[Terry: Please note that the documentary Tom talks about IS NOT AVAILABLE IN THE UNITED STATES.
However, you can watch a stolen version on YouTube and I highly recommend it. I'd prefer that Tom and Mark get the money but, really, watching the story is a part of everyone's civic duty.]
From 1965 to 1973, the CIA ran its largest covert operation to date in Laos, a small landlocked Southeast Asian country neighboring China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. During this time, the American secret service trained a secret army of montagnards (ethnic minorities) to fight the Laotian communists. The secret heart of this operation was an airport called Long Cheng, deep in the Laotian jungles.
From here, the US flew aid and ammunition, troops and drugs around the country. For some years, Long Cheng was the country’s second largest city and the world’s busiest airport, though few people knew of its existence. As the war in Vietnam was being lost in the late 1960s, the US Air Force took over from the CIA mission and bombed the country back into the stone-age. Up to half a million people perished in the bombing, which was heavier than all the tonnage dropped during World War 2.
I first heard of Long Cheng in 2000 when I traveled across the Plain
of Jars, a vast highland in northeastern Laos covered in bomb craters
and unexploded ordnance, with my wife, photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat
and my brother, film maker Marc Eberle. Here, entire villages were
built from US war scrap and people lost lives and limbs to buried bombs
at an alarming rate, 25 years after the war had ended. We were told that
no journalists had been to the secret airport since the end of the war
in 1975. We were hooked on the story of “The Most Secret Place on
It took some five years to make the feature documentary about Long
Cheng’s rise and fall and the story of the CIA’s covert war in Laos.
During the research for the film, which my brother directed and for
which we wrote the screenplay together, we met CIA case officers and
burocrats, Air America pilots, Thai mercenaries, academics, the Hmong
(montagnard) general who ran the CIA’s secret army and the whistleblower
who uncovered the secret of the US bombing of Laos. We visited archives
in the US and trawled through 1000s of photos, films and documents,
returned to Laos and criss-crossed Thailand to interview countless
people who played a part in the secret war.
The film was released in 2008, has shown at many film festivals and has been on TV in some thirty countries. The ABC Australia TV version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8cIki7awN8) is on youtube. My long involvement with this exquisite slice of secret 20th century history gave me the historical background for The Man with the Golden Mind .
Much more at Guest Blog: The Man with the Golden Mind by Tom Vater | PAUL D. BRAZILL: