Capt. Bounchnah Sayavong and IP Capt. Handson
Front L-R #2 Ly Tou Xiong, #3 Yang Bee.
Standing L-R #4 Vang Seng, #6 Yang Pao, #7 Xiong Koua, #8 Vang Bee, #10 John Sayavong. The rest are from the Royal Lao Air Force.
Lt. Toua Vang and Major Lue Lee
The first two Hmong T-28 pilots
Front row L-R: 2 RLAF students, Lt. Col. Alderson, Tou Vang, Yia Kha
Back Row L-R: RLAF student, Moua Ly, Phong Yang, Ya Ly, RLAF student
Hmong Special Air Operation Military II, Laos
Former Chao Pha Khao T-28 Pilot
It's without a doubt that the Vietnam War has became one of the most controversial events in American history. All who became entangled in this war would be changed forever. The Hmong from the neighboring country of Laos, were one of the many whose lives transformed in unexpected ways when this little landlocked country known as “ Secret War “ in Southeast Asia would become the battlefield for such a major war. From 1967 to the 1974, 36 Hmong and one Khmu young men successfully completed the flight training program known as Water Pump in Thailand. Aircraft they flew included T-28 (32), AC-47 (2), H-34 and UH-1M (3). It was not an easy task since most had limited English skills and American instructors did not speak their language. None had ever set foot in these planes and they had no knowledge of how the planes worked. Yet, they all persevered and became well known to those who trained them and those who had the privilege of flying with them in combat.
The pilots risked their lives because of the love for their country and the need to protect their families. Some were youth drawn to it by the thrill of flying, while others had no choice. They often began with 5 to 10 sorties per day with very little down time. As the war progressed some flew endless missions daily. The heaviest fighting in Laos took place between 1969 to 1972. Those who graduated in 1967 to 1969 experienced the most combat action. All but one pilot, Major Yang Xiong from these groups perished in battle. Those who graduated in 1971 also saw some combat resulting in several killed in action.
Those whose graduated in 1973 to 1974 had few opportunities due to U.S disengagement from Southeast Asia around March 1973. The T-28 pilots who experienced combat flew until they had either sacrificed their own lives or were shot down and became disabled. Their call sign was “ Chao Pha Khao “ or “Master of the White Mountains.” They bombarded enemy territories, provided cover for group troops, and gathered intelligence to aid military leaders. Whatever was asked of them, they complied without question or hesitation. The pilots were truly men of courage and they showed much dedication. Some logged between 1000 to 3000 missions/sorties in their short amount of time, which is more than what most American pilots would over the course of their career. For a detailed history of their flight experiences and the impact of the war on their families and community, see the forthcoming book by historian Dr. Chia Youyee Vang at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Update 2/23/16: Dr. Chia Y. Vang has signed a contract with Oxford University Press to publish her book which is now scheduled for release Spring 2017.)
Koua Xiong flew over 2500 missions in Laos
Helen Murphy © 2009-2016 All Rights Reserved
Hmong Pilots honored by U.S. Air Force June 2012 (click on photo for news article)
Front Row L-R Soua Moua, Vang Kha, Teng Vang, Bee Vang, Ya Ly, Yia Kha
Back Row L-R Hon. Craig Duehring, Pao Yang, Seng Vang, Tou Vang, Phong Yang, Koua Xiong, John Sayavong
“In retrospective, it can be stated unequivocally that the Lao and Lao Hmong ethnic pilots accomplished their mission with courage, determination, and deep sense of nationalism. They loved Laos and its people who were fighting together in all corners of the country to defend its national independence. They truly deserved our warm and eternal recognition for their personal sacrifices and dedication”. - Geu Vang
Instructor Pilot Lt. Sengkeo Sananikone (RLAF)
with Lt. Phong Yang
Capt. Pao Yang POW 1971-1978
Koua receives " Big Tiger" award as #1 Top Bomb, graduating class January 1971, by Pilot Instructor Lt. Gen. Carl E. Franklin (he was Capt. in 1971) who later became Commander of 9th Air Force, Shaw Air Force Base, SC. Retired July 1998.
Maj. Yang Xiong - Commander Long Cheng Lima Site 20A Airport
Photographs and historical information on the Hmong T-28 pilots graciously provided by the members of the Hmong Pilot Veterans Committee members:
Koua Xiong, Phong Yang, Yia Kha and Tou Vang.
Photo of Major Tou Xiong Ly taken 1972 at L20A.
Photo of Tou Vang taken November 1973 two weeks before graduation at Udorn Thailand.
Major Vang Kha training with the U.S. Army in Udorn, Thailand.
Chao Pha Khao, MR II Secret War in Laos
Yia Kha, Hmong T-28 pilot was honored by Gen. Norton Schwartz at a ceremony held at the Pentagon in 2010.
From left to right: Vam Ntxawg Tsheej (Backseat of Raven), Capt. Ly Tou Xiong T-28 pilot, Lt. Xiong Koua T-28 pilot, Gen. Vang Pao MR-II Commander, Major Yang Xiong T-28 Pilot & Commander of Chao Pha Khao MR-II, Lt. Yang Bee T-28 pilot. Photo taken in 1971, the year of the heaviest enemy attack on Long Cheng.
CHAO PHA KHAO, MR II SECRET WAR IN LAOS