form of CIA-led Thais and 1200 elite irregulars from southern Laos. After enduring a third to 50% casualties, these forces succeeded in taking back key positions by the end of the month.

Then in February 1975, the final defensive outpost for Long Tieng was defeated, leading US Brigadier General Heinie Aderholt to begin planning an evacuation. However, by then, the U.S. had withdrawn all its civilian and military personnel from Indochina, except for a few Embassy personnel in Laos and CIA officer Jerry Daniels in Long Tieng. There were few resources for an evacuation. Daniels had only a single transport aircraft and Hmong pilot in Long Tieng to take evacuees to Udon Thani, Thailand. Aderholt located three additional American transport aircraft and pilots in Thailand. He had the planes “sheep dipped” to remove all markings identifying them as American-owned and sent them to Long Tieng.

On May 10, 1975, Vang Pao reluctantly followed the CIA's counsel and decided that he could no longer maintain Long Tieng against the opposing forces. The evacuation ended with the departure of Major General Vang Pao and Jerry Daniels. Vang Pao told the people still on the tarmac "Farewell, my brothers, I can do nothing more for you, I would only be a torment for you," as he boarded a helicopter.And that was it

After 1975 Long Tieng was incorporated into the restricted Xaisomboun Special Zone. The base is still maintained by the Laotian military and is "difficult " to get to by either foreigners or Lao people.

Today one of the few western visitors reported in an article in the Straits Times in 2013. One outcrop at the western end of the runway was dubbed the "vertical speed brake", for obvious reasons. Behind it are the scattered shells of buildings that previously housed CIA case officers, pilots and refugee aid workers. At any one time, Long Tieng was home to 40 to 50 aircraft - Lao Air Force T-28 bombers, Pilatus Porters and Helio Couriers, Raven O-1 observation planes and an assortment of helicopters, mostly flown by Air America and Continental Air Services. Amazingly, given the poor visibility, there was no control tower and no navigation aids, even for the big C-130 and C-123 transport aircraft flying in the ammunition and supplies for the agency's 30,000-strong army. ...Now populated by about 1,000 people, Long Tieng has become something of an education centre. Its school, built with Vietnamese and Asian Development Bank funds and catering to 800 students, takes in boarders from six other villages. It seems a peaceful place now. And that's how it should be. But why the continuing secrecy?

Long Tieng during the Secret War

Long Tieng today