Hardcover, 219 pages, 9x6, English
by Chia Youyee Vang
During the Vietnam War, the US Air Force secretly trained pilots from Laos, skirting Lao neutrality in order to bolster the Royal Lao Air Force and their own war efforts. Beginning in 1964, this covert project, "Water Pump," operated out of Udorn Airbase in Thailand with the support of the CIA. This Secret War required recruits from Vietnam-border region willing to take great risks--a demand that was met by the marginalized Hmong ethnic minority. Soon, dozens of Hmong men were training at Water Pump and providing air support to the US-sponsored clandestine army in Laos. Short and problematic training that resulted in varied skill levels, ground fire, dangerous topography, bad weather conditions, and poor aircraft quality, however, led to a nearly 50 percent casualty rate, and those pilots who survived mostly sought refuge in the United States after the war. Drawing from numerous oral history interviews, Fly Until You Die brings their stories to light for the first time--in the words of those who lived it.
"Her excellent appendices, notes, and bibliography, as well as ten pages of photographs, significantly strengthen the research. Above all, the revelations of the people she interviewed make this book a valuable history lesson about the intricacies of the Vietnam War." -- Henry Zeybel, Books in Review II, The VVA Veteran
Chia Youyee Vang is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the co-editor of Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women (2016) and author of Hmong America: Reconstructing Community in Diaspora (2010) and Hmong in Minnesota (2008).