This article is from
Volume 2, Issue 2, Summer, 1999 of
"Pappy" Hicks Honored by
Hmong Leaders in Washington "Secret Army"
Counterparts member Captain D. L. "Pappy" Hicks was recently honored in a special awards ceremony held in Washington to recognize those who served with the "Secret Army" in Laos.
A combat veteran of the Korean War, Indochina War, and many operations throughout the world, Pappy was also a speaker at the May 13-15 formation of Hmong, other Laotian fighters, and their US Advisors. As part of the formation, the US Congress recognized General Vang Pao and his men as being the "Secret Army" in the "Secret War" in Laos.
The Secret Army was made up of Hmong and other Laoation Mountain people and the Royal Lao Army, with American advisors. The advisory force include CIA, US Army Special Forces, US Army covert operators, and US Air Force personnel. From 1961 to 1975, this force of about 20,000 men and boys held off an estimated 30,000 NVA troops, preventing these North Vietnamese regulars from engaging the US and GVN troops in Vietnam.
Beginning in 1960, Pappy ran covert ops in Laos and South Vietnam. His mission was to provide information to Strategic Army Command (STRAC) and Special Forces Headquarters on North Vietnamese infiltration and to evaluate Chinese and Soviet involvement in the NVA's Laotian operations. During his several tours in Southeast Asia, Hicks also worked with the various mountain people near the Cambodian border and in the Central Higlands of Vietnam.
During the May 13-15 formation in Washington Pappy spoke at the House of Representatives and at a special ceremony held near the Vietnam War Memorial. An estimated 2,000 veterans of the Secret War heard Pappy's speech honoring his comrades, whose service was only recently recognized by the US Government. To cap the event, General Vang Pao, assisted by Pappy Hicks, laid a floral wreath at the apex of the Vietnam Memorial.
On May 15, the final day of the formation, a memorial was held in Arlington Memorial Cemetery at the 1997 monument honoring the Lao fighting men and women and the American advisors who died in the mountains of Laos.
In his speech, Pappy recalled a distinguished career that began in Korea, where, at 18, he saw his first combat. He reflected that now, in the twilight of his life, he feels a deep closeness, tempered by sadness, for those men he knew in combat, and continues to hold them in the highest honor.
In another ceremony, General Vang Pao honored Pappy for the 38 years of service and devotion he has given the Lao people, in both war and peace. In keeping with Hmong tradition, Pappy was presented with two pa'ndaus, the stitched cloth used by the Hmong to convey their history. The first pa'ndau tells of how the Hmong were forced by the North Vietnamese invasion to change from traditional tribesment to soldiers in the Secret War. The second cloth describes the arrival of the NVA and Pathet Lao, who drove many of the Hmongs from their homes and into refugee camps in Thailand.
Other leaders present at the ceremonies were General Thonglith Chokenboune, and two Princes of the Royal Lao family, Chao Opat NaChampassak, and Chao Vanhasak NaChampassak.
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