On A CIA Mission In Laos This Airman Held Off An Assault For Hours With Just A Radio And An M-16
On March 11, 1968, on a remote mountain top in Laos called Lima Site 85, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger singlehandedly repelled a North Vietnamese assault and ultimately gave his life to save his teammates.
Etchberger was part of a secret CIA operation in Laos. Due to the mission’s secrecy, and its questionable legality, Etchberger’s own family knew little of the details of his death — only that he lived and died a hero. It wasn’t until 1998 that the details of the mission were finally declassified, and a reevaluation of the Air Force Cross he had originally been awarded was ordered.
On Sept. 21, 2010, 42 years after Etchberger’s death, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor.
Etchberger’s story will now be told in an upcoming episode of Netflix’s documentary series, Medal of Honor, which debuts on Nov. 9. Etchberger is one of eight service members awarded the nation’s highest commendation for valor whose incredible lives and deeds the show chronicles.
A radar technician and 17-year veteran of the Air Force, Etchberger was handpicked to lead a team of technicians for a CIA op in Laos. The mission: To call in airstrikes on the Ho Chi Minh trail, a supply route used by North Vietnam to smuggle troops and equipment through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam.
First, Etchberger and his fellow airmen needed to undergo a process known as “sheep dipping.” They were released from military service and hired by Lockheed to avoid implicating the U.S. government in combat operations in Laos. When the mission was over, they would return to active duty, according to a September 2010 Air Force statement.
On the evening of March 10, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched an assault on the isolated camp, bombarding it with rockets, mortar and …read more
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