Tuesday, May 7, 2013

LaoLor ResearchProposal

Lao Lor

ASA 150E

Professor Valverde

May 6 2013
Research Proposal
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.


  1. Hi Lao,

    This is Nhia.

    I think you're going in a good direction. It seems you've done a lot of research already and have an idea of where you stand in midst of your topic. Your argument is pretty narrow and direct: You're looking at the Hmong veteran's struggle to gain recognition as veterans of the VN war in order to prove to the US that they are "Americans"--that through their participation alongside the US, they are an example of what American values--anti-communist and freedom-seeking.

    I definitely think that the types of resources you plan to use--interviews and personal accounts--are good sources to back up your argument. It definitely adds credentials to your argument. I think what would be super nice is if you actually do interview a veteran, because then you can directly ask them why they are fighting for recognition and see if you're argument stands true.

    Again, I think you're going in a good direction so there's not much I can suggest. Just keep doing what you're doing. Good luck!

  2. Hello,

    This is Colette Masunaga.

    Your research paper is very interesting and I think it is a great topic to explore. Like I mentioned in class though, it would be interesting to explore the role of masculinity in America and how it is used as a tool to gain legitimacy for "American-ness" by many different people of color. I thought of this because of the Japanese American experience and the utilization and idealization of the 442nd and 100th ballions during WWII, which have been used as a way to validate patriotism. It seems to me that military service is vital it the struggle of people of color to gain legitimacy and prove themselves worthy of their "American-ness".

    Just my thoughts. Kind of nebulous. If you want me to elaborate a little more I can.

  3. Hi Lao,

    I find that this is a very interesting topic. I find that your analysis of the Hmong soldier's desire to "assimilate" and "be accepted" by the U.S. military and by the United States in general. I think that you should consider the theoretical frameworks of "situational identity" or "situational negotiation of social identity". In this way, you can theorize how Hmong military institutions or individuals attempt to obtain more resources through actively negotiating their identities or replicating the imperialist. This resource, as you point out, can be in the form of recognition. It can also manifest itself into the hope that more resources will be shared with the Hmong military. In this way, does the Hmong military attempt to replicate the identity of the colonizer in order to increase access to resources or to please the colonizer?

    Hope this helps,
    Eddie Truong

  4. Hi Lao, this is Yee. Great job with the proposal. What are other methodologies that you can use? I recommend trying to get personal interviews from Vietnam vets--that way, it acts more like a reliable source and gives your paper some legitimacy. The media has always been a strong influence to its audience, make sure you get sources from a range of bias and unbias new coverage teams to further explain the "cover up" the Hmong's involvement with the C.I.A. / the war, if possible. And another question: are all, if not the majority of the Hmong veterans favorable of this option or is it only a small percentage? And, what does patriotism/the loyalty to America mean to the Hmong people?