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Special Forces Berlin
by James Stejskal



Operation White Star

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Map of Laos

Operation White Star was the code name for a U.S. military advisory mission in Laos during the first few years of the U.S. involvement in the Indo-China conflict. It was also known as Project White Star. The mission, involving mostly U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers, was to train the Royal Laotian Army and indigenous tribesmen (Hmong and Yao) to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Pathet Lao communist insurgency. As the North Vietnamese increased their activities in Laos the mission included combat against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).

Operation White Star began in 1957 with the deployment of over 100 Soldiers from the 77th Special Forces Group (later designated 7th SFGA) under the code name of Project Hotfoot. LTC Bull Simons was the first commander of Operation White Star. The Green Berets initially wore civilian clothes and had DoD civil service IDs. After some time, the mission was officially disclosed and uniforms were worn. 1st SFGA also provided personnel to the mission.

Operation White Star ended in July 1962 1. when Laos became a "neutral" country. Covert counterinsurgency efforts in Laos were continued by Special Forces Soldiers who were "seconded" to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Follow-on Laos Missions. The involvement of SF Soldiers in Laos did not end with the end of Operation White Star. Various other covert and / or clandestine missions took place through the 1960s while the Vietnam War was occurring in the adjacent country to the east. Many SF Soldiers were attached to the CIA's programs in Laos. Some served as 'singletons' in remote mountainous areas for 18 months with hill tribesmen. Their contact with the outside world was by radio communications and perhaps a monthly resupply be a small CIA contract aircraft.

Contract Air. While 'Air America' is the more famous air service that assisted the CIA in Southeast Asia other firms worked there as well supporting the agency's efforts. Continential Air Service, Inc. (CASI) provided essential contract flying services to the Central Intelligence Agency and to the SF Soldiers operating at remote locations in Laos. 2. One of the aircraft used by CASI was the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter - a small single-engine turboprop aircraft known for its unique STOL capability. It needed only the length of a football field to takeoff and even less to land.

Websites about Operation White Star

Operation White Star by Wikipedia

Personal recollection of Operation White Star by Donald E. Valentine.

PSYOP in Laos. The history of psychological operations conducted by the United States in Laos during the 1960s.

White Star by Special Operations.com

Historical Documents of the Laos Crisis, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian.

News Articles, Papers and Publications about Opn White Star

Paddock, Colonel Alfred H., "Personal Memories of Operation White Star in Laos, 1961", Small Wars Journal, April 10, 2013. Col Paddock served in the U.S. Army from 1957-1988 and served three combat tours in Laos and Vietnam with SF.

Books about Operation White Star

Baber, Asa. Land of a Million Elephants, Morrow Books, 1970.

Conboy, Kenneth. The War in Laos, Osprey Books, 1989.

Garner, Joe. Code-name: Copperhead, Simon & Shuster, 1994.

Sutton, Richard. Operation White Star, Daring Books, 1990.



1. President Kennedy authorized the withdrawal of the MAAG White Star teams in Laos not earlier than May 7, 1962. See Withdrawal of Certain Military Units from Forward Positions in Laos, National Security Action Memoradum No. 149, April 19, 1962. Posted on the website of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Libary and Museum.

2. Learn more about CASI and Laos in a posting by the CIA on its website.


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