Willy Bach
Willy Bach

Project Title: The US-led Secret War in Laos - the collaboration of Britain, Australia and New Zealand

Principal Advisor: Associate Professor Chris Dixon

Project Abstract: This study critically examined the US-led Secret War in Laos during the period 1952-1975 as part of the Indochina War, focused on the collaboration of British, Australian and New Zealand governments.

The war itself was mostly fought by non-US irregular forces, though with US leadership, material support and air-cover. The Anglosphere collaboration was extensive and took many forms.

It included intelligence-sharing and the development of special weapons, which were widely used. There were also SEATO planning, preparations and rehearsals for an invasion of Laos that was not implemented, as well as significant SEATO construction projects in Thailand.

Situating this thesis: Perhaps this study should be called a critical military history. The starting-point for this study was this author’s first-hand experience as a 20 year-old Sapper in the British Army in 1966, working on Operation Crown, the construction of an airfield at Kok Sam Lan, renamed Ban Kok Talat, near the town of Leong Nok Tha (Loeng Nok Tha), Isan Province, North-East Thailand. This deployment led to puzzlement as to the purpose of the facility and its role in the Indochina War. The airfield was a SEATO project that included the Engineer Corps of Britain, Australia and New Zealand and made use of several USAF bases nearby and the protection of the Thai Army, as an insurgency war erupted throughout Isan Province.

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