THE EVACUATION

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THE AFTERMATH
After American armed forces pulled out of Vietnam, a communist regime took over in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, and ordered the prosecution and re-education of all those who had fought against its cause during the war.   While many Hmong are still left in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China (which houses one of the biggest Hmong populations in the world, 5 million), since 1975 many Hmong have fled Laos in fear of persecution. 

Housed in Thai refugee camps during the 1980s, many have resettled in countries such as the United States, French Guiana, Australia, France, Germany, as well as some who have chosen to stay in Thailand in hope of returning to their own land. 

In the United States, new generations of Hmong are gradually assimilating into American society while being taught Hmong culture and history by their elders.  Again, many elders fear that as the older generations pass on, the knowledge of the Hmong among Hmong-Americans will die as well.  Education is the future for the Hmong and the Low-landers.

EVACUATION OF THE HMONG - TRUTH BE TOLD
A dramatic event during the takeover of Laos by the communists was the evacuation of Vang Pao and other Hmong leaders by air from Long Tieng. The end came for Vang Pao on 5 May 1975 when he was called before Souvanna Phouma, the Prime Minister of Laos, and ordered to cooperate with the communist Pathet Lao. Vang Pao took the general's stars off his collar, threw them on the desk of Souvanna Phouma, and stalked out of the room. Four days later the official Pathet Lao newspaper warned that the Hmong people would be exterminated “to the last root."

Jerry Daniels, Vang Pao's CIA case officer, was the only American remaining in Long Tieng and he began to plan an evacuation of the Hmong. However, he had only one airplane to evacuate the 3,500 Hmong leaders and families he judged to be at risk of execution by the Pathet Lao then advancing on Long Tieng. 

Brigadier General Heinie Aderholt in Bangkok helped to find additional planes and sent three pilots flying two C-46 and one C-130 transport aircraft to Long Tieng. The planes were "sheep-dipped" to remove any US markings as the operation was carried out in secret. The pilots were American civilians: Les Strouse, Matt Hoff, and Al Rich.

With the three American planes, the evacuation began in earnest on 13 May with each transport aircraft making four flights each that day from Long Tieng to Udorn, Thailand and transporting more than 65 people per airplane on each trip – far more than the 35 maximum passengers dictated by safety conditions at mountain-ringed Long Tieng. Thousands of Hmong clustered around the airstrip at Long Tieng awaiting evacuation and the situation became increasingly ugly. On 14 May, Vang Pao and Jerry Daniels were evacuated secretly by helicopter to Thailand and the air evacuation came to an end. 

The next day the Pathet Lao marched into Long Tieng unopposed. Daniels accompanied Vang Pao to exile in Montana and then returned to Thailand to help the Hmong refugees there. What nobody had anticipated was the tens of thousands of Hmong left behind in Long Tieng and Laos would follow Vang Pao and other Hmong leaders to Thailand. 

By the end of 1975 about 40,000 Hmong had succeeded to reaching Thailand, traveling on foot through the mountains and floating across the Mekong River.   How many died or were killed in the attempt to escape Laos is not known, but the flight of Hmong and other Laotian highland peoples into Thailand would continue for many more years. They faced repression at home from the communist government as the price of their collaboration with the Americans. 

Most of the Hmong in Thailand would eventually be resettled in the United States and other countries. Between 1975 and 1982, 53,700 Hmong and other highland Laotian refugees were resettled in the United States and thousands more in other countries.

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