James E. Parker

In late 1971 the People’s Army of Vietnam (NVA) launched Campaign “Z” into northern Laos, escalating the war in this country with the aim of defeating the last Royal Lao Army troops and the Hmong irregulars supported by the CIA. General Giap’s orders included the destruction of the CIA-sponsored Hmong army, under command of the indigenous warlord Vang Pao, and the occupation of his headquarters in the Long Tieng valley of northeast Laos (once known as the ‘most secret place on earth’). To accomplish this the NVA would need to take the strategic Skyline Ridge.

Despite the odds being overwhelmingly in favour of the NVA, the battle did not go to plan, and although it raged for more than 100 days—the longest of any battle in the second Indo-Chinese War—the North Vietnamese failed to take the ridge, the pivotal objective that would have assured them victory. 

Authored by James Parker, who served in Laos with the CIA and who, unfortunately, died three months prior to publication, the book reflects his values and biases, but in bringing the battle to light he succeeds in drawing attention to an engagement, its combatants and history, that would have otherwise remained largely unknown.