Laos: Clearing the Plain

Last fall, in a surprising reversal of form, Laotian troops backed by heavy American air support swept Communist forces off the strategically located Plain of Jars in north-central Laos. It was the first time in five years that the government had controlled the area. Last week the pro-Communist Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies launched a long-awaited attempt to regain the plain.

As expected, Communist forces, including 16,000 of the 50,000 North Vietnamese troops in Laos, quickly overran several government outposts and moved down onto the plain. In Vientiane, few observers believed the area could be held. Anticipating defeat,...

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