Laos, 1959 - 1962
WHITE STAR was a clandestine operation, under the
auspices of the CIA, but thru the Ambassador to Laos
to "assist" Laos in fighting the communists. The teams
worked with the Laotian people, mainly the Hmoungs
and other ethnic groups. It was all designed
to support Vang Pao's Armee Clandestine which was
supported by CIA/Air Americas Projects 404 and 603.
LTC "Bull" Simons was the Group I commander of the
first group inserted in July 1959, then called "Hotfoot",
and remained for the next group (II) in Dec 59 to
June of 60 when he was replaced by LTC Magnus L. Smith.
In November 1960, Group IV took over, commanded by
LTC John "Shark" Little, and on 28Jan61 it was augmented
with a 12-man Psywar team under LTC Chuck Murray.
In April of 1961, Group V replaced Group IV and was
renamed "White Star". In October of 1961 LTC Bull
Simons took command again.
Summary of Events Leading Up to Operation WHITE
(Events as recounted to Special Operations.Com by
Late in 1958 and early 1959 our political and military
leaders decided to put a highly trained military force
into the Laotian Kingdom (Laos) with the mission to
organize, train and develop their military forces
so they could control, suppress and eliminate the
growing communist forces in country, The PATHET LAO.
Then LTC Arthur Simon (Legendary combat leader BULL
SIMONS) was tasked to select, organize and train a
staff for the mission. He was further tasked to select,
organize and train Special Forces "A" teams from the
77th Special Forces Group (Airborne) based at Fort
The mission was initially designated Operation Ambidextrous.
Later it was changed to Operation Hot Foot.
The Colonel was additionally tasked to develop the
logistical support that would be required for a minimum
six months mission. That included developing the medical,
communications, postal, personnel, combat supplies,
even to the development of a cover story for the deploying
All personnel (hereinafter called the team) was given
intensive training and cross training. New communications
equipment was introduced and taught to the team. All
personnel took daily language lessons in both French
and Laotian. Area studies of the country was introduced
and studied. Required reading of selected books became
mandatory, such books as the "Ugly American" and Street
Without Joy are examples. Week after week this continued.
We were to deploy in civilian clothing, with all military
identification left behind. One cover story was, we
were members of a Geodetic Survey team. I think (no
longer sure) there were about seven, 12 man A teams
and the staff to be deployed,
Somewhere around one hundred-four personnel in all.
After weeks of training in June 1959 at 0330 hours
we departed Fort Bragg. All our equipment and personnel
loaded aboard two C124's both decks on each plane
loaded to the hilt. All dressed in our civilian clothes.
We landed in California and stayed for a couple of
days. Reloaded and was ready to continue the journey.
The engine on one of the planes caught fire which
delayed the second plane departure for a day or so.
The team continued on to Kadena AFB on Okinawa. There
a hitch developed as the India representative to the
UN questioned our status and our mission. We had to
stay on Okinawa for couple of weeks while that was
straighten out. Finally the full team was ready to
go. We flew from Kadena AFB to Bangkok, Thailand.
There we loaded onto C-54's and flew into Vientiane,
Once there rapport was established with the American
Ambassador and the MAAG group in country. All A teams
were deployed throughout the country, from Pakse to
Plain DE Belovens, from Savanaket to Saravan. In civilian
clothes they began to accomplish the mission they
had been assigned. A communications net was established
and operational, a logistical support system established
and became operational.
June soon became January, the team was extended past
the 180 day Max TDY status and continued their operations.
Finally the order was given that replacement teams
would arrive. The operation was changed to Operation
Whitestar. Colonel Simon and selected members of his
staff remained to lead the replacement teams. The
original A teams redeployed back to Fort Bragg in
late February 1960. The 77th SFG(A) had been redesignated
the 7th SFG(A).
Whitestar teams continued to deploy and rotate in
and out of Laos. IN 1961 the Special Forces initial
A team entry and buildup began in South Vietnam. Our
SF troops in Laos rotated in and out of the country
for the next ten years. I do not know when the end
of Operation Whitestar was declared.
July 59 - "Hotfoot" advance party arrived in Vientiane.
17 Dec 60 - Kong Le's coup fell - Mission Militair
Francaise d'Instruction withdrawn/
13 Feb 61 - PEO (Project Evaluation Office) requests
9 additional teams (PEO-OPT627) to supplement - authorized
strength of 12 - 11 man teams, a 22 man control team.
19 Apr 61- MAAG is established to replace PEO.
22 Apr 61 - FTT-54 (Cpt Walter Moon team CO) at Ban
Pha Home is overrun - Cpt Moon captured and held prisoner
until he died - was awarded Silver Star posthumously.
3 May 61 - Truce
13 May 61 - Team FB-A "Operation Pin Cusion", K-1
Kha Hune (natives) "Kha Maquis" is formed.
16 Aug 61 - 12 additional SF intel specialists authorized.
23Jul62 Declaration of Neutrality signed, White Star
peak strength was 433.
SF losses in LAOS between 1959 and 1962: All were
from 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
MIA - BNR (body not recovered) Sgt Gerald M Biber,
MIA - BNR - Sgt John M Bischoff, 4/22/61
MIA - Killed in Captivity - CPT Walter Moon, 7/22/61
KIA - Sgt Theodore Berlett, 1/28/62
MIA - SSG Raymond Parkes, 7/17/62
Supplemental Reading Materials
"Land of a Million Elephants", by Asa Baber, Morrow
"The War in Laos", Kenneth Conboy, Osprey
"Code-name: Copperhead", Joe Garner, Simon &
"Operation White Star", Richard Sutton,
Daring Books, 1990.