Small Wars Journal

Inside the Green Berets’ Success in America’s ‘Secret War’

Inside the Green Berets’ Success in America’s ‘Secret War’ - Association of the United States Army

For more than a decade, America’s “secret war” in Laos involved U.S. Army special operations forces, false IDs and cover stories—and the secrecy surrounding it has remained relatively intact until now.


Retired Army Col. Joseph D. Celeski, author of The Green Berets in the Land of a Million Elephants: U.S. Army Special Warfare and the Secret War in Laos 1959–74, described the secret war as one of the first “long wars” for special operations.


Between 1959 and 1974, Green Berets were covertly deployed to Laos in civilian clothes and prepared with cover stories, he said. Their mission was to prevent a communist takeover, or at least to preserve the kingdom’s neutrality.


“The big elephant in the room is we [were] trying to intervene,” said Celeski, who recently spoke at the Association of the U.S. Army as part of the Lyman L. Lemnitzer lecture series…

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