A Hmong Fighter Pilot's Story of Escaping Death and Confronting LifeChia Youyee Vang
With Pao Yang, Retired Captain, U.S. Secret War in Laos
Retired Captain Pao Yang was a Hmong airman trained by the U.S. Air Force and CIA to fly T-28D aircraft for the U.S. Secret War in Laos. However, his plane was shot down during a mission in June 1972. Yang survived, but enemy forces captured him and sent him to a POW camp in northeastern Laos. He remained imprisoned for four years after the United States withdrew from Vietnam because he fought on the American side of the war.
Prisoner of Wars shows the impact the U.S. Secret War in Laos had on Hmong combatants and their families. Chia Vang uses oral histories that poignantly recount Yang’s story and the deeply personal struggles his loved ones—who feared he had died—experienced in both Southeast Asia and the United States. As Yang eventually rebuilt his life in America, he grappled with issues of freedom and trauma.
Yang’s life provides a unique lens through which to better understand the lasting impact of the wars in Southeast Asia and the diverse journeys that migrants from Asia made over the last two centuries. Prisoner of Wars makes visible an aspect of the collateral damage that has been left out of dominant Vietnam War narratives.
" The braiding of one man’s personal story with the history of his people is executed effectively, and the text touches on aspects of U.S. foreign policy, Asian American identity, and generational trauma.... Pao’s story shines through, offering a useful portrait of an ethnic group with which many American readers are unfamiliar. A blend of oral history and historical context that sheds light on one of the many overlooked consequences of war."
“ Pao Yang and Ong Moua’s story is one of the most told love stories from the Vietnam War in the Hmong community. It was a joy to finally read it, largely in their words, and learn from their lived experiences. Now, thanks to Prisoner of Wars , this story will stretch beyond our community and across generations. At its heart, Vang’s book honors the tremendous strength of those who survive wars.”
—Kao Kalia Yang, award-winning author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet
“All too often, books about the Secret War in Laos or the Vietnam War are written from a policy perspective or by a non-Hmong author. It is rare to read personal accounts from those who fought as surrogate soldiers of the American Armed Forces in Laos and to hear about the experiences of our T-28 pilots, because so many of them were killed during the war. Vang did a wonderful job of capturing the experiences of Pao Yang, one of the Hmong T-28 pilots who was shot down and captured by the communists. I will definitely use this book as a requirement for my Introduction to Hmong History class.”
—Lee Pao Xiong, Director and Professor of the Center for Hmong and East Asian Studies, Concordia University
Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.