George had just returned from one of the Philippine island jungle trips with some Laotian officers when he received a message to immediately report to his State Department boss. The sternness of the note gave rise to concern. You didn’t receive such a note unless something was seriously wrong. He was afraid that he had crossed one of the ICC observers. That wouldn’t be difficult. Aside from the fact he didn’t like them in the first place, he was constantly hiding from them.
It turned out to be much worse. Arriving at his boss’s office, he was shown a note which read: “If the American George doesn’t leave the country within 24 hrs. you will find his body floating in the Mekong.” It was clear that the Pathet Lao had had it with George and his work among the Montagnard tribes and his training of Laotian troops in the Philippine island jungles as they fought the Communists there.
George was told to take nothing with him. A plane was standing by to take him out of Laos. The American government could not afford the international news of the sort that the body of a CIA operative, who had been on loan from the United States Army, had been found floating in the Mekong River.
Two years after George had left Laos, in 1959, the coalition government collapsed, and Laos plunged into civil war, soon followed by the war between North and South Vietnam. George often wondered what happened to the Laotian officers and Montagnard tribesmen who had become his friends. He did know that the tribesmen, with their Auto-Defense groups between mountain villages, fought hard and assisted American troops every way they could.
I write of George’s service and experiences in Laos in the run-up to the Vietnam War in my book: Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying.
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