931 – Air America alumni met in Bloomington, MN

Air America, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

James Eli Shiffer • Star Tribune
Gary Gentz, 72, of Eustace, Texas, looked through photos from his time with Air America, the CIA-controlled airline used during the Vietnam War.

Air America will be the featured subject of episode 931 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast. The Air America operations were the most well known “secret” of the entire Vietnam War. A few alumni of this fabled CIA air service recently held a reunion/organization event in Bloomington, Minnesota. The event was covered in a story appearing in The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesota titled: Survivors of CIA’s clandestine airline gather to reminisce, organize. It was submitted by James Eli Shiffer of the Star Tribune.

In all about 75 former employees of Air America met to reminisce about their part in one of the strangest chapters in the Vietnam conflict. The official government line was that Air America was a private company performing aid work in Southeast and East Asia. Everyone in Vietnam including the village idiots knew it was a creation of the government, run by the CIA and what it was doing.

Fighting the Vietnam war was hampered by insane restrictions placed on the military. This situation engendered the need for “under the radar” assets to get certain jobs accomplished. Air America filled the bill for providing air transport in our country’s covert fight against Communism in Southeast Asia, Notably the Kingdom of Laos.

At its high point in the late 1960s Air America had 10,000 employees, 1,000 of which were Americans. 240 of its employees lost their lives during the thirty year history of the CIA owned company. The connection of Air America to government activities was never acknowledged officially.

Sadly the 380 surviving Air America workers who are U.S. citizens are out in the cold when it come to government benefits. The Director of National Intelligence rejected federal benefits for them, saying Air America workers were not government employees.

This is a slap in the face for these brave Americans who served their country in a dangerous situation.

Get the full story at episode 931 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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