LS-36, “The Alamo” in Laos

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by brian_bkk, Sep 22, 2013.

  1. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

  2. Loading...

  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Nakhang Story....

    The French first used the long and wide Nakhang valley to construct an airstrip during the First Indochina War, but it was during the Second Indochina War (aka Vietnam War) that the site saw most of the action when it functioned as an important support center and forward operating location for the Royal Lao Government (RLG) supported –covertly- by the USA and Hmong paramilitaries (also referred to as the Secret Army) to attack Pathet Lao (Lao communist liberation movement) controlled areas in the northern provinces, particularly Houaphanh. The base was known by the Americans as Lima Site (or LS) 36.

    Air America was an airline covertly owned and operated by the CIA and supplied and supported U.S. covert operations during the Second Indochina War.
    In Laos, it inserted and extracted U.S. personnel, provided logistical support to the Royal Lao Army (RLA) and Hmong paramilitaries and transported refugees. Air America flew to Nakhan as early as June 1965. In late 1965, USAF HH-3E “Jolly Green Giants” also appeared at the site for Search and Rescue duties.
    The Ravens, which were fighter pilots in another covert operation, had their main base in Long Tieng, located just south of the Plain of Jars. However, Ravens were also stationed at Nakhang from where they directed air strikes, primarily in Houaphanh province.

    U.S. records of air incidents list several involving Air America and U.S. Air Force aircrafts, including hits, crashes and mechanical problems, at, near or en-route to or from Nakhang in the period 1965-1969. In his book The Ravens: pilots of the secret war in Laos, Christopher Robbins describes a crash at Nakhang of a USAF - U17 modified to carry smoke rockets used by the Ravens.

    Nakhang was overrun twice by Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces. The first time in 1966. In retreat, the base was bombed using T-28s and completely destroyed to keep any assets there from being used by the Pathet Lao. The site was recaptured the same year.
    Following the loss of nearby Phou Pha Thi mountain (aka “The Rock” attacking jet fighters bombed to their targets (including Hani) and or Lima Site 85), where equipment was installed to direct and control provide them with precise bomb release points, Nakhang became the northernmost site with similar capabilities, and, as a consequence, the focal point of attacks by communist forces. Significant resources were allocated to attack Nakhang. To bring in heavy artillery close enough to be able to shell the airbase, a road (aka Thang Viet, or Vietnamese Road) was constructed under the cover of darkness, zigzagging down a slope, crossing a stream and winding up again reaching as close as 3km to the site.
    After continuous attacks during February 1969 which weakened defenses, North Vietnamese forces approached the base from a completely unanticipated direction that caught the defenders by surprise, and on 1 March 1969, the base was captured for the second and final time, causing heavy causalities including the military commander and the governor. Again, the base was destroyed by the retreating army (including 4,000 Hmong) to prevent equipment from falling into communist hands and US personnel were airlifted out.

    Evidence of the former military base can still be found in the Nakhang area. The airstrip is still clearly visible, and around it there are three 10,000 liter fuel tanks and the remains of road work equipment brought in to improve and extend the airstrip. Further north, hidden in the overgrowth, a shell launcher is located. Thang Viet is also still discernible.
    The area is highly contaminated with UXO, including land mines, stocks of ammunition that were not destroyed by the fleeing troops and unexploded ordnance left over from the shelling of the site and ground battles.

    Ban Nakout is located in the same valley as Nakhang, approx. 2 km to the southwest. It was established in 1865 when seven families moved there from Xieng Khouang. The village is 100% Tai Phuan and practices Buddhism.
    It now comprises of just short of 100 households. Aside from rice cultivation, some households are involved in raising livestock and the production of handicraft, such a sericulture, silk and cotton dyeing, using natural dyes and weaving, blacksmithing and bamboo basketry.
    In 1964, when the Nakhang area became an important military base for the RLG and the “Secret Army”, Nakout villagers abandoned their homes and hid in the forest where they remained until 1969 when the Nakhan base was firmly under Pathet Lao control.
    When the people of Ban Nakout returned to their village, they rebuilt it using leftovers from the war from the Nakhang area. Flattened oil drums were used as well as wall and roofing material for their houses and rice stores and to construct garden fences. Bomb shells were used as posts. And the steps to the village temple were made using shell cases. Villagers have also ingeniously reused airplane parts, ammunition cases, shell cases, bomb shells and other small objects to make household tools and agricultural equipment, storage containers etc. Much of this can still be found in the village today.
    The villages of Ban Nakout now supplement their incomes through community based tourism programs, including guided tours and a community lodge. Some of the income derived from this is allocated for the conservation of the Nakhang – Nakout Historical Landscape.

    Source: LNTA Laos.

    Check it out sometime. Fantastic history & another "biker's holy grail" in Laos.
  4. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Very Cool. May take a look next trip in!
  5. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    It is a great ride up there too Bungy.

    To be really honest.. If FrankT hadn't been sick we would have over looked LS36.
    We had been planning on heading to Sam Nua. But as Frank wasn't feeling well we stopped at Vieng Thong and stayed the night..

    Decided to go for a ride in the afternoon and noticed the sign at the end of the town similar to the one at the village.
    After that sign there was nothing and a few guesses and asking locals and they guided us up towards LS36.. Not many other places to head except the narrow track up.

    None of us had a real understanding of the importance of this place at the time..
    Now look back very happy with the photos we have.


Share This Page