Helion's CIA Paramilitary Operations in Tibet 1957-1975

Author/Artists: Ken Conboy


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 82 pages, softcover, approx 100 images
ISBN 978-1-804510-21-6

Tibet was a nation that was taken over by the communist Chinese during the post WW2 era. It was a country whose leader was also the religious leader of the nation, the Dalai Lama. The take over by the Chinese was not an instant invasion, as the Chinese don't work like that. Instead, it was a gradual integration and control from one end of the nation to the other that spanned many years.

The Cold War period was one where it was US policy to do anything it could to help stop the spread of communism. This was often done using covert methods and when it came to this type of operation, it meant the CIA. Tibet was no exception.

Once it was obvious what the Chinese plan was, the CIA started recruiting Tibetans who had been forced out of their nation into refugee camps in northwest India. The most promising were taken to a base in Saipan and from there, those that passed vetting were sent to the United States where a secret camp was set up in the Rockies. This location was chosen due to its isolation and because the climate was close to what the Tibetans were used to.

There, they were trained in the use of radios and code as well as weapons. None of this was particularly easy as translators were few and far between. Not only that, but these men were basically illiterate and had to be taught basics in order for them to be useful operatives. In addition, fighters were recruited to be part of the underground, with a base in western Nepal, where they were basically left alone by the Nepalese government.

In the meantime, the leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama managed to escape from the country as the Chinese closed in, taking away a possible puppet for the communist run government.

In order for any insurgency to be successful, the cooperation of the Indian government was needed at least on a covert level. This support rose and fell over the years depending on who was in power. Eventually, the operatives failed, the insurgency never really got underway due to corruption, and when the Indians finally pull support, the whole thing collapsed.

The author has provided a very readable book that provides not only a look at the events leading up to the events of the book, but also the men and equipment that were used. This story is as much political as it is the operations of the CIA in the region, so it is not surprising that there is a lot of information on political shenanigans. Air power played a fairly significant role as the CIA, via Air America and some USAF assets were required to drop agents and supplies. Add some great photos as well as the usual full color profiles and maps and you have another very interesting book on a subject that is fairly unknown to most. Highly recommended to all.

December 2022

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