Chapter

Virtually a Traitor

William J. Rust

in Before the Quagmire

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780813135786
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813136844 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5810/kentucky/9780813135786.003.0011
Virtually a Traitor

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With mid-level officials in both the State Department and Pentagon troubled by the absence of unambiguous policy directives from the highest levels of government, the Eisenhower administration committed itself in November 1960 to deposing Souvanna Phouma. The role of the U.S. military in Laos now included providing operational assistance to General Phoumi's troops to overthrow the prime minister. Assisted further by CIA-controlled Thai PARU forces, Phoumi was victorious at the Battle of Vientiane, an artillery duel with Kong Le's troops that killed a relatively small number of Lao soldiers but many hundreds of civilians. Before fleeing to Cambodia, Souvanna had sought assistance from the Soviet Union, which provided military support to both Kong Le and the Pathet Lao. Washington condemned Soviet “interference” and braced for a large-scale communist reaction to Phoumi's victory. When attacking forces moved on the strategic Plaines des Jarres, the U.S. military raised the status of its contingency forces for Laos to DEFCON-2, an alert condition just short of maximum military readiness and imminent war. President Eisenhower authorized a private “sober warning” to Soviet leaders, who replied that “force can always be met with force.”

Keywords: PARU; Battle of Vientiane; Plaines des Jarres; Eisenhower

Chapter.  10605 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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