Below is Chapter 8 in full from the book "THE CIA'S SECRET WAR IN TIBET" (2002) by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison titled The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, DUMRA. The full and complete book consists of 312 pages and 19 chapters. Chapter 8 covers more specifically what I have presented regarding Camp Hale, Tony Poe, and my boss as found in the original site you came from. For the chapter preceding Chapter 8 click HERE. For the next chapter, Chapter 9, titled Hitting Their Stride click HERE.

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The unmarked C-118 materialized out of the western skies and landed at Peterson Field well after nightfall. Though bustling by day- -- it doubled as both an air force base and the municipal airport for Colorado Springs -- Peterson was sufficiently quiet after hours to allow for a discreet transfer of twenty Tibetans from their plane to a bus with covered windows. Two hundred eight kilometers later, they were at the gates of Camp Hale.

Stepping out in the predawn chill, the Tibetans were at home. Compared with the heat of East Pakistan and Okinawa, Hale was refreshingly brisk. Even in late May, the temperature dipped below freezing at night, and snow capped the surrounding mountains. "It looked and felt like Tibet," remarked interpreter Tashi Choedak. [1]

On hand to greet the new arrivals were CIA paramilitary instructors Fosmire, Poe, and Smith. Also present were the six Lithang Khampas who had shifted from Peary to Hale less than two weeks earlier. Conspicuous by his absence was the interpreter for the Lithang group, Lhamo Tsering, who -- in order to maintain compartmentalization in the clandestine project -- had been quietly whisked away to Peterson without a farewell.

The six Khampa holdovers were combined with the seventeen new students, and a training cycle for all twenty-three began the following day. Each Tibetan was given an American first name to ease identification. American names were also assigned to each of the three young translators: Tashi Choedak now went by "Mark"; Tamding Tsephel, a former medical student and the nephew of Gompo Tashi, became "Bill"; and the short, expressive Pema Wangdu was dubbed "Pete."

The interpreting skills of the three immediately came into play during an opening primer in radio operations. Ray Stark, one of two agency communications instructors assigned to Hale, discovered the Tibetans to be surprisingly astute. "Maybe it was the memorization and meditation associated with their Buddhist training," he later speculated. "They picked up codes fast and were a lot sharper than most people gave them credit." [2]

After two weeks, the seven best students from among the newcomers continued with an advanced radio class. For the remainder, intensive physical conditioning began. Given their mountain upbringing, the Tibetans already had tremendous lower body strength ("They could walk uphill all day," noted Tony Poe), but their upper body strength lagged far behind. Because they would need strong arms and chests for things like pulling shroud lines to maneuver their parachutes, CIA officer Jack Wall was charged with correcting this physical shortcoming.

A former smoke jumper, Wall had been working on CIA paramilitary operations in Asia since the Korean War. Initiating a comprehensive exercise and self-defense regimen for the Tibetans, he and the other instructors found them to be a competitive bunch. During a class on pistol disarming techniques, for example, the star student from the Peary contingent -- a spirited Khampa named "Donald" -- took on a newly arrived Amdowa. "Donald had a certain devilment in his eyes," recalls lead instructor Fosmire, "and he began striking his opponent with the pistol butt and cut his forehead." Fosmire promptly cut the class to let tempers settle.

Weaponry training followed. Significantly, the CIA had decided that the element of plausible deniability was now less important than improved firepower. This meant that students could now be provided with the U.S.-made MI Garand in lieu of the earlier British selection. Officially phased out of U.S. arsenals just two years earlier, the self-loading Garand was a quantum leap in sophistication over the bolt-operated Lee-Enfield. Honing their skills on a makeshift range, all the Tibetans soon became proficient shooters.

As on Saipan, the CIA officers found their trainees to be an endearing study in extremes. "They really enjoyed blowing things up during demolition class," said radio expert Stark, "but when they caught a fly in their mess hall, they would hold it in their cupped palms and let it loose outside"' [3]

As on Saipan, too, the CIA instructors found that they were learning from the Tibetans as much as they were imparting. This became especially apparent when the students were taken into the snowy hills and divided into two teams: one tasked with setting up an intercepting ambush, the second group with attempting to evade. Ditching snowshoes provided by the Americans, the Tibetans instinctively marched where the sun had baked a crust on the snow. In the most powdery conditions, they used a traditional trail-breaking method whereby scouts at the head of the column would bind their legs with rags and broken branches. As they threw themselves forward, they would compress a narrow path in the snow for the others to follow. Conforming to the lay of the land, this serpentine trail was all but impossible to spot except for direct overhead observation. [4]

Tom Fosmire, the first training chief at Camp Hale

Particularly remarkable about the Tibetans was their lack of fear of heights. "They would nonchalantly step off the sides of a ravine with barely a thought, " said Stark. On one occasion when a Khampa stumbled and came within a step of falling to his death, his countrymen reacted not with horror but with shrieks of laughter over the embarrassing faux pas. [5]

Such lighthearted innocence remained the hallmark of the Tibetans through-out the weeks of tough instruction. Not once did they register anger; indeed, the students considered it humorous when the Americans displayed emotion. Continued Stark, "They would intentionally leave doors open to get a rise out of me. I told them that when I visited them in a free Tibet, I was going to rip their tent flaps off. They thought this was hysterical."

This rapport made an otherwise hardship assignment easier. "We were completely self-contained at Hale to maintain secrecy," explained Fosmire. Besides running a full schedule of classes, the handful of instructors took turns cooking, cleaning clothes, and even driving the buses and snowplows. Only Sunday afternoons were designated as leisure time.

Theoretically, the CIA contingent could turn to Hale's parent base -- Fort Carson in Colorado Springs -- for support. To help with initial liaison between the training team and top brass in Carson, two U.S. Army colonels on long-term assignment to the CIA were dispatched to Colorado. The first, Gilbert Layton, had served in armored reconnaissance squadrons through 1946, then was sent on a string of agency assignments to places like Saipan and Turkey. The second, Gil Strickler, had been a logistician for General George Patton in World War II.

As it turned out, Layton and Strickler were barely needed. Soon after settling into Hale, the CIA paramilitary instructors took it upon themselves to smuggle in Brigadier General Richard Risden, the commandant from Carson, and offer him an impromptu briefing on their project. Reveling in the cloak-and-dagger nature of the program, Risden was smitten. Said Fosmire, "After that, he gave us anything we wanted."

Overview of Camp Hale. (Courtesy Roger MacCarthy)

One of the immediate results of the general's largesse was the provision of war mules. During World War II, Carson had been the processing center for hundreds of wild mules that were broken and trained in hauling field artillery. At the end of 1956, however, these beasts of burden were officially replaced by helicopters. Of the handful still left at the Carson stables, four were shipped to the CIA team at Hale to see if they could be adapted to carry arms for the guerrilla trainees.

A C-I30 at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, having its USAF tail markings removed prior
to an overflight of Tibet

Anthony Poshepny, AKA Tony Poe
Soon to become major operative in the secret war in Laos
(please click image)

Placed in charge of the resurrected mule program was Tony Poe. Very quickly, he found them to be ornery subjects. "They had been idle for years," he recalls, "and would bite and kick the Americans when we tried to tame them." By contrast, the Tibetans had no such trouble. "The Khampas talked softly to them for hours as if they were human," said Poe. "They had them domesticated in no time."

As training progressed through summer, guest instructors made an occasional appearance. Ken Knaus offered lectures on international relations and psychological warfare themes. Geshe Wangyal, who was ailing and needed bottled oxygen in Hale's thin air, coached the students in history and linguistics. He also gave the camp a native title: Dumra, Tibetan for "garden." (Hale was called "The Ranch" by the CIA trainers, a play on Camp Peary's nickname of "The Farm.") [7]

By late June, the project also got a fourth paramilitary instructor. Albert "Zeke" Zilaitis, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, had had his heart set on a career in professional football after playing for Saint Francis College in Pennsylvania. But when he did not make the cut at rookie camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he opted for the CIA. The choice turned out to be a good one, as he proved himself an able adviser in Thailand alongside Fosmire and Poe. [8]

Zilaitis's arrival coincided with the start of heavy weapons instruction. Among the systems introduced to the Tibetans were bazookas, mortars, recoilless rifles, and. 30-caliber light machine guns. Also making a debut at Hale was a consignment of five-inch rockets, courtesy of the U.S. Navy. Intrigued by their possible use for long-distance harassment, Zilaitis promptly loaded the rocket noses with high explosives, fitted wires to a car battery, and began firing them from a makeshift trough. Although the rocket trajectory could be slightly altered by bending the rear fins, accuracy was almost nil. Predictably, one veered off course and struck a transcontinental telegraph cable hanging across the valley, causing significant monetary loss and a flurry of angry messages from headquarters. Earning the name "Werner von Zilaitis" for the mishap, he quietly retired the remainder of the projectiles. [9]

The cable incident unnerved headquarters not so much because transcontinental cable traffic had been cut but because the operation had almost been exposed when telegraph crews arrived to make repairs. Secrecy was also threatened by crews servicing power lines through the camp, as well as by the occasional shepherd directing sheep across the valley. All these threats begged for measures to mask the camp's activities. As a first step, a platoon of military policemen was sent from Carson for perimeter patrol. Second, a cover story was concocted with the help of the Defense Atomic Support Agency (DASA) in Washington, D.C. During a 15 July news conference, Rear Admiral Edward Parker, DASA chief, claimed that his agency was carrying out a top-secret testing program at Hale. The program would not include setting off nuclear weapons, he assured the press. The following day, the Denver Post ran the story on its front page. As an aside, DASA informed the Public Service Company of Colorado that it needed to give a day's notice before crewmen serviced power lines near the camp. [10]

Unfortunately, the CIA's smoke screen did not extend to Carson and nearby Peterson Field. This became apparent in late summer, when the Hale instructors began the airborne phase of training. The agency had discreetly arranged to use a weather service C-47 based at Peterson to drop the students over a remote corner of Carson. The intention was to load the Tibetans into a bus with blackened windows and drive down to Colorado Springs late on Friday night, do the jump shortly after midnight, and head home before sunrise. [11]

The plan was sound, except for one crucial detail. CIA headquarters had forgotten to inform the civil aviation authorities of their impending nocturnal activity. On the night the first flight was flown, airport officials spotted a low-level aircraft on radar and assumed that it was in trouble. As this pattern continued over the next two weekends, wild rumors spread through the community; concerned and suspicious, the authorities demanded answers. In short order, phone calls were placed from Washington, and promises were made to give notification before all future night flights. [12]

By that time, the Tibetans had completed three jumps without mishap, and their training officially came to an end. For graduation, Zilaitis went to neighboring Leadville and ordered nine kegs of beer. To the surprise of the proprietors, he came back later that night with empties and asked for five more. [13]


Elsewhere within the CIA, the debate on how to return the Tibetans to their homeland had been raging for weeks. Following the earlier ST WHALE flights, the agency had firmly concluded that its DC-6 derivative, the C-118, was in need of retirement. "It might have been good for Pan Am," one CAT pilot later commented, "but it was not a war bird." [14]

Beyond this general consensus, however, there had been considerable disagreement over the C-118's replacement. George Doole, a former airline executive co-opted by the agency to oversee its aviation proprietaries, had initially decided that the DC-7C cargo plane was a good pick. At first glance, the choice appeared sound. An extended version of the DC-6 series, the DC-7C had been warmly welcomed by civilian airlines for its ability to complete nonstop Atlantic flights.

Confident in the DC-7'S abilities, Doole had acquired one airframe in Miami and initiated training runs over the Atlantic. Very quickly, however, word came back that the plane was burning out engines at an alarming rate. "It was really no more reliable than the DC-6 at high altitudes," concluded CIA air branch officer Gar Thorsrud. [15]

Thorsrud, in fact, already had his eye on a better candidate. Back in 1951, the USAF had scoped the requirement for a rugged workhorse that could land in primitive conditions. The result -- the C- 30 Hercules -- was nothing short of revolutionary. Blending propellers and jet power, it combined good speed and range and had double the payload of the C-118. Moreover, its rear ramp was specially designed for airdrops, and its reversible props allowed for quick stops on small fields. The Hercules reached USAF squadrons to rave reviews in late 1956, and the USAF almost immediately started production of a B model with an improved engine and better systems reliability.

There was one problem with the Hercules, however. In exclusive service with the USAF for less than three years, it could not be mistaken for anything other than an American military aircraft. If one were ever lost over unfriendly territory, plausible deniability would be impossible. But following the earlier decision to replace British rifles with American ones, plausible deniability for the Tibet project was now subject to exception.

Thorsrud, for one, thought that the upgrade in aircraft capability outweighed the risk of exposure. Bypassing Doole, he took his proposal directly to Des FitzGerald, who in turn placed a call to General Graves Erskine. A thirty-six-year veteran of the Marine Corps (he had led the assaults on both Iwo Jima and Guam), Erskine had been serving since 1953 in a newly formed slot as assistant secretary of defense in charge of the Office of Special Operations. An innovation of the Eisenhower administration, this post commanded great influence in allocating military support for the CIA's various cold war skirmishes. Armed with statistics supplied by Thorsrud, FitzGerald made a convincing pitch. Once Erskine gave his blessing, the Pentagon agreed to lend its new cargo carrier. [16]

The order was relayed to Sewart Air Force Base in Tennessee (which hosted one of the USAF's original Hercules squadrons), where the local wing commander, Colonel George Norman, was petitioned for loan of a single airframe and volunteer crew. The cover story: aviators were needed in Colorado Springs to give weekend joyrides to the first batch of graduates from the new Air Force Academy.

In short order, six airmen took up the offer. What was remarkable about the bunch was their lack of experience. Volunteering as aircraft commander was First Lieutenant Billie Mills, who had signed on precisely because he wanted to chalk up more hours in the Hercules. His equally green copilot, Captain Milt Chorn, had a desk assignment and merely wanted time in the cockpit to earn flight pay. [17]

Their assignment, they soon discovered, had nothing to do with an academy boondoggle. Met on the Peterson tarmac by Thorsrud, they were ordered to sign secrecy documents and given a skimpy mission brief. Palleted supply bundles were to be loaded into the back of the C-13O, instructed Thorsrud, and then dropped on ground signals in the mountains around Hale.

Upon hearing their real purpose, Mills protested. His colleagues were essentially rookies, he argued, and had never performed drops in mountainous terrain. Before he put them and his plane at risk, the lieutenant requested a telephone to ask the advice of his superiors at Sewart. In the meantime, Thorsrud got on a different phone and relayed the gist of the crew's lament to Erskine's office at the Pentagon. By the time Mills got Tennessee on the line, his wing commander, Colonel Norman, was engaged in a urgent call from Washington. Though far from happy about having some of his more inexperienced men on loan to the CIA, the colonel was ordered to be cooperative. "Be careful," the colonel curtly told Mills, "and don't let them kill you." [18]

Over the following week, the Sewart aviators made flights over Colorado to boost their self- confidence. After that, the practice drops began. Jim McElroy, the agency's logistics chief from Okinawa, was temporarily deployed to Peterson to help rig loads. Once the pallets were packed inside the Hercules, the USAF crew was simply told to drop them to unknown persons setting signal fires near Hale; if they did not see the correct signal, they were to abort. [19]

After several days of this, Thorsrud eagerly lobbied to begin the next phase of Hercules trials. To confirm the suitability of the C-130 for long-distance airdrops, the agency had mapped out a circuitous route covering 2,419 kilometers (1,500 miles) of mountainous terrain leading to a small ground target at Hale. The entire flight was to be done at low level (much of it at less than 500 feet) with a full cargo load. The idea was to have the terrain mask the aircraft from radar; only if there was trouble would the crew bounce up to 606 meters (2,000 feet), above the highest terrain feature. Further, the CIA planners allowed for just a ten-second variance between flight checkpoints, and a thirty-second variance over the drop zone. As if that were not enough, the return journey was to be flown with one of the plane's four engines shut down.

Because Mills and his men had performed well during the flights to date -- and because the CIA did not want to bring a second crew into confidence -- the agency argued that they be retained on the project. The USAF again agreed, albeit reluctantly. Mills was also less than enthusiastic, as he knew that the CIA stipulations placed the C-130 at its performance limits. In the end, however, the flight went off without a hitch.

Now that the USAF crew had proved the concept, there remained the task of transitioning the CIA's own pilots for the actual mission. Earlier in July, the agency's Far East proprietary, Civil Air Transport, had changed its corporate identity and been renamed Air America. Despite the name change, its roster still included Doc Johnson, William Welk, and the rest of the team that had performed the initial C-118 drops over Tibet. Called to Colorado on short notice, they were turned over to the USAF crew for instruction.

Upon meeting the seasoned Air America aviators, Lieutenant Mills stood in awe. "Some of them had 20,000 hours," he recalls, "against my 1,000 hours in multi-engined aircraft." Despite the mismatch, the two contingents got on well working in the cockpit. They were instructed to stage from Colorado to points west. During their low-level return trek, a mountaintop post at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada would be actively seeking them on radar. "On the first attempt," remembers Mills, "Nellis reported spotting US for just fifteen minutes out of three hours." [20]

The next day they repeated the flight, but this time with the added challenge of having their electronic Identification Friend-Foe signaler turned on. Rising to the occasion, the Air America pilots masterfully hugged the terrain. "It was a breathtaking flight," said Mills. "Nellis tracked us for just eight minutes."


After nearly a month of Stateside training, Doc Johnson and his men were sent back to the Far East at the beginning of September. The Tibetans at Hale had also graduated, and the skies over their homeland were set to clear. Thus, the race was on to perform the first C-130 parachute infiltration as soon as the weather and lunar conditions proved cooperative. According to the CIA's original plan, the agents were supposed to link up with the NVDA and provide a multiplier training effect. But having lost its eyes inside Tibet back in April, the agency had no timely intelligence on the current location of resistance pockets, if any.

An attempt had been made to rectify this shortcoming early that summer. On his rushed return from Hale in May, Lhamo Tsering had paused briefly at the CIA's Okinawa safe house and met with a motley ensemble of seven Tibetans -- all medical rejects or academic washouts from the two contingents in the United States. Of these, he selected four and escorted them back to East Pakistan, then across the border to India. [21]

Meeting up with the group in Darjeeling, Gyalo Thondup chose three to conduct an overland infiltration into Tibet to determine the disposition of the NVDA. Because the PLA was believed to be blocking most of the passes along the NEFA and Sikkim frontier, the team was to skirt west of the Kanchenjunga massif and enter Tibet via a trading route in eastern Nepal.

As it turned out, the mission did not last long. They had barely crossed the border when the agents ran headlong into a PLA patrol. Two of the three were killed instantly; the third went on the run and did not make it back to Darjeeling for several months. [22]

Still without eyes, the CIA had little recourse but to sift through the rumors circulating among Tibetan refugee camps in India. From these sources came apocryphal tales of an isolated NVDA band 19O kilometers north of Lhasa near the shores of the Nam Tso, Tibet's second largest saltwater lake. If true, the stories were dated by at least several weeks. But they reflected a certain logic: just as the lake's serenity had long made it a favorite destination for religious pilgrims, that same isolation made Nam Tso a good pick for a guerrilla redoubt.

With no better options coming to the fore, the CIA on 3 and 4 September directed its U-2 spy planes to make a pair of high-altitude passes over the Nam Tso; a third overflight was conducted on 9 September. Air America's Hercules crew was then summoned to Kadena to view the photographs and pinpoint a drop zone. Pending good weather, the mission was set for the full moon cycle during the third week of the month. [23]


Back at Hale, the CIA instructors had taken aside the original Lithang Khampas -- who by that time had been training for more than ten months -- and briefed them on their impending Nam Tso mission. As their number had been attrited down to six, the decision was made to augment them with a single commando from the follow-on contingent. Before departing Colorado, all were coached in the use of the "L Pill," an innocuously titled cyanide ampoule cushioned inside a small sawdust-filled box. In the event of severe injury during the parachute jump, or some other dire contingency, the agent merely had to place the pill in his mouth and bite; death was guaranteed within seconds. [24]

At the beginning of the third week of September, Fosmire loaded the seven Tibetans into Hale's shielded bus and ferried them to Colorado Springs in the dead of night. The Pentagon's Office of Special Operations had already made tentative arrangements for ten Asia-based C 130s to be set aside for what was vaguely described as a "classified general-war alert standby mission." For this initial flight, however, the decision was made to have Lieutenant Mills and his crew bring their own Hercules from Sewart. [25]

The USAF airmen and Gar Thorsrud were waiting on the Peterson tarmac as the bus pulled close to the C-130's rear ramp. All but the cockpit windows had been covered with makeshift curtains, as much to prevent prying eyes from peering in as to prevent the passengers from looking out. With the Tibetans, Fosmire, and Thorsrud taking their places in the back, the Hercules lifted off and headed west for McClelland Air Force Base near Sacramento, California. Pausing just long enough to take on more fuel, they were back in the air and en route to Hickam Air Force Base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for another refuel.

What had been a clockwork operation to that point quickly ground to a halt as the Hercules blew an engine shortly after take-off from Hawaii. Making an emergency return to Hickam, the crew was informed that repairs promised to be extensive and lengthy. The ST BARNUM team was now in a bind: not only would the delay make them miss their lunar window of opportunity, but it would be hard to conceal seven Asians on base for any length of time without risk of exposure.

Thinking quickly, Thorsrud relayed a call to General Erskine's Office of Special Operations. Answering on the other end was Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Fletcher Prouty, a former air transport pilot and the office's senior air force liaison. Invoking the highest national security concerns, Prouty promptly placed a call to Hickam and lit a fire under the resident top brass. In short order, one of the base's senior officers rushed out to the plane. "He was in an unmistakable deference mode," said Thorsrud. A new C-13O from Hickam's own inventory was quickly substituted for the stricken Sewart airframe, and the mission was again underway." [26]

Upon reaching Okinawa, the C-13O was joined by Doc Johnson and his Air America crew, who took their places behind the USAF aviators. Boarding, too, were smoke jumpers William Demmons, Andy Andersen, and Art Jukkala, all assigned as kickers on this maiden Hercules flight. Squeezed in among the passengers was 13,500 pounds of palleted supplies; though far short of the C-13O's full potential, this was still an increase over the C-118.

Two others joined the flight as well. Baba Lekshi and Temba Tileh, both Khampas from the contingent that had ex filtrated to Hale in May, had been deemed too old to endure the stress of paramilitary training. Left behind at the Kadena safe house for the previous four months, they were now ordered to join the Nam Tso team as its eighth and ninth members.

On 18 September, the crowded Hercules proceeded southeast to Thailand and landed at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, a former imperial Japanese airfield about 130 kilometers north of Bangkok. Instead of Kurmitola, the CIA intended to stage all future Tibet infiltrations from Takhli, an option made possible by the C-130's extended range. Primitive (it sported two runways -- one concrete, one dirt), remote (a single nearby village numbered 300 inhabitants), and backed by a supportive government in Bangkok, Takhli had all the necessary ingredients for a discreet launch site. Moreover, Tibet flights launching from Takhli entailed a less risky overflight of remote Burma rather than India. East Pakistan's Kurmitola would still be available, but only for emergency diverts.

Shortly before midnight, Fosmire, Thorsrud, and the USAF crew stood on the Takhli runway to bid farewell. With Doc Johnson at the controls, the C-I30 roared down the airstrip and disappeared into the northern sky.


Staring at the radar console, navigator Jim Keck called course corrections as the C-130 took a direct bearing up Burma's Salween valley. Leaving Burmese airspace and skirting easternmost India, the Hercules arced west toward the southern extreme of the Tibetan plateau. The flight to the drop zone promised to be a trying seven hours each way.

Though the C-130 was infinitely more comfortable than the C-118, at no point did Keck feel the tension ease. Part of this was due to the navigational challenges of the mission. Part, too, was anxiety over the ad hoc emergency precautions taken by Air America. A quick review of their on- board survival kit, for instance, found it to be stocked with items such as a life raft, dye markers, and fishhooks -- all of questionable value in the mountains. Equally irrelevant was the lecture they had received by an expert nutritionist on eating herbs and bark, none of which grew at high altitude. Worse, they had been warned that a hefty white man parachuting from a disabled plane in the thin air would likely end up with broken legs. Lamented Keck, "They issued us each a silenced .22-caliber pistol and told us we were better off riding the plane in." [27]

All this was little comfort as Keck directed the plane around Lhasa and north toward the Nam Tso. Before long, the surface of the lake could be seen reflecting moonlight in the distance. Already, the nine agents had taken up positions in front of the right door, while a string of table-sized pallets was maneuvered along rollers leading out the left.

In the final minutes before the drop, the three kickers put on oxygen masks and pulled open the doors. Cold air sliced through the cabin as the airplane slowed to 120 knots with flaps down. With the plane's nose edging skyward and the green light flashing, Tibetans and cargo exited without incident. Cutting a tight circle over the Nam Tso, the Hercules was quickly on its way back to Takhli.


Remaining in Thailand, Tom Fosmire ventured down to the CIA station in Bangkok to await initial radio contact from his agents. Team leader Ngawang Phunjung, who had gone by the call sign "Nathan" while in the United States, had consistently impressed the agency instructors during training. "He had a good sense about him," opined Fosmire. [28]

But good sense or not, the days ticked by without Nathan coming on the air. After a week of fruitless waiting -- and amid speculation that the team might have accidentally landed in the lake and drowned -- a dejected Fosmire headed back toward the mountains of Colorado.




In writing about the TV and movie actress Phyllis Davis and the two of us traveling in Thailand many years after my Nam Yu days, I make reference to a city called Mong La. I visited Mong La along the Chinese Myanmar border, comparing it to the wretchedness of the Star Wars city of Mos Eisley. I do so by including a section on her page titled MONG LA: Mos Eisley Spaceport or Mayberry, R.F.D.?. That same section also shows up on my Khun Sa page. Although I don't give specific dates as to when the events in the section actually occurred, it is implied quite clearly that they happened after Hurricane Ike, i.e., September 1, 2008 - September 15, 2008, but before Ms Davis' death September 27, 2013, many years after the mid-60s encounters between Khun Sa and myself. In the section I write:

"Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker that he'd never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the whole galaxy than Mos Eisley spaceport."

Then I write that I guess neither of them ever heard of Mong La. Later, after leaving Mong La I go on to say:

"Not long after that we were in Panghsang with me introducing myself to Wei Hsueh-kang. He asked if I had the 'item.' I opened my phone and handed him the SIM card. He praised me for a job well done, saying everything he heard about me was true. Then he asked how it was I knew Khun Sa. I quickly explained to him the whole story saying I felt he was instrumental in saving my life."

Wei Hsueh-kang is probably the most notorious Southeast Asian warlord and drug kingpin around, with a $2M dollar FBI bounty on his head. Yet I sat there on a veranda with him along the Chinese-Burma border sipping drinks together. Next thing I know I am at the 140-million-baht Casino Club operating under the flagship of the Myawaddy Riverside Resort Complex on the Thai-Burma border meeting with Khun Sa's son.


After the communist takeover in China Wei Hsueh-kang's family fled to Wa state in Burma living with his two brothers in the Wa Hills, of which all three eventually ended up working for the KMT-CIA network along the Shan-Yunnan border. He then began to work as treasurer for the notorious Khun Sa, who led the Mong Tai Army and in his heyday from the 1970s to the mid-1990s was known as the "Opium King," Khun Sa, at one point, heading the FBI's most wanted list.