Battle for Skyline Ridge

The CIA Secret War in Laos

James E. Parker Jr

The first complete account of the secret battle of Skyline Ridge, 1972, when a ragtag Laos-Thai army supported by the CIA threw back a vast NVA army.
Date Published :
December 2022
Publisher :
Illustration :
100 photographs and maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612007052
Pages : 216
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781636242187
Pages : 216
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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The first complete account of the secret battle of Skyline Ridge, 1972, when a ragtag Laos-Thai army supported by the CIA threw back a vast NVA army.

In late 1971, the People's Army of Vietnam launched Campaign "Z" into northern Laos, escalating the war in Laos with the aim of defeating the last Royal Lao Army troops. The NVA troops numbered 27,000 and brought with them 130mm field guns and T-34 tanks, while the North Vietnamese air force launched MiG-21s into Lao air space. General Giap's specific orders to this task force were to kill the CIA army under command of the Hmong war lord Vang Pao and occupy its field headquarters in the Long Tieng valley of northeast Laos.

They faced the rag-tag army of Vang Pao, fewer than 6,000 strong and mostly Thai irregulars, recruited by the Thai army to fight for the CIA in Laos. By the time the NVA launched their first attack, 4,000 Tahan Sua Pran had been recruited, armed, trained and rushed in position in Laos to defend against the impending NVA invasion. They reinforced Vang Pao's indigenous army of 1,800 Lao hillstribe guerrillas.

Despite the odds being overwhelmingly in the NVA's favor, the battle did not go to plan. It raged for more than 100 days, the longest in the Vietnam War, and it all came down to Skyline Ridge. As at Dien Bien Phu, whoever won Skyline, won Laos.

Against all odds, against all WDC expectations, the NVA lost, their 27,000-man invasion force decimated.

James Parker served in Laos. Over many years he pieced together his own knowledge with CIA files and North Vietnamese after-action reports in order to tell the full story of the battle of Skyline Ridge.

About The Author

James E. Parker was one of the first American soldiers into Vietnam, and he was the last to leave in 1975. In between he married, graduated UNC and joined the CIA. His first CIA assignment was upcountry Laos where he led Hmong hillstribe guerrillas against two divisions of North Vietnamese soldiers.

After para-military work in Laos/Vietnam, Parker went on to serve undercover in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, retiring in 1992. His books included Last Man Out: A Personal Account of the Vietnam War, and Covert Ops: The CIA's Secret War in Laos. James spent years researching the battle of Skyline Ridge and working on this book, he sadly died while it was in production.


1. Origins
2. Enter Vang Pao
3. Spanner in the Works
4. Test of Concept
5. Air America
6. Geneva Accords 1962
7. The Secret War Takes For
8. Relegated to the Shadows
9. LS 36 and LS 85
10. The Mighty Ravens
11. 1968
12. About Face
13. 1970
14. Royal Thai Army's 13 Infantry Regiment
15. The Tahan Suz Pran
16. Campaign 74B
17. St Valentine's Day Massacre and the Thai Irregulars to the Rescue
18. Back to the PDJ
19. PDJ Fight
20. Phase I Skyline
21. 14 January 1972
22. Phase II Skyline
23. VP's End Around
24. Hill 1800
25. Sam Thong and CC Pad Falls
26. Final Show Down at CC and CB
27. So What Happened?


"Parker has created an incredibly powerful account of a little-known chapter in the Vietnam War saga. Expertly written with a touch of the personal to remind readers that the author was a participant in these dramatic events, this is an excellent choice for readers interested in the wider Vietnam conflict, Cold War paramilitary history, and the CIA’s role in it all."

- Booklist

"... A very well-researched and annotated story of the history and development of the American attempt to fight the communist Pathet Lao during the Vietnam War."

- The VVA Veteran

"This is more than just the story of a campaign, or even a single battle. What Parker gives us is an incredibly detailed, inside account of how the CIA covert action in Laos was established, managed, and supplied."

- Journal of Military History

" excellent choice for both the scholar and the student who want to better understand less famous aspects of the Vietnam conflict."

- Military Review

"A rare look into the first substantive insider account of the largest covert military operations the CIA has ever run, including significant material heretofore classified "CIA Top Secret" - somber, provocative, vivid, and memorable."

- Leatherneck Magazine

“Battle for Skyline Ridge presents a sweeping account of the ‘secret war’in Laos, from the beginning in 1961 until the ceasefire in 1973. This book is perfect for anyone interested in both the battle for Skyline Ridge itself and the mechanics of how a small band of CIA officers helped to form Vang Pao’s private army.”

- New York Journal of Books

"This work is a welcome addition to the pantheon of books being published in the last couple of decades to finally peel back the curtain of secrecy and contribute to the wider understanding of America’s involvement in the secret war.”

- Joseph D. Celeski, The Green Berets in the Land of a Million Elephants

"Parker’s greatest strength is his firsthand knowledge of the subject matter. Interspersed throughout the narrative are incidents the author personally witnessed, thus contributing a weight of authority and giving the reader a sense of being there in a way few military histories are capable of matching."

- HistoryNet

"The endnotes of Battle for Skyline Ridge boast interviews and conversations that he held with old friends and colleagues with whom he served in the Laos operations to piece together the chronology of key events. Many of the details included in this book likely would have been lost to historians forever without the efforts of Parker and his former colleagues."

- International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence

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