Not many left of this Line of Work

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Apr 7, 2011.

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  1. CIA hitman Bill Young found dead in Chiang Mai

    William Young CIA agent Laos
    'Killing was part of the job' said former agent described as 'a retired James Bond'

    By Edward Loxton

    LAST UPDATED 1:20 PM, APRIL 4, 2011


    An American missionary's son who became a top CIA Vietnam War-era hit-man in the jungles of Burma, Laos and Thailand has been found dead in his Chiang Mai home, a bullet in his head, a revolver in one hand and a crucifix in the other.

    "Bill Young died as he once lived - violently," said a friend.
    William Young was 76, a tall, lean, modest and quietly spoken man who belied the image of a CIA killer. He was likened by his British friends to a retired James Bond.
    "He was an extraordinary individual who led an extraordinary life," said the US Consulate General in Chiang Mai, the main city of northern Thailand, in a death notice.
    Despite his action-packed CIA career, Young drifted into quiet retirement in his rambling home on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Disowned by the CIA after challenging US policy in Vietnam and Laos, Young worked at home for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, using the contacts he had built up over the years among the hill-tribes of Laos and northern Thailand.
    I visited him over a period of several weeks, working on the script of a film about his extraordinary life. Our long recording sessions were broken regularly by phone calls from his contacts, conducted in at least four different hill tribe languages.
    Bill was most at home among the Lahu, who inhabit the mountains of Laos and northern Thailand. Lahu mourners packed a Chiang Mai church, together with other hill tribe representatives, for a traditional ethnic funeral service today.
    Hundreds of hill tribe people in traditional dress, including members of the warlike Wa, are expected to attend the burial on Wednesday in Chiang Mai's Foreign Cemetery, a leafy corner of the city watched over by a bronze 19th century statue of Queen Victoria.
    Bill's grandfather was a Baptist missionary who converted thousands of Lahu tribespeople in British-controlled Burma in the late 19th century. His father, Harold, also a missionary, pioneered the CIA connection by joining the American intelligence service and conducting spy missions in southern China after Mao Ze Dong's Communists ousted the Kuomintang.
    Bill was born at a mission station in Burma and grew up in hill tribe villages, learning at least five local languages and forging friendships that were later to help him in his dangerous espionage work.
    Harold Young's Washington connections secured Bill a CIA post, and soon the young operative had gathered an army of several thousand Lahu warriors to help disrupt communist supply lines running through Laos during the Vietnam war. "Killing was part of the job," he told me, detailing several scenes where he had shot his way out of tight corners in remote hill tribe villages.
    Although Laos was officially neutral, US special forces penetrated deep into the landlocked country as the Vietnam war raged, while US aircraft bombed border sections of the Ho Chi Minh trail which carried North Vietnamese supplies southwards. The US did all it could to cover up its Laotian operations, which came to be described as the 'Secret War'.
    At the height of the fighting, Bill was air-dropped into the mountains of central Laos to find a suitable site for an airfield base. He scoured the mountainous, forested terrain on foot and finally found an ideal valley near the Plain of Jars. (The photograph at the top of the page, which was on display in Young's living room in Chiang Mai, was taken during this period.)
    The CIA operation known as Air America based itself there and within months the airfield, named Long Cheng but which appeared on no map, had grown into one of Southeast Asia's busiest.

    "It was a small city," Bill told me. "It had brothels and bars, casinos - everything a serviceman could ask for. But it had a church, too."
    Bill's base as a CIA operative was a comfortable house on the Thai banks of the Mekong River, opposite Laos.
    He liked to party, and his home became open house to a steady stream of air hostesses and nurses heading for the Air America base. Bill married one, but the marriage ended in divorce.
    "She was a very beautiful woman and I loved her dearly," Bill told me. "But she persuaded me to return to the US and take a regular job there. I lasted only a few months - my real home was among the Lahu."
    Bill died with one ambition unrealised. A major Hollywood film studio paid him $100,000 for the rights to his story, but the movie he wanted to see arrive on the big screen was never made. Some say the disappointment fuelled the depression that haunted him in later life.

    Read more: CIA hitman William Young found dead at his Chiang Mai home | People in the News | People | The First Post
  2. Jonwilly it is hard to know where to begin.

    First the CIA didn’t have any hit men in South East Asia. This is a matter of public record. The USSF personnel responsible for ‘Project Gamma’ requested one. The CIA didn’t provide one because they didn’t have any. There was a scandal when the USSF took on the task themselves and botched it.

    Young certainly wasn’t a hitman. He was a pussycat. He was certainly more argumentative than Pop Buell, but compared to most of his colleagues he was as meek as a lamb. The fellow who replaced him in Laos, Tony Poe, was an out an out psychopath. (and Walt)

    There was nothing particularly secret about Young’s activities in Laos. From memory he got a run in McCoy’s ‘The politics of Heroin’ that was published in the early seventies.

    The official history was written by the Rand Corporation in 1972 by Douglas Blaufarb. “Organising and managing Unconventional War in Laos 62-70” was declassified in 1981. That’s thirty years.

    Air America did not establish the airstrip at Long Tieng. The numbered “Lima Sites” were landing sites surveyed by SEATO in the late 1950’s. They are all there in the SEATO archives. Strip length, surface type and direction. There were very few strips in Laos that had the potential to be used in the monsoon season. The Australian military attaches in Laos worked hard on this project and I assume that the UK attaches also had a part in this. Long Tieng was one of the few LS's that were all weather and all season. It was this factor that made it best suited as a logistics base for Bill Sullivan’s war.

    Young shot himself. What’s with that, did he have cancer?

  3. Jon willy is posting a link to an article not writing a thesis

    The article has a bullshit headline and premise. Its unlikely to get any less "exotic" further down the page

    The chap seemed like an interesting man in interesting times.

    The article has no reason to infer he topped himself over guilt of all the people he'd assassinated. The crucifix is just ******* drama

    Cheers for the article Jon Willy. it pricked my interest to follow some of chippymicks links
  4. Mick as has just been said I was merely reporting one of several articles that have been published since Bill Young's death.
    I have two elderly friends who knew him well.
    The oldest has been very upset by the death and the other, a fellow Yank is out of country at the moment and was not please when I sent him the above material.
    I agree he was not a hit man, we think we know the Jurno who wrote it up for World Press and well a few Choice exaggerations never harmed selling the tale.
    My oldest friend has quite a collection of books in which Bill Young 'Stars' but he is loath to let even me borrow them.
    B. Y. was mentioned in Air America and I have a copy of Dr Alfred W. McCoy's Politics of Heroin in S E Asia.
    I never met B.Y. he has been in poor health for many years. My American friend attended his last birthday party earlier this year and was upset by how he had deteriorated, Emphysema smoking or, requiring him to be on Oxygen most of the time.
    I was due to have my weekly curry lunch with my 91 year old Brit but following yesterday's Funeral he has cried off.
    I have been told a few tales, hearsay, but perhaps in time some facts will come out.

  5. chippymick, why do you think Tony Poe was a walt ?

    "He joined the US Marine Corps in 1942 serving in the 2nd Marine Parachute Battalion and fought in the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima, receiving two Purple Hearts."
  6. Hi Jonwilly

    I wasn't havinfg a go at you, or indeed Young.

    These guys are utterly interesting and indeed did live in interesting times.

    My attempt to set the record straight was aimed at the journalist Loxton, not you. My error.

    Do have a look at the Blaufarb link. It was originally produced as an inhouse critique, so there is a degree of honesty that you might not see elsewhere.

    The secret war in Laos is anything but. PM me if you want more.


  7. Tony Poe was a counter productive thug, an arch bullshitter, a complete **** and a Eastern European Walt.


  8. OK.

    I've read a couple of books where Tony Poe has been mentioned and didn't get the same impression you did.
  9. Can I suggest Backfire by Roger Warner? It seems to be reasonably balanced.


  10. A more balanced view on Bill Young.

    Wise man on the hill
    By Bertil Lintner

    CHIANG MAI - There was hardly a vacant seat in the Protestant church by the Ping River in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai for the funeral. American veterans of the Indochina war mixed with Thai and foreign residents, missionaries and intelligence officers, Lahu and Wa tribesmen, and even some wildlife conservationists.

    Wreaths came from a group of people who fought in the secret war in Laos in the 1960s and call themselves the "Unknown Warriors Association 333", former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) workers, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and across the border in Myanmar the rebel Shan State Army.

    All of them had come to say farewell to former US Central

    Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer William Young, who on April 1 ended his own life after suffering from severe emphysema and other ailments, aged 76. He was found dead in is home in Chiang Mai with a handgun in one hand and a crucifix in the other. Young was a warrior but also a devout Christian. As the turnout at the funeral showed, Young was a legend long before he died.

    His life and that of his family reflected the ups and downs of more than a century of American engagement with Southeast Asia, its most glorious days as well as its most controversial. At the turn of the last century, William Young's namesake, his grandfather William Young, opened a Baptist mission in Kengtung in the eastern Shan states of Myanmar, then known as Burma.

    While the staunchly Buddhist plainspeople ignored the Christian gospel he proselytized, Lahu hill-tribesmen flocked to him by the thousands. Like many other hill peoples, the Lahu had a tale about a "white God" with a book who was destined to save them.

    The older William Young was indeed white and carried a Bible under his arm. The prophecy seemed to be fulfilled and a record number of baptisms were carried out in the Kengtung hills. His sons carried on his work, Harold among the Lahu and Vincent among the Wa, who were still headhunters when the Youngs first ventured into their area which straddled the border between Burma and China. They founded churches, missionary schools and devised the Roman script for both the Lahu and Wa languages.

    Harold's son, William Young, was born during a family visit to California in 1934 but he grew up in the Shan states and became fluent in several local languages, including Lahu and Shan. He later learned Wa, Thai and the northern Thai dialect as well as some Hindi and Chinese. Hindi was added after the Young family was evacuated to India when the Japanese invaded Burma in 1942, and young William attended the Woodstock school in Mussoorie in the hills above Dehra Dun.

    When the war was over the Youngs returned to Burma, and Harold, although an American, was appointed as administrator of the Wa Hills by the British colonial power. That lasted until Burma's independence was achieved in 1948. The Youngs moved to northern Thailand where the father, Harold, founded the Chiang Mai zoo and the mother, Ruth, built up the American University Alumni (AUA), which is still one of the most popular places in the city to learn English.

    By then, however, Harold Young was already closely connected with US intelligence, during the war with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and later the CIA. The recruitment of missionaries into America's spy agencies was not a coincidence. Britain and France had intelligence agencies which were well established in different parts of the world due to their status as global colonial powers.

    The US, in comparison, had no coordinated external intelligence agency until World War II, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 Washington realized that it was of utmost importance to develop one. The need became even more pressing after the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, where espionage was given the highest strategic priority.

    The OSS was formed in 1942 and the CIA in 1947. But unlike the colonial powers at the time, the US had no old network of operatives and local intelligence assets from which to draw. There was one exception, though: the Christian missionaries. They had over the years acquired in-depth knowledge of local cultures and languages, and some - among them the Youngs - enjoyed a near-godlike status in their respective communities of Christian converts.

    Like father, like son
    From their base in Chiang Mai, Harold Young and his eldest son Gordon trained Lahu paramilitary units for intelligence work inside Burma and, more importantly, China, where the communists had seized power in 1949. The younger son, William, was recruited by the CIA shortly after he had finished service with the US army in Germany in the mid-1950s.

    When the Indochina war escalated in the early 1960s, William, with his unique linguistic capabilities, was ideally placed to help organize the "secret war" in Laos, which had to be clandestine because Laos's neutrality was guaranteed under the 1962 Geneva Agreement.

    No foreign troops were supposed to be in Laos but North Vietnamese forces supported the communist Pathet Lao in the north and northeast, and in other parts of the country CIA operatives were active working alongside Thai special forces known as the Border Patrol Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit (PARU).

    The head of the operation, William Lair, was equally legendary and Young became one of his most trusted officers. Alfred McCoy, the author of the classic The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, wrote that "since Young had grown up in Lahu and Shan villages in Burma, he actually enjoyed the long months of solitary work among the hill tribes, which might have strained the nerves of less acculturated agents". Author Francis Belanger referred to Young as "perhaps one of the most effective agents ever".

    Young built up a pan-tribal army and recruited a remarkable team of 16 Lahu and Shan operatives he called "the Sixteen Musketeers". He also worked with Vang Pao's ethnic Hmong army - and a little-known unit of Nationalist Chinese soldiers called by its French name, Bataillon Special 111. Manned mainly by ex-prisoners of war (POWs) from the Korean War who chose to go to Taiwan rather than being repatriated to China, they were given special training by the nationalists.

    The most trustworthy had been chosen for special operations in the mainland, but to prevent defection they had slogans like "Death to Communism!" tattooed on their arms. A group of them was sent to Laos, where they remained for years as the most secretive of all the mercenary units that were deployed there during the so-called "secret war". Young worked with Bataillon Special 111 in the Phatang area on the Thai-Lao border, from where they were sent north into China to wiretap telephones and collect intelligence.

    What had begun as a relatively small but highly effective operation turned into a massive war effort when Theodore Shackley, a new brash CIA station chief, arrived on the scene in 1966. Fresh from the Cuban missile crisis and Germany, Shackley had little or no understanding of local sensitivities in countries such as Laos. Vang Pao's Hmong army was built up into a massive force of tens of thousands of men - and, as Young once told this writer, "People like me became thumbtacks on the map on his wall in his Vientiane office."

    Within a year of Shackley's arrival, Young soon fell out with the CIA and the inevitable happened: he left the agency, accused by some of "insubordination". He returned to his family's farm north of Chiang Mai a bitter man and felt that the US government had dealt its hand extremely clumsily in Laos.

    Years later he often talked about how "my country", as he always said, should be more understanding of local conditions and cultures. He came across the same problem when in the 1980s he trained security personnel for the Chevron Oil Corporation in Sudan. While Young spent most of his time in the company of Sudanese officers, his colleagues drank and played cards together with little or no interaction with anyone from the host country.

    But Young's life was not confined to war and training security personnel. After leaving the CIA in the late 1960s he served as an assistant and interpreter for the American archeologist Chester Gorman, with whom he excavated ancient spirit caves in the backwoods areas of Mae Hong Son and Kanchanaburi provinces in Thailand.

    Their findings provided a breakthrough in Thai archeology and Young was proud to have helped fill in the gaps of work previously done by the French in Indochina and the British in Burma. He also ran a guesthouse in Chiang Rai and in later years worked as a consultant for the US DEA.

    Many locals in Chiang Mai and elsewhere would argue that Young's passing marked the end of an era. Today's intelligence operatives come from entirely different backgrounds and generally don't have the same experience and local knowledge as Young provided - as the US's many misadventures across the globe are clear and glaring testament.

    Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and the author of Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948 and several other books on Myanmar. He is currently a writer with Asia Pacific Media Services.
  11. Agreed Jonwilly, much more accurate.

    Last year I almost purchased the "Royal Navy Intelligence Report on Indochina for 1946" Because of the long British colonial presence in SE Asia the Brits had an intelligence gathering tradition second to none. The fact that the Brits had a country dossier undoubtably assisted Gracey's occupation. By contrast the OSS had nothing. The first US Soldier killed in Vietnam, Peter Dewey, died thinking that his assailants were called the Viet Nam rather than Viet Minh. Like his opposite number in the North, Archimedes Patti, he was woefully ill informed.

    From 1955 to 1963 the CIA was responsible for 'the small wars'. As a nascent organisation it was extremely limited in what it could achieve. By the end of the 2nd Indochinese wars in 1975 the CIA was still a youthful institution, less than thirty years old.

    It was far from omnipotent and far from omnipresent. The media promotes the line that the CIA guys in Vietnam were some sort of Jason Bourne. At the minimum they were all expected to have mild superpowers.

    The other problem holding them back was the 'Not invented here' syndrome. The US refused to accept the advice of the French or the British and suffered accordingly.

    When asked to comment on his wartime reporting in Vietnam, David Halberstam remarked to British journalist Phillip
    Knightley, “The problem was trying to cover something every day as news when in fact the real key was that it was all derivative of the French Indo-China war, which is history. So you really should have had a third paragraph in each story which should have said, ‘All of this is shit and none of this means anything because we are in the same footsteps as the French and we are prisoners of their experience.’”

    The point needs to be made that most of the Western Intelligence gathered on Laos prior to 1960 was conducted by the British attached to SEATO Headquarters in Thailand. The CIA were preoccupied with Indonesia and Tibet at that time.

    After the Case-Church amendment the only intelligence coming out of Laos was via the redoubtable J. P. Cross. There is some legitimacy of Cross' claim to be first in and last out.

    And Loxton is a hack.


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  12. Great thread