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legacies library


Photo: Jan Folsom

Legacies Library is a collection of books, films, articles, and oral histories vetted by Legacies of War that tells the story of the American bombing of Laos (1964-1973) and its neighbors in Vietnam and Cambodia. Legacies Library offers original programming including film screenings and author interviews that tell the living story of The American Secret War in Laos–ensuring it’s no longer a footnote in American history.

The works below have been selected by the staff and trustees of Legacies of War. We are Southeast Asian Diaspora, American veterans, diplomats, and survivors from the American Secret War in Laos. Though we come from diverse backgrounds, we share a commitment to providing accurate and insightful resources on the legacy of The American Secret War in Laos.

Resources on The American Secret War in Laos and American wars in Vietnam and Cambodia

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History of The American Secret War in Laos

From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than 2.5M tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing sorties—equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The bombings were part of the American Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao and to interdict traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Laotian civilians during the nine-year period.

Up to a third of the bombs dropped did not explode, leaving Laos contaminated with vast quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Over 25,000 people have been killed or injured by UXO in Laos since the bombing ceased. The wounds of war are not only felt in Laos. When the Americans withdrew from Laos in 1973, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the country, and many of them ultimately resettled in the United States. 

Here are some other startling facts about the U.S. bombing of Laos and its tragic aftermath:

  • Over 270 million cluster munitions were dropped on Laos during the American Secret War in Laos ; up to 80 million did not detonate on impact.

  • Over 5 decades on, roughly 10% of the contaminated land in Laos has been cleared. More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occurred in Laos.

  • For six decades, the people of Laos have been forced to live on land littered with deadly remnants of war. The initial American bombs fell on Laos in 1964, yet it took seven years for the American public to become aware of this and 31 years for U.S. funding for demining to start. Despite these efforts, millions of UXO persist, resulting in an average of 2 casualties each month from 2013-2022 and already 21 reported casualties in 2024, according to World Education Laos.  Close to 60% of the accidents result in death, and 40% of the victims are children. 

  • Despite being the largest funder of global demining, with over $367,594,000 allocated to demining activities in Laos since 1995, the U.S. spent at least $50 billion (in 2024 currency) to bomb Laos over nine years.​

In The News - CNN

How a new library sheds light on the US ‘secret war’ in Laos
"Most Americans learn something about the Vietnam War at school. Fewer learn about the shadow war that was being fought alongside it."
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