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The History Of Vietnam War Hmong Fighter Pilots

Jason Rieve
Tom Luljak with Chia Youyee Vang.

During the Vietnam War the U.S. Air Force was involved in a secret mission to train a group of Hmong soldiers in Laos to fly military planes. It was part of a campaign by the CIA working behind the scenes in Laos. That program remained shrouded in mystery until the 1990s when Freedom of Information requests brought it to light. Up until now little has been know about the Hmong pilots who were working on behalf of the Americans in this covert action.

On this edition of UWM Today, we hear their fascinating story that has been pieced together by a UWM history professor Chia Youyee Vang. Vang herself was among the thousands of Hmong refugees who were given safe passage to the United States following the Vietnam War. She just completed a book on the topic, Fly Until You Die, an oral history of Hmong pilots in the Vietnam war. Joining Vang on the program is Tim McKeown, former U.S. flight instructor who helped train the Hmong pilots.

Tom Luljak hosted UWM Today on WUWM for more than two decades and is the inaugural host of Curious Campus.