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Codename Mule: Fighting the Secret War in Laos for the CIA, by James E. Parker, Jr., U.S.Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md., $27.95.

American soldiers in the Second Indochina War wore the uniforms of many services–Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Much has been written about the experiences of uniformed troops in Vietnam. But there was another type of American soldier whose story still is cloaked in secrecy: the CIA case officers who conducted covert operations in Vietnam and Laos. Now James E. Parker, Jr., in Codename Mule: Fighting the Secret War in Laos for the CIA, relates his personal experiences and observations as a CIA case officer in the largest ever covert operation run by the United States, the secret war in Laos.

After service as an infantry lieutenant in Vietnam in 1965-66, Parker left the Army to go back to college. Upon his graduation in 1970, he was recruited by the CIA and sent to Laos and later South Vietnam. In a captivating and readable style, he relates his experiences–from his CIA training in espionage and clandestine operations in Virginia in 1970, through his participation in the evacuation of agents from South Vietnam as the North Vietnamese took control of Saigon during 1975. The largest and most valuable portion of his personal memoirs covers his assignment in Laos, where he served as a CIA case officer at Long Tieng, the secret headquarters and base of operations for General Vang Pao’s Hmong army. Parker’s firsthand account provides valuable insights into the events and personalities during the final years of the valiant yet tragic struggle of the Hmong against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese. Codename Mule is the intriguing story of the colorful and valiant American CIA case officers who served as America’s clandestine soldiers in the secret war.

Colonel Donald F. Lunday