This is the second of a three-book series on the Erawan War, which was the CIA paramilitary campaign in Laos during the larger, covert war in Vietnam from 1961-1974. Volume 1 covers the period from 1961 to 1968 and was reviewed by fellow IMPS/USA Review Corps member David Horn on 5 February 2022. Volume 2 is this review, and Volume 3 covers the Royal Lao Forces, 1961-1974.
Author Ken Conboy is a prolific writer of American involvement in Asian wars – both covert and overt. He is a former deputy director of Washington DC think tank, Asian Studies Center, where he focused on South and Southeast Asia. Ken has written nearly 20 books about Asian military history and intelligence operations. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and of Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, was also a visiting fellow at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Ken Conboy has the background to write about interesting, little-known conflicts.
The Erawan War, Volume 2: The CIA Paramilitary Campaign in Laos, 1969-1974 picks up where Volume 1 left off, in 1969. Erawan was the code name of the American Laotian operation, named after a mythical three-headed elephant that is the symbol of Laotian royalty. American interests in stemming communism, evolved into a covert war in Laos to help the effort in Vietnam, primarily through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its covert passenger and cargo airline established Air America.
The CIA organized and trained guerilla regiments to fight the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) both in Laos and North Vietnam. Author Ken Conboy goes into detail on the efforts to train and use tribal minorities (to include the Hmong) and guerrilla troops against the NVA, to include the elite Commando Raiders who specialized in raids, ambushes, prisoner snatches and cross border missions. The author has used his extensive knowledge on the region, historical archives, and an amazing collection of photographs (both black and white and color) to tell the story of this little-known conflict supporting the larger, and much more publicized, conflict across the border in Vietnam.
The book is presented logically, complete with photographs of the major leaders and operations, maps, tables and even a color profile section composing the following nine chapters:
- Pushing the Envelope
- The Commando Raiders
- Firing on All Cylinders
- Expanding the War
- Defying Washington
- House of Cards
- Parting Shots
This book is a good history of this war in Laos and for modelers and aviation enthusiasts with color profile images including the Continental Air Services (subsidiary of Continental Air Lines to provide airlift support during the Vietnam War) and Air America’s DHC-6 Twin Otters, and Xieng Khouang Air Transport C-47. Also included are black and white photographs of UH-1Cs, CH-3s, CH-53s, S-58 (formerly H-34 in its Air America markings), CH-54. NVA armor photos include PT-76, Type 63 APC and T-34s. There are lots of photos of the Laotian and American fighters with their light weapons for inspiration.
Ken Conboy has provided the Asia@War series a concise, well researched and easy to read book to help fill in gaps in the little-known covert wars in Asia. The supporting wars to America’s Vietnam War are now just coming into mainstream consciousness. These wars and operations were just as important as the main effort, and it is good to see these dedicated people get their due time in the limelight.
Profuse thanks to Casemate (https://www.casematepublishers.com) and IPMS-USA for providing the review sample.