into serious negotiations but limited enough not to threaten communist interests and force
an escalation of the conflict.
Next, Kennedy moved on the diplomatic front in a press conference on 23 March
to gain the support of the American people and to addre
and his special forces paratroop battalion, staged a coup d'etat took over milhary control
of the caphal. Le was disillusioned whh the cormption of the government and hs poor
treatment of regular Lao servicemen. He demanded an end to foreign aid and
In December 1960, Soviet planes began airiifting supplies, mainly in the form of
fiiel and milhary equipment, to Souvanna's government in Vientiane. The airiift came as
a resuh of an agreement that "in exchange for a formal alliance between Kong Le's
the FAR. Heintges' plan also expanded the personnel of the PEO from under 25 in 1958
to 514 by December 1959. In addhion, 12 eight-man U.S. Army Special Forces Field
Training Teams whh a control detachment from the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort
Leary, William M "The CIA and the 'Secret War' in Laos: The Battle for Skyh.
idge, 1971-1972, Journal ofMilitary History 59 (July 1995) 505-17.
Mahajani, Usha. "President Kennedy and Umted States Policy in Laos 1961-63 "
Journal of Southeast Asian Stu
Crowell Lorenzo M. "Thinking about the Vietnam War." 77,e Joumal ofMiIitary
History 60 (April 1996) : 339-57.
Dion,PhiI, "TrumanDoctrine: TheTrouUeWithVarry.Review, 25 June 1970, 24-5.
Dommen, Arthur J, "Neutralization Experiment in Laos
TouiS" " :
X " ' ^"^'^ ^"'^- ^*"^-' *"*"-
,ed. Postwarlndochina: OldEnemies andNew Allies. Washington D C
Lenter for the Study of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service Instittite U S '
., and Leonard Unger, eds. Laos: Beyond the Revolu
Tucker, Spencer C. Vietiam. Lexington, KY: TheUniversity Press of Kentucky, 1999.
, ed. Encyclopedia ofthe Vietnam War: A Political, Social, andMiIitary
History. Oxford: Oxford Univershy Press, 2000.
Van De Mark, Brian, Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson c
Stevens Richard L. TheTrah: A History of the Ho ChiMinh Trail and the Role of
Nature in the War in VietNam. Hamden, CT: Garland, 1993.
Stevenson, Charles A. The End ofNowhere: American Policy towardLaos since 1954
Boston: BeaconPress, 1972.
forces dug in and continued to consolidate their territorial gains. The "rightists" settled
into Vientiane and the lowland areas along the Mekong and tried to administer a fractured
The civil war had become, by January 1961, an indirect conflict
that any government we [the U.S.] could recognize and respect wanted us to do."^ In a
31 December 1960 meeting whh members of the executive command stmcture,^
Eisenhower specifically stressed "the need for coordinated and decisive action.
"we must not allow Laos to fall to the communists, even if h involves war in which the
U.S. acts with allies or unilaterally."^
Before Eisenhower left office in January 1961, he met with incoming president
John F Kennedy in a meeting on 1
Thailand.^'* He set out to seek a polhical settlement in Laos but at the same time to
convince the USSR, the PRC, the DRV, and the Pathet Lao that he would in fact fight
there to avoid a communist takeover.^
First, to alert the communists of his resolve,
The CIA played a cmcial role not only in the Eisenhower Administration's
decision making process on Laos, but also in the Kennedy Administration. By 1957, the
Agency had created an extensive intelligence network in Laos.' Operatives cuhivated
close ties w
recommended a seventeen step "escalation ladder" plan to Kennedy of possible American
actions regarding Laos,
JFK concluded, based on the assessment by the task force, that
Laos was a particularly poor area in which to engage U,S, milhary power, According
Field officers provided precise and detailed reports on the balance of forces in Laos and
Lao polhico-milhary activities. By the time Kennedy took office in 1961, the CIA had
feld officers and intelligence analysts whh a great deal of first hand knowledge
he deemed Laos "not.as important as you [NSC members] think h is" and that "h is one
hell of a poor place to fight." Forrestal agreed whh this assessment as he later stated,
"[H]e was quite right about that
There's no way to get to h, as he pointed out. A
the national fber in Laos to "resist communist encroachment from North Vietnam or
local subversion directed from the caphals of interaattonal communism."^
The Eisenhower Administration's efforts had not hahed the Pathet Lao's advance
in Laos. In the face
THE KENNEDY ADMIN STRATION AND LAOS
Kennedy Takes Over
When John Kennedy took office in January 1961, Laos immediately became one
of the central issues of the his administration's foreign policy. The situation in Laos upon
long-term problem best left for the incoming president.^ Eisenhower told Kennedy that
the "most desirable solution" would be a political settlement without having to set up a
new government excluding the communists. A political settlement, Eisenhower
Short, Anthony. The Origins of the Vietnam War. Essex, England: Longman Group,
Shuhz, Richard H. The Secret War Against Hanoi: Kennedy'sandJohnson's Use of
Spies, Saboteurs, andCovet Warriors in North Vietnam. New York Haroer
Prados, John^ President 's Secret Wars: CIA andPentagon Covert Operati
World WarH. New York: WiIIiam Morrow and Co., 1986.
, arid Ray Stubbe. Valley of Decision: The Siege ofKhe Sanh. Boston
Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
. The HiddenHistoryoftheViet
Bissell, Richard, whh John Lewis and Frances Pudlo. Reflections ofa Cold War
Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs. NewHaven: Yale University Press,
Blaufarb, Douglas S. Organizing andManaging Unconventional War inLaos, 19621970. Advanced Research
ed. Shadow on the White House: Presidents and the Vietnam War.
Lawrence: University Press ofKansas, 1993.
Arnold, Guy. Wars in the Third Worldsince 1945. 2d. ed, London: Cassell, 1995.
Arnold, James R. The First Domino: Eisenhower, the Military, andAmeric
Gmson, Sydney. "East-West Talks on Laos Snarled." New York Times, 14 k^rW 1963.
"Laotans Choose Tmce Talk She." New York Times, 4 June 1963.
Smith, Hedrick. "Laos A Chronic Crisis." New York Times, 24 April 1963,
Sulzberger, C.L. "A Time for Su
Sheehan, Neil, et al. eds. 77?^ Pentagon Papers as Published by the New York Times.
NewYork: QuadrangleBooks, 1971.
Shih Chieh Chih Shih. A Chronicle of Principal Events Relating to the Indo-China
Question, 1940-1954. Peking: World CuIturePublishingHouse,
Gittinger, Ted, ed. The Johnson Years: A Vietnam Roundtable. LyndonB Johnson
SchooIofPublicAffairsatTheUniversityofTexasatAustin. Austin The
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, 1993.
Hackworth, David H, and Julie Sherman. AboutFace: The Odyssey ofanAmerican
, whh Brian VanDeMark. In Retrospect: The Tragedy andLessons of
Vietnam. New York: RandomHouse, 1995.
Nixon, Richard M. No More Vietnams. NewYork: Avon, 1985.
Nolan, Kehh W Into Laos: The Story ofDewey Canyon II/Lam Son 719; Vietnam 1971.
Novato, CA: Pres
Books and Monographs
Ball, GeorgeW. Diplomacy for a Crowded World: An American Foreign PoUcy
Boston: Littie, Brown and Co., 1976.
The Past Has No Pattern: Memoirs. NewYork: W.W. Norton, 1982.
Branfman, FredricR. Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under a