Between December 1971 and April 1972, when most of Southeast Asia was quiet, one of the great battles of the Vietnam War took place in northern Laos. 27,000 North Vietnamese main line soldiers attacked positions held initially by 4,000 Lao, Thai, and Meo irregulars in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) mountain army.
It was a Dien Bien Phu setting in many ways, though the results were entirely different.
Despite fighting as fierce as any in the Vietnam War, few people have heard of the battle for Skyline Ridge because it happened under tight security of the "secret war." It deserves to be remembered.
North Vietnam’s main military objective in the 1960s and early 70s was the invasion and occupation of South Vietnam. As a lesser objective, they invaded Laos with intentions to bring it into their sphere of influence. If Long Tieng had fallen and the local CIA forces under command of Meo General Vang Pao eliminated, the North Vietnamese would have had direct access to the Mekong River valley and Vientiane.
Previously North Vietnam soldiers had invaded Laos and defeated Royal Lao forces (FAR) in Nam Tha in the northwest and Nam Bac in the north and with the loss of Long Tieng in the northeast, the PAVN could claim control of the countryside in northern Laos and ask for the Royal Lao Government’s surrender. At the least they would have an enhanced position at on-going negotiations deciding Laos’ future.
The battle culminated the successful efforts by the CIA – on direction of the President of the United States - to start up and run a secret guerrilla army to preserve Lao independence. It was an impressive victory – against all odds - for anti-Communist forces in Southeast Asia.
This is a book unlike any others on the war in Indo-china. Often hand to hand combat, casualties by the hundreds day after day, but the rag tag army of CIA guerrillas held out and at the end, the North Vietnamese commander said, “No more. We are defeated. Retreat.”