Legacies of War is an educational and advocacy organization working to address the impact of the American Secret War and the conflict in Southeast Asia, including removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO).
The Laotian Civil War, also known as the Secret War, was a conflict that had far-reaching consequences for the people of Laos and the wider region. Despite being one of the largest covert operations in US history, with the US dropping more bombs on Laos than it did during the entire Pacific campaign of World War II, the conflict remained largely unknown to the American public. This led to the conflict being dubbed as the “Secret War.”
During the war, the CIA supported the Royal Lao Army and provided military aid and training in their fight against the communist insurgency. The CIA also launched a secret bombing campaign, dropping over 2.5 million tons of ordnance on Laos. Equivalent to one bombing sortie every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. This bombing campaign had a devastating impact on the people of Laos and the country’s infrastructure, leading to widespread displacement, poverty, and suffering.
The American Secret War in Laos may have remained largely unknown to the general public, but its impact is still felt in Laos today. The country remains one of the poorest in the region and continues to struggle with the aftermath of the conflict, including the ongoing threat posed by unexploded ordnance. Over one-third, about 80 million, pieces of ordnance dropped did not explode on impact. The Secret War serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of covert military operations and their impact on the people and nations caught in the crossfire.
“As a child in Laos, I was taught to walk on well-worn paths to avoid unexploded bombs left-over from the Secret War my parents survived. This tragic legacy must end so that new ones may begin.”
Fred Branfman and Bounguen Luangpreuserth, an American educational adviser and his Laotian colleague, documented the experiences of Laotian refugees during the US bombing of Laos (1964-1973) through collected illustrations and narratives. These moving accounts, created using simple tools like pencils, pens, crayons, and markers, paint a vivid and raw picture of the atrocities they faced. Despite their significance, only a select few were aware of the existence of these hand-drawn testimonies.
For over 25 years, these historical artifacts sat untouched in John Cavanagh’s office in Washington D.C. But in a remarkable turn of events, John met a Laotian-American and decided to pass the illustrations on to her, hoping she would do something with them. This chance encounter gave birth to Legacies of War in 2004.
It’s worth mentioning that Legacies of War operates solely through contributions and donations, without any financial support from the government. Nonetheless, their mission to raise awareness and increase resources has had a tangible effect on the ground in Laos. The result is more cleared land, enhanced safety, and expanded access to care and services for thousands of UXO survivors in the country.
Now Legacies of War has raised over $45,000,000 for the UXO sector in Laos and is actively advocating, educating the public, and sponsoring programs to continue their cause. For example, Legacies Library is a collection of books, films, articles, and oral histories vetted by Legacies of War that tells the story of the American bombing of Laos (1964-1973) and its neighbors in Vietnam and Cambodia. We are proud to tell their story and be affiliated with them, and we encourage all of you to support their mission in any way you can.
We are proud to be affilated with them and we encourage you to check out their page and/or donate to their cause!