Laos, 50 Years Later

By Chris Phommasathit, CEO, Addison Wallace Inc.

Board Member, Legacies of War





It was a dark and eerily quiet boat ride under the cover of darkness when my mother, father, older brother and I escaped Laos in 1978 after the American Secret War. I was only an infant and learned of my family’s treacherous journey crossing the Mekong River and the shared history of my birth country and Laos decades later.

I had no idea that from 1964-1973, the U.S. dropped over 2.5 million tons of bombs on Laos during 580,000 bombing sorties, equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 straight years. This earned Laos the title of the most bombed country per capita in history. This was all part of the U.S. efforts to destroy North Vietnamese supply routes to the south during the war. The people, historical sites, and land of Laos became collateral damage.

The worst part is learning the reality that 30% of the bombs dropped did not detonate on impact, leaving millions of bombs lurking beneath the surface– posing as an unpredictable lethal threat that could explode upon impact to this day. At least 50,000 people have been killed or injured since 1964 and in the last decade alone, over 50% of the people injured or killed are aged 18 and under.

As a Board Member of Legacies of War, I’m privileged to hear the stories of countless survivors, victims, and their families. Stories that hit close to home given my own family’s plight. A consistent message echoed by each of these individuals is we want these bombs removed. We just want to live in peace and safety.

During my last trip to Laos with my family in 2013, I had the pleasure of experiencing the breathtaking natural beauty of the land, with its tranquil atmosphere, verdant mountains, and lush greenery.

Countless media sources including CNN Travel and celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay have named Laos as a top place to visit this year for its breathtaking nature, uniquely delicious cuisine, and friendly people. 2023 marks the 50th year since the last U.S. bombs were dropped on Laos and only 1% of the contamination has been cleared. Prior to your journey, I urge visitors to know the history, visit the museums while you’re there and when you return home, don’t forget Laos. Take action to help.

A good place to start is by visiting 

Images courtesy Chris Phommasathit.

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