Timothy N. Castle


Castle, Timothy N. At War in the Shadow of Vietnam: U.S. Military Aid to the Royal Lao Government, 1955-1975. New York: Columbia University, 1993.

Surveillant 3.4 suggests that this book "will undoubtedly be the standard work on U.S. covert activity in Laos." It is a "very complete and balanced account" and is "scholarly, well-researched and attractive[ly] written." Wirtz, I&NS 11.4, adds that Castle's "concise outline of the secret war in Laos ... makes a welcome addition to the history of the Vietnam War."

In the same vein, Ford, I&NS 10.2, finds that Castle's "extensive research and ... synthesis of an impressive amount of primary source material" helps to untangle "the web of American bureaucracy and politics." The author details "the evolution and management of US military involvement in Laos.... Meticulously researched and presented, this book provides a glimpse into the murky world of covert military and intelligence operations and fills a glaring gap in the history of the wars in Indochina."

Tovar, IJI&C 8.3 ("B. Hugh Tovar was the CIA's senior representative in Laos from September 1970 until May 1973."), sees At War in the Shadow of Vietnam as "the best documented book on the Laos war yet to appear. Concise and readable, it raises many issues of importance to an understanding of the Laos sector of the Indochina conflict. On certain of those issues, however, the author and I are in substantial disagreement."

Tovar describes one area of disagreement as Castle's adopting of the position of senior U.S. military officers about the management of the war. In particular, Tovar argues, the CIA station chief did not "control" air operations in Laos. The "only sector of air resources in Laos which can rightfully be described as controlled by CIA" was the war-related operations of the Air America and Continental Air Service contractors. In addition, the CIA's field units worked closely with -- but did not control -- the Air Force's Forward Air Controllers, the Raven FACs. Tovar relates how, clearly more frequently than he and the ambassador would have liked, the experience was more one of begging for what U.S. air support they believed was necessary.

For Tovar, a "major weakness in At War in the Shadow of Vietnam is its failure to give adequate treatment to the war in regions of Laos other than Military Region II." But he softens that criticism by noting the implication of the book's subtitle -- that it is not a "[s]trictly speaking ... a history of the war." Overall, this book "is a very good reconstruction of a complex and not readily intelligible piece of American history."


Castle, Timothy N. One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Clark comment: For more succinct versions, see James C. Linder, "The War in Laos: The Fall of Lima Site 85," Studies in Intelligence 38, no. 5 (1995): 79-88; and Richard V. Secord, "Tragedy Strikes Laos Site 85," Air Commando Journal, 1, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 9-11.

Wirtz, IJI&C 12.4, notes that Site 85 "was an Air Force effort to conduct a clandestine operation deep in the enemy's rear that reflected the service's inexperience with this kind of activity.... Castle suggests ... that organizational imperatives, as much as the need to increase military effectiveness, drove the Air Force to deploy its radar in Laos." Regrettably, to the reviewer, Castle's "narrative deteriorates into a diatribe against incompetent officers..., bureaucratic inertia and obfuscation, and greedy Vietnamese and Laotian officials."

For De Groot, I&NS 16.1, the author tells "a fascinating story, but ... seems to have been carried away by its dramatic potential.... The book is impressively well researched, but in truth this often means that a good story gets smothered in unnecessary detail. A tale suited to a long article in a military history journal is transformed into an often tedious book of nearly 400 pages."

Leinbach, Air & Space Power Journal 22.1 (Spring 2008) finds that Castle "shows, in stark detail, that both Air Force leadership and the US ambassador to Laos bungled the evacuation [of the site], holding fast to the belief that evacuation was unnecessary even after the attack began."


Castle, Timothy N. "Operation MILLPOND: The Beginning of a Distant Covert War." Studies in Intelligence 59, no. 2 (Jun. 2015): 1-16. [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-59-no-2/pdfs/Castle-MILLPOND-June-2015.pdf]

"Operation MILLPOND,... a joint CIA-Pentagon plan to attack Soviet-supplied military stores and antigovernment forces in neutral Laos." was scheduled to begin the same week as the Bay of Pigs landing. "The plan included the use of Thailand-based B-26 bombers flown by CIA contractors.... [A]s the assault on Cuba faltered, the Laos airstrikes were abruptly canceled." However, "the presidentially-authorized preparations for Operation MILLPOND became the taproot" for later operations in Laos.


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