From:  Marc Yablonka

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

We (the U.S.) always gets jacked up about the bomb tonnage ("bombies" as the Lao call them) dropped on Laos during the war. Purportedly more than all the bombs that were dropped during WWII by some accounts. You're no doubt very much aware of that, Joe. But what nobody seems to remember is that if it hadn't been for the North Vietnamese breaking the 1962 Geneva Accords, requiring a neutral Laos and no interference from either side, and sending men and materiel into Laos to bolster the Ho Chi Minh Trail, we never would have been in Laos in the first place!

    From:  Bill Altman

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

Hi Marc, Toward the end of my 21 years in the army I worked for a remarkable Colonel named Rolf Utegaard.  He served two tours with Special Forces in Vietnam and a 1 year tour in Laos in 1961 when he was a young captain and commander of a classified "White Star" Special Forces A team. After he and I retired, we became close friends. His family lived in Florida.  My Wife and I live North of Seattle. My wife and I invited Col. Utegaard , his wife, and their adult kids, to visit us  in the northwest.  One day during a phone call to discuss the details of the upcoming visit, he surprised me with a request.

"Bill could you do me a favor and set up a visit while we out there to see my old SF Commander who lives in a retirement community in Federal Way, Washington?" O course, my answer was sure, no problem, What's his name?

"Skip Sadler," Col. Utegaard replied.

If you have read the book "SOG" by John Plaster, you will recognize that name.  Skip Sadler was the senior SF advisor on General Westmoreland's Staff and earlier in his career had been the project officer for the Skyhook  system that was used by specially equipped C-130's to retrieve individuals from the ground. It was featured in one of the James Bond movies. In 1961 Sadler worked out of the U.S. Embassy in Laos as the commander of the "White Star" teams in Laos. I Contacted Col. Sadler and he was excited about the visit .

The day for the visit arrived and I took Col. Utegaard down to Federal Way.  Col. Sadler and his wife ( her nickname was "Murph"), welcomed us into their apartment.  For the next three hours I got to listen to these two old war horses exchange stories about their times and experiences. For me it was a rare treat and one I will always cherish.  Both men are gone now.  Col. Utegaard rests in section 61 of Arlington National Cemetery.  I don't know where Col Sadler is buried.

Bill Altman

    From:  Bill Altman

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

Thanks Nancy, I agree with you. Hope you have a great Christmas.

    From:  Frank Rogers

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

The fighting in Laos was not a “secret” to some of us in the military. In 1961 I was involved in processing personnel for overseas at Ft Eustis, Virginia, and one of the commander’s comments to the troops was, "We’re not on the way to Laos ... yet.”  And this was at the time we were sending troops to “Vietnam” in civilian clothes.

Frank R

    From:  Bill Altman

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

My wife and I live in Anacortes.  We should plan to get together and swap stories.

    From:  Marc Yablonka

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

Hi Bill,
What a great memory to have! I have had the SOG book on my shelf for many years, but I'm ashamed to say, have only thumbed through it. In fact, if it's the same book about SOG that I'm thinking about, there are two volumes and I have them both. Now you've bumped them up to my Must Read list!
In my time as a military journalist, I consider myself very lucky to have met so many fascinating people with fascinating stories all their own, whether related to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.
Best,
Marc

    From:  Nancy Smoyer

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

Bill, I loved this part of your story:   "For the next three hours I got to listen to these two old war horses exchange stories about their times and experiences. For me it was a rare treat and one I will always cherish."
For me, that's the best part of hanging around with veterans, hearing their stories   Well, second best is hearing stories from and about Donut Dollies.
Nancy

    From:  Steve Pennington

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

Bill, where do you live North of Seattle? I am in Edmonds.

Steve

    From:  Joe Ciokon

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

Our carriers on Yankee Station were flying more sorties in Laos than Vietnam at the height of the war.
JoeC


AFVN Group Conversations

    From:  Marc Yablonka

   Dated:  December 21, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

In 1967, it started as gossip and whispers in bars all over Southeast Asia. Apparently, there was another war as nasty and dangerous as the war in Vietnam. US Air Force Pilots, tired of the strict rules and regulations of the Vietnam War, began to volunteer for a mysterious program called, The Ravens.


The Ravens: Covert War in Laos

    From:  Marc Yablonka

   Dated:  December 22, 2018

Subject:  Ravens Documentary

I have always thought that the words that Eisenhower told JFK on the day Ike handed over the keys to the White House to Kennedy were intriguing, Frank. He said, "Don't worry about Vietnam. Laos is your problem."
And you're right to say that Laos being a "secret" war is a misnomer. It certainly wasn't secret to the Air America pilots I have befriended and written about in articles and in my last book. Most of them have felt for years that they have been unfairly maligned by countless articles in the media, a stupid Mel Gibson film and the very government that sent them to Laos in the first place.


Laos, The Covert War (The Ravens)

December 2018