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The SGUs Were Almost Entirely Composed of the Hmong. Who are the Hmong ?
The Hmong are indigenous to Southeast Asia and lived principally in Laos. When French Indo-China was divided in 1954, there were more than 350,000 Laotian Hmong. In the Vietnam Era, some 60,000 Hmong served in the SGUs as surrogates for the United States. In Laos, they valiantly fought the Vietnamese and Laotian Communists for over a decade and were critical to America's war efforts in Vietnam. They lost 35,000 men, women, and children during the war, suffering fatalities at a rate three times higher than that of U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam. The Hmong who survived were persecuted by the Communist government that assumed power in Laos after the war. Many thousands were subsequently admitted as refugees to the United States. As of the 2010 census, 260,000 Hmong lived in the United States.
A Non-Communist Laos Was Central to U.S. Foreign Policy:
Laos is located at the center of Southeast Asia and borders China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma. The United States believed that if Laos fell to Communism, its non-Communist neighbors would also fall "like a tumbling row of dominoes. "To preserve Laos’s neutrality, the United States, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and ten other countries signed the 1962 Geneva Declaration prohibiting "all foreign troops and military personnel" from Laos.
America Needed Secret Guerrilla Force to Fight in Laos:
While the U.S. and other countries withdrew all military personnel, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) blatantly violated the Geneva Declaration by keeping thousands of troops in Laos. Using Laotian territory to circumvent borders, these NVA forces posed a direct threat to America's military position in South Vietnam. Unable to be present in Laos due to the Geneva Declaration, but needing to counteract the NVA, America required a covert military force. The Hmong were ideal candidates for America's secret war: They were renowned in past wars as being brave fighters who knew the rocky mountain terrain of Northern Laos well.
SGUs in Laos Were Critical to America's War Effort in Vietnam:
The SGUs engaged 80,000 NVA troops in Laos and actively supported other U.S. military objectives. They monitored NVA troop movements on the Ho Chi Minh trail, destroyed a billion dollars' worth of equipment heading for NVA troops in South Vietnam, and rescued numerous downed American pilots. The SGUs also controlled the Northern Laos Plain of Jars region which was of key strategic importance. As Richard Helms, CIA Director during the Vietnam War explained, "Every NV[A] soldier in Laos was one less enemy in South Vietnam."