A recent reference to retired CIA paramilitary officer Tony Poe or Tony Poshepny below, raises the question of CIA paramilitary operations in general. As we read these accounts we should ask, can we really expect that PM officers will ever produce intelligence? Did we not run a PM war in Vietnam for years without ever understanding the other side? Did we not conduct a PM war in Afghanistan that led to the creation of "International Terrorism?" Did not all PM wars contribute to the international drug traffic? Did not the CIA's committment to paramilitary wars engage this country in many other destructive activities?
In a speech in October 1998, by John Millis, Staff Director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), he dicussed the future of the CIA. Millis is a former CIA operations who became Staff Director of HPSCI in 1997. Mr. Millis said re CIA paramilitary operations:
"We believe we have to keep a very strong paramilitary capability on the shelf for the Directorate of Operations. It's always hard to anticipate what the next crisis is going to be, but we can be sure that it will be there. And the paramilitary capability the DO has is uniquely well suited for many of the types of situations that we're seeing around the world."
The reference item on Tony Poe said:
"...his life helped to create the greatest cinema icon to come of the Vietnam war. This man...is the real Colonel Kurtz, whose fictional counterpart was played by Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola's epic movie Apocalypse Now...
The reality of the Kurtz legend is far stranger than fiction... [It] confirmed the existence of a US super-spy code-named Upin. Upin was a pararmilitary expert....Like the fictional Kurtz, he recruited a private army of 10,000 tribesmen, married a princess turned his back on the US and became as savage as the jungle he made his home."
...Agent Upin, also known as Pat Gibbs, was Anthony Poshepny, one of the CIA's most notorious and effective agents deployed in the Vietnam war. Orders were to enter Laos illegally in 1961 and conduct a secret war against the communists that would be denied in Congress and hidden from the US public...."
The below are brief extracts from CIABASE files on Tony Poe.
Laos, Tony Poe ran the secret ground war in Laos and kept pickled heads. Poe was a Hungarian refugee who began his CIA career training Khamba tribesmen to fight the Chinese in Tibet. Poe said "we got the Dalai Lama out of Tibet." In Laos he rewarded his men for producing the ears of communists. Harper's 7/85 60
Laos 53-75 book by Roger Warner, Back Fire: the CIA's Secret War in Laos and its Link to the War in Vietnam, (1995). Discusses Vang Pao of the Hmong tribesmen. The Secret War gained momentum - with Bill Lair - an ideological cold warrior, using Thai paratroopers to train the Hmong. Lair had his hqs in Udorn, Thailand. Tony Poshepny, an ex-marine of Hungarian origin - who had worked with the CIA's ops with the Khamba in Tibet and in Sumatra, Indonesia was ultimately thrown out of op, a broken-down drunk. This is a wry, compassionate narrative. "from 63 to 73, Laos was a secret annex to Vietnam war, overseen by the ambassador, run by CIA, and bombed by the U.S. military, without the consent of Congress." Warner focuses on CIA's misbegotten strategy of the Hmong counterinsurgency. A horrific tale of blindsighted do-gooders, ambitions and bungled intentions. Bill Lair/CIA recruited 10,000 Hmong. Clothed, fed and armed by CIA and trained by Thais, they helicoptered to elaborate skirmishes against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese. At peak strength of 30,000 they were the only effective Lao army. Vang Pao took his cut from the opium trade. He deserted to the U.S. in 75, six months before the Pathet Laos' triumph. The Nation 9/18/95 288-90
Laos, China, 67-68 Tony Poe sent T-28 planes to bomb in China. Corn, d. (1994). Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades 154-5
Laos, Vietnam, 63 In 8/63 Lair received an order to disrupt NVN truck traffic thru Laos by blowing up parts of route 7. From an Air America plane, Tony Poe dropped demolition charges. Thais supervised twelve platoons of elite Meo troops called Special Guerrilla Units as they blew up a section. Warner, R. (1995). Back Fire 100-1
Laos, Thailand, Vietnam. Edgar Buell, Tony poshepny and William Young had personal imprint on secret war. Tony Poe in 58 was one of two operatives sent to support separtists revolt in Indonesia. His first assignment was with anti-Sihanouk mercenaries along the Cambodian border in South Vietnam. In Laos he offered one dollar for an ear of enemy and more for a head and cap. McCoy A.W. (1991). The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Traffic 306-7
Laos. Beginning in 64 Vang Pao became drug lord of the Hmong. Per Ouane Rattikone, commander of Laotian army, and Gen Thao Ma, then commander of the Laotian air force, Air America began flying Hmong opium to markets in Long Tieng and Vientiane. Tony Poe, a CIA officer who worked with Vang Pao, said Vang Pao made millions in drug traffic. Air logistics for opium trade further improved when CIA and USAID gave Vang Pao financial assistance in forming his own air line, Xieng Khouang Air Transport. Formed in late 67 with two C-47s acquired from Air American and Continental Air Services. McCoy, A.W. (1991). the politics of heroin: CIA complicity in the global drug traffic 318
Laos, Thailand, 62-72 CIA worked with the Thai Border Police who were assigned to run the Meo op from Thailand -- from Udorn airbase. Thai BPP served as radio operators, training cadre, and support troops for Vang Pao's men. Thais operated under control of only 2 CIA officers - who lived with Vang Pao - Vint Lawrence one and Anthony Poshepny. They lived in a mountain hut for nearly 2 years - this early after 62 Geneva agreements. Further details of Vang Pao and the drug traffic. Grant, Z. (1991). Facing the Phoenix 148-160
Laos, 59-75 Op momentum was the support of the Meo with the Thai PARU with Vang Pao the commander. If they ultimately lost Vang Pao's Meos could move to Sayaboury province. If Thais refused they might take him in Thailand and make him a border security force. Bill Lair part of op as was Lloyd "Pat" Landry, Tony Poe aka Anthony Poshepny - Poe had run PM missions in the Korean war, worked with the Tibetan Khamba tribesmen for a rebellion against China, in 58 Poe and Landry to Sumatra, Indonesia to jump start a rebellion there, until they rescued by submarine. Tony Poe 's hobby was collecting enemy ears. Warner, R. (1995). Back Fire 47-54
Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, 70-71 Cambodia, indirectly, would feature another, far bigger Lao PM program when in 6/70 the Thai gvt declared it would be sending Thai volunteers to help defend Khmer republic. The DOD stepped in and agreed to pay for a 5,000 man contingent. Bangkok waffled and men were sent directly to Laos. A force to total one artillery and nine infantry battalions. the Project called Unity. The Pentagon funded but CIA administered the program in field. Case officers were Tony Poe, Dunc Jewell, Chuck Campbell; and, Doug Swanson. On 12/15/70 two Thai battalions entered Laos under op code-named Virakom (patriot) - they were sent to MR-4. Conboy, K. & Morrison, J. 1995). Shadow War: CIA's Secret War in Laos 285-6
Laos, China. Background on Tony Poe who led the Hmong forces in Laos for many years. He offered rewards to Hmong for the ears of communists. Harper's 7/85 60
Laos, Thailand, Vietnam. Edgar Buell, Tony Poshepny and William Young had personal imprint on the secret war. Tony Poe in 58 was one of two operatives sent to support separtists revolt in Indonesia. His first assignment was with anti-Sihanouek mercenaries along the Cambodian border in South Vietnam. In Laos he offered one dollar for an ear of enemy and more for a head and cap. Details re Pop Buell. Mccoy, A.W. (1991). The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Traffic 306-7
China, 69-72 Commando raider company in 70 used as passive intel-gathering role along the Chinese built road in North Laos. CIA supporting an autonomous agent net run by RTA intel against Chinese road-building. Thai-run assets produced no significant intel. George Kenning was responsible for liaison with the Nien. Due to news dispatches revealing Tony Poe's role, he was reassigned to Thailand as Pat Gibbs. Fox ops against China had been wrapped up years earlier, and many Tartar and Scope teams - whose incursions into China had never been deep or frequent - were recalled. Conboy, k. & Morrison, j. (1995). Shadow War: CIA's Secret War in Laos 317-9