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The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  409 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
First edition, first printing.
Hardcover, First Edition, 420 pages
Published October 14th 1987 by Crown Publishers, Inc. (first published October 1987)
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Jun 08, 2011 Bennet rated it it was amazing
By now you have probably heard that Laos is the most bombed country on the planet thanks to the spectacular deployment of American air power during the Vietnam War, most notably an onslaught of B-52s (aka, Big Ugly Fat Fuckers) that on Henry Kissenger’s orders commenced bombing the jungles of Northern Laos in 1970 AGAINST THE ADVICE OF EVERY AMERICAN MILITARY PILOT STATIONED IN LAOS AT THAT TIME. Those pilots were called Ravens.

This is one of the most important and overlooked bits of information
Oct 22, 2007 Craig rated it really liked it
As a naval aviator I was taught to look down upon Air Force pukes. But there ain't a ladder tall enough for me to look down upon these cats.
Dec 28, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book. The stories of these brave men and the things they saw and accomplished, and the people they lost, is both inspiring and crushing. Having worked with fighter pilots, I can say that their courage, willingness to break the rules, and need to participate in crazy, alcohol fueled parties, has not changed since the 60s. Neither has the American government's or the American peoples unwillingness to finish what they start. I learned a lot about Laos itself, as well, and the ...more
John Nevola
May 15, 2012 John Nevola rated it it was amazing
The Ravens were to pilots as Delta Force is to infantrymen. Flying in a Top Secret campaign over neutral Laos to interdict supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail, their saga is not very well known. Christopher Robbins tells this story in exquisite detail and with heart pounding drama.
The Ravens were FACS (Forward Air Controllers) who flew slow, unarmed prop-driven spotter planes over enemy positions to discover and direct fighter-bombers onto North Vietnamese supply convoys heading south.

Andy Robinson
Mar 21, 2013 Andy Robinson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
Cracking book about the hidden war during the Vietnam era. There are some truly brave men out there, many who never made it home. Great insight into SE Asia during a time of madness - recommended.
Mar 19, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing
The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos is one of the best books ever written about combat flying in general and about the war in Indochina in particular. The Ravens were a secret force of Forward Air Controllers operating in Laos in support of Royal Lao and indigenous Meo (aka Hmong which is a pejorative name) forces. The Ravens also flew armed reconnaissance, seeking out North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces along the Ho Chi Minh trail to attack. The secret war in Laos sp ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Apr 29, 2013 Michael Burnam-Fink rated it really liked it
Every time I think I've reached the end of the fractal of fuckedupedness that is the Vietnam War, I find something new. The Ravens is an oral history of the Steve Canyon program, a secret program of Forward Air Controllers that flew missions in Laos in support of the CIA backed Hmong Army of General Vang Pao.

What comes through first and foremost is the immense courage of The Ravens. These men flew Cessnas (literally, the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog) against a sophisticated air defense network of 14.5mm
Oct 30, 2012 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best non-fiction war book I've read. It's the story of the brave (slightly mad) US pilots who fought the North Vietnamese in Laos during Vietnam, flying suicidal missions in their own clothes and with their superiors back home denying they existed. A very engaging journalistic tribute to a bunch of characters who in the end were treated quite badly.
May 28, 2013 S. rated it really liked it

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anyway, not to be too change-of-topic: (WP skeptical that Specktor is a Notable Writer, btw)

okay quick story, since I've been selfishly spamming the site for a few days. sometimes somebody runs into you on the street and so you get all the gossip that has been stored up for a few years. the theme of this data d/load is "fate's arrow?" -->

once upon a time there were two people arriving in japan around 2006 to take up a job teaching English.

Brett Gasswint
Mar 23, 2017 Brett Gasswint rated it really liked it
Outstanding narrative of a secret war that even now most people don't know about. Robbins really gets into the actions and thoughts of all the pilots involved as well as the history of Laos and the secret war that was waged there.
Derek Baker
Dec 23, 2016 Derek Baker rated it liked it
Shelves: history, for-aviators

These are stories about gutsy pilots flying for the CIA in America's secret war in Laos. But the book is as much or more about the Hmong people who we used and discarded in the War in Vietnam. It's probably worth reading for that story alone. Because of the background on the Hmong, Ravens added meaning to the movie Gran Torino for me. It was also fascinating to read details of what went on in the secret base, Long Tieng, in Laos. This is the mysterious hidden base where Halliday (Flying Through

The Maverick
Jan 23, 2016 The Maverick rated it really liked it
Recommended, with reservations.

First, a general criticism. This book was painful to read. Not painful in the claustrophobic, nerve wracking, "impaled on a bamboo spear" way that The Tunnels of Cu Chi was -- no, just a bit slow and plodding and, well, not very well written or organized in some parts. In fact, this book was often the opposite of a "could not put it down" title -- it kept convincing me to put it down and move on to other books. Although I am used to reading several books at once, i
Jun 14, 2013 Les rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fairly gritty account of the fighting in Laos alongside the war across the border in Vietnam. I had no idea of the true scale of this conflict until I opened this book. I had previously thought it to be merely a fight against relatively small communist insurgent groups who were aiding the North Vietnamese. And, yes whilst this was happening, there was SO much more to the story and this book is one of the places where you'll find some of the facts.
The Ravens were a group of forward
Jim Mullin
Feb 09, 2017 Jim Mullin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent historical assessment of the AF/CIA secret air warfare in Cambodia and Laos. What comes to mind for me is the utter corruption of the United States bureaucracy that allowed the Viet Nam war to come about. I cannot understand how seemingly good men can be elected/appointed to Presidency, Congress, Senate, and Civil Departments, then become evil and corrupt which in this case caused 54,000 young Americans and millions of Vietnimeses, Cambodians, Laotians, Meo tribesmen to die for noth ...more
karl levy
Jun 09, 2016 karl levy rated it it was amazing
This is a fine book written for the US pilots and their close Hmong friends who flew in the Secret War in Laos and for those who like the adventure of war told by those who took part. It is an oral history of the moods and feelings, their trails and tribulations , rather than a collection of facts about the amount of bombs dropped and the leaders who ran the war. The criticism in other reviews probably comes from some aspects that seem to have been written unexpectedly in the passive voice that ...more
Mar 17, 2014 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of the U.S. "Secret war" in Laos, focusing on the involvement and perspective of the Ravens. It also highlights the challenges - and damages - from Washington to truly support the Royal Laos Army, as well as the promised the Ravens had to break to the country and especially the Hmong indigenous people.

This book is very well written and researched; it also challenged how I think about both this war and the Vietnam War. It's a must read for any student of American history
Paul Cornelius
Sep 05, 2014 Paul Cornelius rated it it was amazing
This book is every bit as good as Robbins' other work, Air America. Just as with the latter, The Ravens reads almost as an adventure story. But it's history. And Robbins enjoyed unparalleled access to many of the men who were Ravens, forward air controllers in Laos during the "Secret War." Today, this group of veterans is quickly disappearing from the scene. Most are in the late 70s and early 80s. Fortunately, Robbins was there to cover the story of Air America and The Ravens from the 70s to the ...more
This is a good book in telling the story of the men who were Forward Air Controllers in the secret war waged in Laos. These guys were brave, were great pilots and had incredible camaraderie. The stories of their adventures were unbelievable but true.
The book is critical of the US policies of the time but it does not provide much on the Laos politics or the men who were the Hmong backseaters. Still it shows what the US did do, and you wonder what they are still doing somewhere in the world.
Mar 06, 2016 Hairystool rated it really liked it
Good book about a group of very brave and unorthodox US Air Force pilots operating alongside CIA pilots in a war that wasn't officially happening!
Their exploits are interwoven with the political chicanery being practised by the North Vietnamese; the Laotian government; and the US administration.
A very fitting tribute, not only to The Ravens but also to the Hmong people of the Laotian Uplands, who are STILL fighting this war.
May 12, 2016 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the secret war in Laos. In the beginnings a bigger war than that in Vietnam. This aspect of the war in greater Southeast Asia touched me later as I helped Lao, Meo (Hmong) refugees coming to the US. Teaching English and navigating the array of paperwork. My time was at the end of the Vietnam War, but we carried on being part of Nixon's and Kissinger's secret Cambodian War. This war brought more refugees needing help with forms and learning English.
Oct 27, 2013 Bartman231 rated it really liked it
Having known one of the Ravens, I enjoyed reading about the war they fought. There is quite a bit of the story missing. This is more of a biographical, sanitized account of the war. Their war had quite a bit of blood and grit. I have the same complaint about "Fighter Pilot" by Robin Olds--a black and white account of a colorful life. Please visit the Edgar Allen Poe Literary Society website and donate for Wounded Warriors and their Hmong Scholarship Fund.
ian porter
Jul 03, 2016 ian porter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Thankfully found"

I've been reading a lot about Vietnam recently, an special forces that youse fac controllers in the air above them. These books where so interesting I wanted to read more about them. Then I was lucky to come across this book about the ravens. Thank you to the author for sharing al he new in this book it's truly amazing to read what these pilots done with the help of the MEO an Lao people. Really worth reading......
Yong Lee
Jul 17, 2016 Yong Lee rated it really liked it
A riveting account of an unknown theater of conflict during a well known war. The Raven is the story of a group of Air Force pilots supporting a secret war inside Laos during the Vietnam war. Fascinating military story combined with the tragic tale of loss for the Hmong people who fought alongside the US.
Jan 22, 2015 Chava rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative book, especially as I travelled through Laos and visited the Plain of Jars. The writing was choppy and jumpy and hard to follow, as it went back and forth to different stories. But beyond that it's an honest look at the war and its aftermath. Amazing to see what the Ravens have done to help the Hmong people since the war.
Jeffrey Larsen
Feb 22, 2013 Jeffrey Larsen rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
According to my insides sources this is an accurate book as can be published. Dad knew the names, places and dates of the events. Dad was not a Raven, but a Navy liaison who spent a lot time with them and coordinating strikes from the carriers at Yankee Station. I found the epilogue to be very revealing. I have seen all of the emotions lived out as a pilot of a secret war.
Robert Bennett
May 15, 2013 Robert Bennett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives excellent insight into the secret civilian military operations, overseen by the CIA and funded by the USA! As twisted as war gets! The Ravens are a lesson for doing more with less in war stratedgy!
Frank Smith
Sep 23, 2015 Frank Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding tails of outstanding American heroes.

I have a neighbor and friend who spent a lot of time with Air America and it is enjoyable to converse with him on the details and stories found in this book. Thank you.
Troy Cook
Oct 04, 2014 Troy Cook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read about an unknown side of the Vietnam war.Very interesting insight into the hidden fight.Many crazy characters and funny moments interspersed with very touching sad moments.A gripping tale of bravery and sacrifice.
Jul 05, 2014 Leah rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. The author writes so well and in such an engaging way that you feel as if it's written by someone who was there, rather than a journalist. Great account of an important subject matter.
Patti Merz

I found the idea of the Ravens, what they did and how they did it amazing. I've read a number of books but this was the first I'd heard of the Ravens. Thank you all for what you did and God Bless those lost in action and you that survived.
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Christopher Robbins began his career in journalism at the age of sixteen when he started writing jazz criticism for the Daily Telegraph. Since then he has written for numerous newspapers and magazines in Britain, Europe and the USA.

The Empress of Ireland won the Saga Award for wit, along with exceptional critical acclaim. In Search of Kazakhstan was short-listed for the Authors’ Club Best Travel B
More about Christopher Robbins...

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“I would so much rather put up with mortars and rockets than headquarters. Mortars and rockets are exciting and can only kill you, but those guys can frustrate and bore you to death, which is a damned sight worse. The home of the useless regulations!!!’[6]” 1 likes
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