Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos

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Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992

Jane Hamilton-Merritt

Publisher: Indiana University PressFormat: Paperback

The name Hmong means 'free people' or 'those who must have their freedom and independence'. History records ancient Hmong homelands in China, a fiercely independent culture dating back to 2000 B.C., and centuries of oppression. Hmong have migrated southward out of China, and many have settled in the mountainous areas of Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. “Tragic Mountains” tells the story of the Lao Hmong Struggle for freedom and survival from 1940 to the present. During those years the Hmong sided with the French against the Japanese and the Viet Minh, and then with the Americans against the North Vietnamese. The staunchest of allies, the Hmong were America's foot soldiers in the brutal secret war for Laos. Since the war, abandoned by their American allies, the Lao Hmong have been subjected to a campaign of genocide by the North Vietnamese, including the consistent use of chemical and biological weapons. Many of those who try to flee to the lowlands or into Thailand are pushed back into the mountains to certain death. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, scholar and journalist, has followed the plight of the Hmong and the war in Indochina since 1960.She covered the 'secret war' in person, has interviewed both French and American combatants, and has studied the relationship between the war for Laos (the first domino) and the war for Vietnam. “Tragic Mountains” moves back and forth from the big picture of international diplomacy and power politics to the countless small villages and heroic engagements in the Laos jungle. It is the first major book about the United States and its major ally in Laos. It is also a story of courage, tenacity, brutality, incredible heroism by Hmong and Americans alike, international cynicism, betrayal, genocide, resilience, and (still) hope. “Tragic Mountains” is divided into eight parts: 'Fight for the Control of Indochina' (dealing solely with the French period of the war); 'Laos: The First Domino'; 'Secret War in Laos: The Johnson Years'; 'The Nixon-Kissinger Years'; ""Peace' in Laos: the Communist Takeover'; 'The Lao Gulag'; 'New Military Age'; and, 'Wronged in War; Wronged in Peace', a summation of the Hmong plight.

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