During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Special Forces collaborated with the Indigenous Montagnard peoples from the Central Highlands of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, who were pivotal in resisting the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. Despite their crucial role, the Montagnards faced severe repercussions post-war, with many of them killed or their villages destroyed. While the U.S. later permitted their relocation to America, the Montagnard people remaining in their homeland still face forced assimilation and ethnic cleansing.
- The term “Montagnard” is an umbrella name for various tribes from Vietnam’s Central Highlands, Laos, and Cambodia, many of whom converted to Christianity and opposed North Vietnam’s communist regime.
- U.S. Special Forces, recognizing the Montagnards’ warrior culture, collaborated with them to thwart North Vietnamese and Viet Cong movements in the Central Highlands and surrounding areas. This collaboration played a significant role in the establishment of the CIA’s clandestine airline, Air America.
- Lima Site 85, located in northern Laos, was a crucial location for the U.S., facilitating bombing raids on Hanoi. However, it was abandoned after multiple attacks.
- After the U.S. exit from Vietnam, Montagnards faced grave repercussions, including brutal treatments from the Vietnamese communist government and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Later, U.S. legislation allowed persecuted Montagnards to relocate to America, with many settling in North Carolina and other states.
- Presently, Montagnards remaining in Southeast Asia confront threats of ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation. International pressure on Vietnam to halt this treatment remains limited, and recent U.S. policies don’t explicitly address the Montagnards’ plight.