This article is from
the June 3, 1999 edition of the Whitehouse, Texas,
TRI COUNTY LEADER
Captain D. L. "Pappy" Hicks displays pa'ndau given to him by General Vang Pao.
The pa'ndau is used to tell the history of the people since the Hmong tribe (Laotian Mountain people)
does not have a written language.
COVERT OPERATIONS RECOGNIZED:
Troup veteran honored at special ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
Captain D. L. "Pappy" Hicks returned home in Troup this week from Washington, D.C. where he was honored in a special awards ceremony.
On 14 May 1997, Captain Hicks, US Army, Retired, combat veteran of the Korean War, Vietnam War and many operations through out the world, was invited to go to Washington D.C. and speak at a formation of Hmong, a mountain tribe from Laos, and other Loation soldiers. On that day the US Congress recognized General Vang Pao, Hmong tribal leader and the Royal Lao Army, and his men as being the "Secret Army" in the "Secret War" in Laos during the Vietnam War.
The Secret Army was made up of Hmong and other Loation Mountain people and the Royal Lao Army, with American advisors. The advisory force was made up of US CIA, US Army Special Forces, US Army covert operators, and US Air Force. The Secret Army of 20,000 men and boys held off a 30,000 man North Vietnamese Army (NVA) with Soviet advisors, fighters and equipment from 1961 to 1975. The NVA 30,000 soldiers could have been used against American forces in South Vietnam. It has been determined that there are less names on the Vietnam War Memorial because of this effort in Laos.
From 1960, Pappy ran covert ops out of Fort Bragg, NC in Laos and South Vietnam. Stratigic Army Command (STRAC) and Special Forces Headquarters wanted to know from where the North Vietnamese were coming into Laos and the status of the Red Chinese and the Soviets. The mission for Pappy and other covert operators was to find out and "find" leaders who were enemies of the US and our allies.
During Pappy's tours in Laos and South Vietnam, he was knifed in his right arm in November of 1960 in Northern Laos. He was wounded by shrapnel in his neck and left shoulder in January of 1961 near the Cambodian border in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. According to Pappy, "We weren't supposed to be in Laos and Vietnam at the time, and I reckon if we had, I'd be dead."
He was deep covert and worked only with local tribesmen in the mountains of Laos and the Montagnards of the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.
Pappy was called back to Washington in May fo this year. On May 13, Pappy gave a speech in the US House of Representatives Longworth Office Building. On May 14, he gave another speech on the Mall near the Vietnam War Memorial to about 2,000 troups of the Secret War with their wives present. Afterwards General Vang Pao, assisted by Pappy Hicks, laid a floral at the apex of the Vietnam Memorial. On May 15, a memorial was held at the Arlington Memorial Cemetery where a monument had been placed in 1997 to honor the Lao men and women, and the American advisors who died in the mountains of Laos.
In his speech, Pappy said that at age 18, he had seen his first man killed in combat while he was a rifleman in the US Army during the Korean War. At that time he was sad and angered, he said, but not to a great depth. He had a war to fight. Then cam other wars. Now, much older and in the twilight of his life, he feels a deep sadness and closeness, and holds in high honor the men he fought beside. He said he was pleased when old warriors of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Secret Army sat and nodded their heads in agreement, most of them with misty eyes.
General Vang Pao honored Pappy in the Hmong way by tribal custom with a special award for the 39 years of service he has given to the Lao people, both in war and in peace. The Hmong people have no written language. They record their history on beautifully stitched cloths call pa'ndau. Pappy has received two of these, of which he is very proud. One pa'ndau tells the story of the Hmong tribesmen changing from Hill People in traditional clothing to uniformed soldiers as members of the Secret War. The second pa'ndau records the arrival of the communist soldiers of the NVA and Pat'net Lao driving them out of their homes in Laos and across the Mekong River and into the refugee camps in Thialand.
Pappy said he and General Vang Pao have been friends for 37 years and very close friends for 25 years. The general now lives in California near Santa Anna.
Lao leaders present for the special ceremonies were General Vang Pao, General Thonglith Chokengboune, and two princes of the Royal Lao family, Chao Opat NaChampassak, and Cho Vanhnasak NaChampassak.
Use your browser's back button to return to articles index