Tragic Mountains

Tragic Mountains

The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992
Jane Hamilton-Merritt
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/22/1999
Format: Paperback 47 b&w photos, 3 figures, 6 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-20756-2
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This is an important story, little acknowledged—let alone reported—in the world press. Highly recommended." —Library Journal

In this important work, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt traces the support rendered to the United States by the Hmong people of Laos during the decades-long struggle for the soul of Indochina which we speciously call the Vietnam War. The result of fourteen years of meticulous research, Hamilton-Merritt’s book pushes back the veil of official secrecy which has so long surrounded so much of the "secret war" in Laos." —Journal of American History

It is an impressive work, product of an enormous amount of research. The author is to be commended both for her dedication and her contribution to scholarship." —Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California

Tragic Mountains is a compelling read, a fine journalist’s contribution to a little-known facet of America’s Vietnam War, as well as her appeal to the American conscience to honour what she passionately believes to be her country’s moral obligation to its former Hmong allies in highland Laos." —Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

I have read and reviewed hundreds of books on the Indochina wars, but few have had the impact of this seminal work, which vividly depicts the abandonment, betrayal, and attempted genocide of a proud and courageous people." —Infantry

Tragic Mountains is not only a fair and accurate account of the experiences of [the Hmong], it is an engrossing tale of humanity under conditions of danger, heroism, and eventual defeat." —William E. Colby, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Tragic Mountains tells the story of the Hmong’s struggle for freedom and survival in Laos from 1942 through 1992. During those years, most Hmong sided with the French against the Japanese and Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, and then with the Americans against the North Vietnamese.

This is a story of courage, tenacity, brutality, secrecy, incredible h

Author Bio

Jane Hamilton-Merritt was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for her coverage of the Vietnam War, and in 1998 for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of her long-standing efforts on behalf of the Hmong. Tragic Mountains is her account of the historic struggle of the Hmong and of their betrayal by the United States.


“. . . absolutely gripping, haunting, compelling . . .”
 — Journal of American History

“. . . a terrible, heartrending story of the savage and relentless Communist retributions against the Hmong for siding with the United States . . . compassionate, richly detailed . . . ”
 — San Francisco Chronicle

“. . . compelling . . . an absorbing book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the ‘secret’ war in Laos and in the Hmong.”
 — C. Dennison Lane, The Wall Street Journal

“In this bitter, tragic and disturbing saga, Asian scholar/journalist/photographer Hamilton-Merritt documents the horrible suffering endured by the Hmong since they were abandoned by the U.S. in 1975. . . . Hamilton-Merritt’s impressive study, one hopes, will lead to the belated U.S. recognition of responsibility for the plight of the Hmong.”
 — Publishers Weekly

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Printing
Part One: The Fight for the Control of Indochina
1. Massacre on the Mekong
2. The time of the Fackee
3. The Rise of the Viet Minh
4. The Time of the Viet Minh
Part Two: Laos: The First Domino
5. The Time of the Americans
6. Camelot and the Land of Oz
7. The Charade of Neutralization
Part Three: Secret War in Laos: The Johnson Years
8. CIA Operations at Long Chieng
9. Widening of the "Secret War"
10. Phou Pha Thi Falls, "the Alamo" Holds
11. Hmong in the Skies
12. Vang Pao Goes to Washington
Part Four: The Nixon-Kissinger Years
13. Men of Courage
14. The U.S. Betrays the Hmong
15. Lima Lima
16. Kissinger and Guerilla Diplomacy
17. Bouam Loung, SKY Border Base
18. War Bloodies the Land of Oz
19. The Siege of Long Chieng
Part Five: "Peace" in Laos: The Communist Takeover
20. The Last Americans
21. Am Ominous Lull
22. "Wipe Them Out!"
Part Six: The Lao Gulag
23. Exodus
24. Chao Fa: Mystical Warriors
25. Holocaust in the Hills
26. The Giant Slays Sin Sai’s Soldiers
Part Seven: A New Military Age
27. "A Conspiracy of Silence"
28. "Yellow Rain" and World Councils
29. Wronged by the Media
Part Eight: Wronged in War; Wronged in Peace
30. Burial in Montana
31. Abused and Abandoned
32. Requiem
Interviews and Sources