Cash on Delivery: CIA Special Operations During the Secret War in Laos
Author: Thomas Leo Briggs
Publisher: Rosebank Press (2009)
Binding: Hardcover, 324 pages
Cash on Delivery: CIA Special Operations During the Secret War in Laos is a detailed accounting of a CIA program directed by a CIA operations officer that sent small teams of irregulars behind enemy lines in Laos to find, fix and destroy North Vietnamese Army units, capture NVA soldiers or encourage them to defect, intercept NVA radio communications, and recruit NVA soldiers to spy and report on their comrades.
It is a unique contribution to the history of the Vietnam War describing valuable experiences using surrogates to conduct intelligence and combat operations that have little or no adverse impact on the United States government's relations with the peoples and governments of other nations. An important lesson in the post 9/11 world of countering terrorism all over the globe where we do not have enough American troops to get the job done without political consequences.
The book also describes the daring and dangerous rescue of Raven 42, a U.S. Air Force forward air controller shot down while supporting Lao irregular surrogate forces fighting NVA main force units in Laos, attempts to infiltrate Cambodia to collect intelligence on the North Vietnamese in early 1970, the effort to uncover information about a missing Air America crewman captured in 1963, the tragic fatal crash of an aircraft carrying four of the author's best Thai operational assistants, and the uncovering of a mole hidden in a Royal Lao government military headquarters.
Here are intimate details that have never before appeared in print, recounting the planning and execution of a variety of special operations, conceived and carried out behind enemy lines by the CIA using only Lao irregular surrogates.
The CIA employed surrogates in southern Laos to force the North Vietnamese Army to keep combat units there to defend their logistical supply line rather than send them to fight U.S. and allied forces in South Vietnam. For the duration of U.S. participation in the Vietnam War the CIA succeeded in that goal.
Author Thomas Leo Briggs shares an account of about the CIA's involvement in the nasty little secret war going on in Laos during the Vietnam War. It is told with the authority of having been there and done that himself. His book, Cash On Delivery: CIA Special Operations During The Secret War in Laos is an education in what really happened there. To some degree, it gives some very astute observations and insights on how we could do these same kind of secret operations better in the future. In the last chapter of his book, the author points out the many lessons and things that were learned from that long ago experience that could be of huge and practical benefit to today's anti-terror wars around the world.
The book becomes most interesting for me when he talks about POW Eugene DeBruin, a civilian employee of Air America. He was captured after being shot down over Laos in September 1963 - while dropping rice out of the back of a C-46 for that country's government. Briggs details how they tried to find evidence of him still being alive and being held in captivity years later. He was never returned after the war ended. He became one of those many MIAs that just simply vanished with no accounting even though there is a photo of him as a POW. The story of what they did along with all the background information was very well written by the author. This could have become a boring history book but instead it is entertaining; even though it is loaded with lots of facts and data.
Briggs takes this untold history along with his own personal experiences and weaves them together into well written tale of spies, wars, and intelligence gathering. There isn't another book like this one out there that captures first hand accounts of what was really going on there. This story needed to be told and it needs to be read!
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2009)