Episode 1016 of the Vietnam Veteran News will highlight The Battle of Lima Site 85, also called Battle of Phou Pha Thi. This is fitting considering the command post for this podcast is under attack by Hurricane Irma. You would probably have a hard time finding a Vietnam Veteran who had ever heard of the Battle of Lima Site 85 primarily because it was a part of the “secret war” carried out in Laos that everyone in the Vietnam War AO knew about its existence.
The writer of this piece became aware of the story about the battle after hearing a report by Sam Lightner, Jr., a renowned rock climbing specialist from Lander, Wyoming. He has climbed challenging mountains all over Southeast Asia (see episode 1014 of this podcast). He is always on the lookout for more daring rock climbing locations. It was while climbing in Vietnam he heard about the mystic Phou Pha Thi mountain in Laos.
It has a fearsome appearance that led the local Hmong and Yeo people that lived in the area to consider Phou Pha Thi to be a place of religious significance. They believed it was inhabited by spirits possessing supernatural powers to exercise control over their lives. The US Air Force did not share the same opinion about the mountain as that of the locals. Instead the Air Force saw its tremendous potential as a valuable asset in the air operations against the North Vietnamese military in North Vietnam and Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was located in Northern Laos only 15 miles from the North Vietnam border and it sat only 100 miles due west of Hanoi.
The Air Force encountered difficulty in obtaining permission to set up a TACAN station that would provide pilots with distance and bearing information for missions. In July of 1962 the US signed on to the International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos.
Listen to all of episode 1016 to get the full story about The Battle of Lima Site 85.