Lee Lue

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Lee Lue
Born December 1935
Phou Pheng Village Xiangkhoang Province, Laos, French Indochina
Died 12 July 1969
near Muang Soui, Laos
Allegiance Hmong people
French Indochina Laos
Kingdom of Laos Laos
United States of America United States
Service/branch Royal Lao Air Force
Years of service 1967–1969
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit Special Unit based at LS-20A, Long Tieng, Laos
Commands held T-28 fighter bomber squadron
Battles/wars Secret War in Laos
Second Indochina War (Vietnam War)
Cold War
Relations wife Jou
first-born son Ze

Major Lee Lue (1935 – 12 July 1969) was a Laotian Hmong fighter bomber pilot notable for flying more combat missions than any other pilot in the Kingdom of Laos. Lee Lue flew continuously, as many as 10 missions a day and averaging 120 combat missions a month to build a total of more than 5,000 sorties.[1] Lee Lue was the leader of the special group of Hmong pilots flying T-28Ds from Long Tieng against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese positions. The group was funded by the CIA and was part of the regular Royal Lao Air Force, but took orders directly from MR2 Commander Gen. Vang Pao. He was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and killed over Laos near Muang Soui on 12 July 1969.[2] At the time of his death, he had flown more combat missions than any pilot in history.[3]

A motto attributed to him was "Fly 'til you die."[4] He was posthumously promoted to lieutenant colonel.[5]

Biography[edit]

Lee Lue was born in 1935 to Chong Ger Lee and his wife Pa Vang in the village of Phou Pheng in Xiangkhoang Province, Laos. In 1953, Lee Lue's family moved to Xieng Khouang city after the Vietnamese invaded Laos. After the war ended in 1955, Lee Lue married Jou and two years later their first child, a son named Ze, was born. Lee Lue studied in Xieng Khouang city and later enrolled in teacher training school. In 1959, he took a position as an elementary school teacher in Lat Houng. He was among a handful of Hmong teachers in the entire country. As the Secret War was escalating in 1967, Touby Lyfoung and General Vang Pao requested volunteers for flight training in T-28s. The training took place in Thailand. With six months of flight training, Lee Lue and another volunteer, Vang Toua, became the first two Hmong T-28 fighter pilots. Lee Lue successfully flew aerial support for ground troops and built a record number of sorties.

Away from the war, Lee Lue devoted his time to studying maps, and playing cards with his comrades. Prior to his death, Lee Lue had purchased his military uniform and was waiting to receive the rank of major. "He was excited about the promotion," said his wife Jou. Hours before his death, the area of Muang Soui was under heavy enemy attack. Gen. Vang Pao then telephoned Lee Lue, who was flying from Vientiane, to see if he carried any bombs with him as he was on his way to Long Cheng. Lee Lue's T-28 was armed. Vang Pao needed Lee Lue to attack the Pathet Lao troops in Muang Soui as they were losing ground as well as troops. On that day, Lee Lue's T-28 was hit and his plane was later found in debris. "His death is among a few soldiers I cried to," stated Vang Pao in 2006. According to Christopher Robbin's book, The Ravens, respect for Lee Lue and his skills was shared by not just the Hmong but also seasoned American pilots.[6] Meanwhile, Vang Toua was lost among thick clouds and never seen again.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Air Force Association - The Plain of Jars Archived 2006-10-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Air America in Laos III – in combat Archived 2007-06-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Hillmer, p. 5.
  4. ^ "Hmong - A Resource Guide for teachers" (PDF). Archived from the original on November 8, 2007. Retrieved 2013-10-01. 
  5. ^ "The Day we Lost Lee Lue". Archived from the original on November 10, 2004. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  6. ^ HMONG HISTORICAL FIGURES PRESENTATION Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.

References[edit]

  • Hillmer, Paul (2010). A People's History of the Hmong. Minnesota Historical Society. ISBNs 0873517261, 9780873517263.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Jane Hamilton-Merritt (1999). Tragic Mountains. ISBN 0-253-20756-8
  • Robert Curry (2004). Whispering Death, "Tuag Nco Ntsoov": ...Our Journey with the Hmong in the Secret War for Laos ...Lub caij peb thiab Hmoob koom tes ua ntsug rog ntsiag to nyob Los Tsuas teb. ISBN 0-595-31809-6