Remnants of a Secret War, Michael Greenlar (1995-2005)
For more than 25 years Hmong blacksmiths in Laos have forged unexploded bombs and shells into tools used in their subsistence farming. This sword to plowshare practice exemplifies the resourcefulness and resiliancy that has led to the survival of the Hmong in postwar Laos.
The history of the Hmong in Laos is one of survival. Driven from China in the 1850’s they settled in the isolated mountainous region in the northeast, near the famous archeological site called the Plain of Jars. After World War II these nomadic slash and burn rice farmers were recruited first by the French and then the Americans to be the front line soldiers of defense against the invading North Vietnamese Communist army.
The Hmong territory bordered North Vietnam and included a southern passage for the Ho Chi Mingh Trail, making it the site of some of the fiercest fighting of the Vietnam War. From 1964 to 1973 this Hmong territory became one of most bombed areas in the history of warfare. Two million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos, much of it on the Plain of Jars area.
Today the Hmong continue to farm this land despite a 10 to 30 percent dud rate of the unexploded ordinance. Burning fields, planting and harvesting rice can be a dangerous occupation with over 20,000 casualties since the end of the war, many of the victims being Hmong. Despite their diminished population and an alarmingly high rate of mortality the Hmong in Laos have survived.
In 2011, Michael self-published "Remnants of a Secret War" as a book, it's available for purchase HERE.