The War In Laos 1960-75

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Laotian Civil War

This move however, placed an additional heavy burden on these already overstretched elite formations that actually did most of the fighting. By December , total Royal Lao Army strength stood at 45, troops on paper, but is estimated that the actual number was no less than 30,,, with its combat elements organized solely into fifty-eight independent light infantry battalions, one armoured regiment comprising three recce squadrons and one tank squadron, [17] and a single artillery regiment consisting of four artillery battalions.

In , with the Vietnamisation process in full swing in South Vietnam , a similar effort was attempted towards making the RLA a more effective, self-sufficient force. Following a US Army system of organization, the regular infantry battalions were consolidated into two light divisions, formally created on March 23, and locally designated as "Strike Divisions" French : Divisions d'Intervention.

Thao Ty and based at Seno near Savannakhet, was oriented towards the south. However, most guerrillas — in particular those from the Hmong hill tribes — felt unwelcome in the regular army, still dominated as it was by the Lowland Lao , who were highly prejudiced towards the country's ethnic minorities.

In addition, the decreasing in pay and other privileges sharply dulled the cutting edge of what had been an effective fighting force, and left them incapable of halting the takeover of the country by the Pathet Lao. By late a thinning of RLA ranks forced the FAR High Command to replace the two ineffective strike divisions by a series of smaller, understrength brigades.

Throughout its existence, the Royal Laotian Army received military assistance mainly from France and the United States , who provided since the late s and mids respectively everything that the RLA used, from uniforms and boots to rifles, artillery and vehicles.

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UNPO: Hmong: UN Urgently Called Upon to Protect Rights

After , the ANL began the process of standardisation on U. Airborne units took delivery of the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle in late , followed by the M2 Carbine the following year. ANL and RLA infantry, airborne, and commando formations were equipped with a variety of crew-served weapons. In addition, individual portable rocket weapons were issued, in the form of the shoulder-fired M20A1 3. By the mids, the ANL armoured corps inventory consisted of fifteen M24 Chaffee light tanks [42] whilst the reconnaissance armoured squadron was provided with twenty M8 Greyhound and M20 Armoured Utility Cars.

The Neutralists received in December forty-five PT Model amphibious light tanks from the Soviet Union , with the vehicles being subsequently taken into RLA service in and employed on offensive operations, only to be withdrawn from frontline service in November of the following year due to shortages of spare parts and ammunition. In August , during the Operation About Face to recapture the Plain of Jars, the irregular Hmong SGU guerrilla forces managed to capture from the NVA some twenty-five PTB tanks and immediately pressed them into service, being subsequently engaged in the wet season offensive in the Plain of Jars, but once again maintenance problems soon rendered the vehicles unserviceable.

The FAR General Staff then requested the delivery of modern M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks to the RLA armoured corps in order to provide better armor support to the Hmong SGU guerrillas, but Washington refused, providing instead in some second-hand fifteen M armoured cars [49] [50] [51] [52] and twenty tracked M armored personnel carriers. Initially equipped with ten ex-French US M 75mm pack howitzers and some M8 HMC 75mm self-propelled howitzers , the artillery corps fielded since twenty-five US-supplied MA1 mm towed field howitzers and ten MA1 mm towed field howitzers received in Logistics were the responsibility of the transport corps, equipped with a variety of liaison and transportation vehicles handed down by the French or supplied by the Americans.

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These obsolete vehicles were partly supplemented in the s and early s by modern U. Modelled after the World War II US Army tropical "Chino" working dress, it consisted of a shirt with a six-buttoned front, two patch breast pockets closed by clip-cornered straight flaps and shoulder straps; the short-sleeved M shirt French : Chemisette kaki clair Mle , which had two pleated breast pockets closed by pointed flaps, or the "Chino"-style M French : Chemisette kaki clair Mle could be worn as an alternative in hot weather.

Both shirt models' were worn with the matching M pants, which featured two pleats at the front hips; the M khaki shorts French : Culotte courte kaki clair Mle do not appear to have been much favoured by the Laotians.

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The "Chino" working uniform was initially furnished by France and later by the US aid programs [58] together with locally produced copies , continued to be worn by RLA officers and enlisted men as a service dress or for walking-out with a khaki tie. A French-style, colonial-era white summer cotton dress uniform was initially worn by ANL officers for formal occasions, replaced in by an almost identical light khaki cotton version first adopted by senior officers serving in the ANL General Staff, and continued to be worn by their FAR successors until The new khaki dress consisted of an eight-buttoned tunic with a standing collar, provided with two breast pockets and two side pockets, all unpleated and closed by clip-cornered straight flaps, worn with matching khaki slacks.

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  • The tunic's front fly and pocket flaps were secured by gilt metal buttons bearing the FAR wreathed "Vishnu" trident. The open-collar jacket had two pleated breast pockets closed by pointed flaps and two unpleated at the side closed by straight ones whilst the sleeves had false turnbacks; the front fly and pocket flaps were secured by gilt buttons. It was worn with a Khaki shirt and black tie on service dress. The Laotian Royal Guard French : Garde Royale du Laos were given a ceremonial dress uniform of French pattern, comprising a white eight-buttoned cotton tunic with a standing collar and red epaulets, and red cotton trousers with a line of gold braid down the outer side seams.

    By the mids, RLA units in the field were using a wide variety of uniforms depending on availability from foreign aid sources, namely the U. The old French M fatigues soon gave way to the US Army OG jungle utilities, which was adopted as standard field dress by all the Laotian military regular and paramilitary irregular forces; M Jungle Utility Uniforms also came into use by Local variants of the OG fatigues often featured modifications to the original design — shirts with shoulder straps, two "cigarrete pockets" closed by buttoned straight flaps on both upper sleeves, or a pen pocket added on the left sleeve above the elbow, an affection common to all Laotian, South Vietnamese and Cambodian military officers, and additional side "cargo" pockets on the trousers.

    Royal Lao Army

    Camouflage was very popular among the Laotian military. Airborne formations continued to wear Lizard camouflage fatigues up until , and new camouflage patterns were adopted by the RLA and the irregular SGUs throughout the ss. ANL officers received a service peaked cap copied after the French M pattern French : Casquette d'officier Mle with a lacquered black leather peak in both light khaki and white summer versions the latter with gold embroidered flame decoration on the black cap band for general officers , to wear with the khaki service dress and the white high-collared full dress uniforms, respectively.

    The peaked caps were worn with the standard gilt metal ANL cap device, a wreathed Airavata crest bearing the Laotian Royal Arms — a three-headed white elephant standing on a pedestal and surmounted by a pointed parasol — set on a black teardrop-shaped background patch.

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    French M and M light khaki sidecaps French : Bonnet de police de toile kaki clair Mle and Bonnet de police de toile kaki clair Mle were also worn by all-ranks. The Laotian Royal Guards received a French-style red kepi with a straight lacquered black leather peak and gold braid chinstrap to wear with their ceremonial full dress uniform.

    In the FAR, berets were still being worn pulled to the left in typical French fashion, with the color sequence for the ground forces as follows: General Service — scarlet red the Kingdom of Laos ' national color ; Paratroopers, Para-Commandos and Special Forces — maroon ; Armoured Cavalry — black ; Military Police — dark blue. Berets made of camouflage cloth in the "Duck hunter", "Leopard", "Tigerstripe" and "Highland" patterns were also used in the field, particularly by elite units within the RLA and by the irregular SGU formations.

    According to the regulations, General Service and corps' berets were worn with the standard RLA beret badge placed above the right eye. Issued in gilt metal for officers and in silver metal for the rank-and-file, it consisted of a trident , symbolizing the Hindu God Vishnu , superimposed on a spinning Buddhist "Wheel of Law" Chakra whose design recalled a circular saw.

    Black leather combat boots were also provided by the Americans who issued both the early US Army M "McNamara" model and the M model with "ripple" pattern rubbler sole; the highly prized US Army Jungle boot was not issued to the RLA but saw limited use after amongst members of elite units e. He also studied at Sophia University in Tokyo. He is the country manager of Risk Management Advisory, a Jakarta-based security consultancy, and has travelled extensively throughout South-East Asia.

    The Secret War in Laos -1/4

    Ken has written widely on the military forces of South-East Asia. Simon McCouaig is rapidly establishing himself as one of the bright new stars of modern military illustration. He has already illustrated several Men-at-Arms and Elite volumes on the units of this region, including the well respected South-East Asian Special Forces. You may also be interested in the following product s. More info. Military History. Subscribe to our newsletter. Subscribe To see how we use this information about you and how you can unsubscribe from our newsletter subscriptions, view our Privacy Policy.

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