Operation White Star (1959)

Operation White Star was the code name for a United States military advisory mission to Laos during the first years of the Second Indochina War, which would eventually become known in the United States as the Vietnam War. The purpose was to train the Royal Laotian Army as well as indigenous Hmong, and Yao tribesmen to fight the Pathet Lao communist insurgency. This was later extended to include combat against the North Vietnamese Army, which was increasingly using Laos as a staging, transit and resupply area for its operations in South Vietnam.

White Star began in 1959 as “Operation Hotfoot” with the deployment of 107 United States Army Special Forces soldiers of the 77th Special Forces Group —later named the 7th SFG in May 1960—under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur D. “Bull” Simons. Because Laos was ostensibly a neutral party to the conflict between the United States and North Vietnam, the soldiers did not wear United States Army uniforms.

In 1961, however, the United States lent full and open support to the Vientiane government and the program was renamed “Operation White Star” with U.S. soldiers openly wearing their uniforms. Operation White Star formally ended in July 1962 when Laotian neutrality was officially established. Counterinsurgency efforts were then managed covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency.

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