May 6 2013
My research topic unravels the historical process of Hmong military recognition by the United State’s government. During the Secret War in Laos, the ethnic Hmong people were supplied and supported by the CIA to fight against Communist expansion. After the CIA withdrew they evacuated high officers and a few of their family members; but many were left to fend for themselves. This created a huge refugee crisis as thousands fled from persecution. They found themselves at the mercy of enemy hands, pirates, harsh jungles, the currents of the Mekong River, hunger, and countries where they held refuge. Fortunately, many were able to immigrate and start anew. The majority came to the United States where people and groups began to fight for official military entitlements; and this is where my paper starts.
First, the paper expels the misconception of Hmong people being primitive and guerilla fighters. Instead, they were highly integrated into a military infrastructure. Contrary to the belief of guerilla fighters as unorganized, the CIA’s Hmong force were ranked with captains, officers, military scribes, military personnel, foot soldiers, pilots, guides, trainers, and a general. They were recruited by Vang Pao, paid and trained under CIA supervision. Furthermore, Long Cheng is a CIA and Hmong base equipped with a landing strip. The image of the Hmong as guerilla fighters is narrow and limited; they were highly apart of the American military structure.
After the paper establishes this background, it will transition into their efforts behind getting mainstream notice. This was accomplished by the Naturalization Act where language barriers where removed from citizenship exams for Hmong elders. However, their plight doesn’t stop there as groups are currently trying to gain burial rights within military cemeteries. At present, Hmong contributions within Laos are no longer secret and it is celebrated on July 22nd; unfortunately, military burial rights are not universal. Many are in favor of the proposal, but the CIA hasn’t released any records of that time period. So official documents cannot be matched up with claims of service.
The question that arise from these efforts is “why, why go through all this trouble and for what?” I want to argue that it is for assimilation and acceptance purposes, and for the United States to view Hmong immigrants as true Americans. The recognition benefits the individual but also paints the Hmong people as an anti-Communism and freedom-seeking group, the essence of American values. Military involvement has been the epitome of patriotism, evident in the other ethnic groups’ participation in the armed service. Similarly, the Hmong people want to prove their patriotism and receive the honor and pride that comes with service.
For the paper, I read about personal accounts and interviews of Hmong officers to get a holistic understanding of their duties and tasks. Additionally, watching a documentary about the CIA efforts clarified how the agency formed a military structure around their Hmong allies. Furthermore, reading secondary sources such as books allowed me to better understand the complex situation in Southeast Asia. Finally, I also investigated online articles and news media to educate myself on current issues that certain groups are fighting for.
Here's an article to disprove the limited image of Hmong fighters as only a guerrilla force. It is best to copy and paste the link onto the address bar, then it will ask you to sign in using your VPN number.