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Books Monographs

"An Excellent Idea!" Leading Surrogate Warfare in Southeast Asia, 1951–1970: A Personal Account

By James W. “Bill” Lair as told to Thomas L. Ahern, Jr.

Book Cover shows James W. "Bill" Lair in Thai PARU uniform superimposed on a long view of Long Tieng Base in Laos.


This book is the personal account of the late Bill Lair, a WW II veteran who served for CIA in Thailand and Laos from 1951 until 1970. In Thailand, with Royal approval, he established, trained, and managed with Thai partners a force known as the Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit (PARU). The unit’s purpose was to help secure, wth rapidly responding fighting units, Thailand’s borders against communist incursions from China and/or Laos.

The work would eventually lead Lair to collaborate with Lao anti-communists, especially Hmong tribesmen, and to lead US efforts in countering North Vietnamese Army incursions and passage through Laos during the war in Vietnam.

Retired CIA officer and contract historian Thomas L. Ahern, Jr. composed this work from extensive notes he took of his interviews with Lair in preparation of Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laos, 1961–1973, which CSI published in 2006. (A declassified version is available in the Vietnam Histories section of the FOIA Electronic Reading Room on this site. In this posthumous memoir—Lair died in 2014—Ahern has drawn out from his interview notes many of the incisive observations Lair offered about working with foreign partners and different cultures in a wartime environment.

Download PDF of "An Excellent Idea!"