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The Battle for Laos (Paperback)

Vietnam's Proxy War, 1955–1975

Photographic Books Colour Books Cold War Military

By Stephen Emerson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Cold War 1945 - 1991
Pages: 128
ISBN: 9781526757043
Published: 30th September 2019

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By 1959 the newly independent Kingdom of Laos was being transformed into a Cold War battleground for global superpower competition, having been born out of the chaos following the French military defeat and withdrawal from Indochina in 1954. The country was soon engulfed in a rapidly evolving civil war as rival forces jockeyed for power and swelling foreign intervention further fueled the fighting. Adding even more fuel to the fire, “neutral” Laos’s geographic entanglement in the intensifying war in neighboring South Vietnam deepened in the early 1960s as Hanoi’s reliance on the Ho Chi Minh Trail for moving men and matérial through the southern Laotian panhandle grew exponentially and became a priority target of American interdiction efforts.

For almost twenty years, the fighting between the Western-supported Royal Lao government and the communist-supported Pathet Lao would rage across the plains, jungles, and mountaintops largely unseen by most of the world in this so-called “secret war.” Thousands on each side would die and many more would be displaced as the conflict on the ground ebbed and flowed from season to season and year to year. And in the skies above, American and Royal Laotian aircraft would rain down their deadly payloads, decimating large swaths of the countryside in pursuit of victory. Nearly 3 million tons of bombs would be dropped on Laotian territory between 1965 and 1973, leaving a deadly legacy of unexploded ordnance that lingers to this day. Thus, the battle for Laos is the story of entire communities and generations caught up in a war seemingly without end, one that pitted competing foreign interests and their proxies against each other, and one that was forever tied to Washington’s pursuit of victory in Vietnam.

The story of entire communities and generations caught up in a war seemingly without an end.

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About Stephen Emerson

Stephen Emerson was born in San Diego, California into a U.S. Navy family; his father was a career naval aviator and his mother a former Navy nurse. Steve and his siblings grew up on various Navy bases during the Vietnam War. His father served two combat tours in Vietnam flying both the A-4 Skyhawk and the A-7 Corsair II and participated in Operation Rolling Thunder while flying off the U.S.S. Midway in 1965 with Attack Squadron 22.

Steve worked as intelligence analyst covering political-military affairs in Africa and the Middle East before embarking on an academic career. He served as Security Studies Chair at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies and previously as an associate professor of National Security Decision-making at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Steve has written widely on subjects from American national security affairs and political instability to terrorism, African conflicts, and counter-insurgency. Chief among these are his critical assessment of U.S. counter-terrorism policy in Africa, ‘The Battle for Africa’s Hearts and Minds’, and his comprehensive military history of the Mozambican civil war in The Battle for Mozambique. He holds a PhD in International Relations/Comparative Politics from the University of Florida and currently resides in Orlando, Florida.

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