James William Lair passed away on October 28, 2014


(SHB) — James William Lair also known in the Hmong Community as Col. Bill Lair passed away on October 28, 2014 at around 4:45 PM Central United States Time.

Click here to watch Suab Hmong News exclusive covered one of the event held by Hmong SGU with Col. Bill Lair.

Read more below on who is James William Lair from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_William_Lair

James William Lair (often referred to as Bill Lair) (born 4 July 1924) was an influential Central Intelligence Agency case officer. He was a native Texan, raised in a broken family, but a good student. He joined the CIA after serving in a combat unit in Europe during World War II, followed by a geology degree from Texas A&M. In his senior year, he was recruited by the CIA.

Assigned to the Kingdom of Thailand on 1 March 1951, Lair found himself training Border Patrol Police to Special Forces standards. Originally established with an aim of opposing the invasion of Thailand by the People’s Liberation Army of China, the new unit policed the Thai border areas until hostilities broke out in the neighboring Kingdom of Laos. Acting in response to the Kong Le coup of 9 August 1960, Lair’s unit secretively supplied the communications liaisons needed for the successful counter-coup of 14 December 1960.

Once established within Laos, Lair promptly searched out Vang Pao. The latter promised 10,000 Hmong recruits for a secret guerrilla army to fight the communists. CIA acceptance of the offer led to the Operation Momentum training program, which would eventually raise an irregular army of 30,000 guerrilla warriors. Even as Lair imported more of his Thai commandos to train the Hmong, the CIA began to infiltrate additional case agents to work under Lair. They were reluctantly welcome, as Lair felt that monolingual Caucasian case officers were difficult to conceal and added little to the training effort.

Although the International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos in July 1962 temporarily curtailed CIA activities in Laos, Lair’s Thai commandos remained in Laos. Lair set up a headquarters at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base just south of the Thai-Lao border; he flew into Laos as dictated by the ongoing circumstances of the secret war in Laos.

The Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964, followed by the first American combat troops landing in Vietnam in May 1965, escalated the war. Even as American troops piled into Vietnam, military action in Laos ramped up on both sides. Lair was dismayed; he believed the only use for American troops was to attack Hanoi and end the war. He believed that their use to bolster the South Vietnamese military effort would lead to the Vietnamese becoming weakly dependent on American fighting ability and firepower.

In mid-1966, Lair gained a new boss in Ted Shackley. The new CIA Chief of Station promulgated increased operations against the Ho Chi Minh Trail and commitment of more troops to the fight for northern Laos. U.S. air power began to be used in Laos. The Royal Lao Air Force began its struggle to become an effective close air support force. A new covert unit, the Raven Forward Air Controllers, was formed to guide the air strikes. The use of airpower as mobile artillery to clear the path for guerrillas was successful in the short run; however, Lair believed it would lead to ultimate defeat for the Hmong, as they were used as light infantry.

Increasingly estranged from Shackley, as well as from Ambassador William H. Sullivan, Bill Lair left Laos in August 1968. After attendance at the Army War College, Lair returned to a desk job in Bangkok. He would score one last military intelligence coup, when his Thai brother-in-law visited the dying Mao Zedong and brought back information about the political maneuvering of potential successors.

Just before Lair’s retirement, he was honored with a private audience with Thai King Bhumibol. Upon his return to the United States, Lair became a long haul trucker. He remains active within the Hmong-American community.