Battle for Skyline Ridge

...the CIA Secret War in Laos, from Casemate Books

Title: Battle for Skyline Ridge
Author: James E. Parker Jr
Publisher: Casemate Books
ISBN: 978-1-61200-705-2

This is a new book which is about the period of the Vietnam War but without talking about the war in Vietnam itself. It is about fighting in neighbouring Laos in the first couple of years of the 1970s. It is written by one of the men who was there at the time, though sad to see that passed away while the book was in production and before it was released.
Unlike so many stories of the Vietnam era, this is one where the American supported units actually won, defeating a superior force of North Vietnamese regulars. It is partly the stuff of legends, of the secret war of CIA operatives, of Air America, the CIA operated 'airline', the USAF along with Laotian Hmong fighters and volunteer Thai irregular units. The NVA were keen to have access to Laos for the use of the Ho Chi Minh trail network. They managed to push the Lao forces, who were supported by small teams of CIA operatives off the Plain Jars and advanced towards the Hmong stronghold of the Long Tieng Valley. No roads were there so the NVA units walked through the jungle landscape, carrying their own supplies of food, water, ammunition etc.. They deployed 130mm artillery and at one stage 4 T-34/85 tanks. While they did get onto parts of Skyline ridge and various positions along it, they were defeated and forced to retreat. The book tells the story in great detail, including the names of various CIA agents who supported the Hmong and Thai forces. They also liaised with the USAF in ground support operations as well as the helicopter support from Air America. It is also good for including some of the NVA reports which tell their side of the story, and why their offensive failed.
An informative and detailed account of what was at the time a very secret war, and one where the CIA actually came out on top. I enjoyed reading this one and happily recommend it.
Thanks to Casemate for our review copy.