Chao Thao was the first Hmong nurse trained as a medic to care for the wounded during the Vietnam War – and one night, she had her work cut out for her when some 270 victims of a mistaken B-52 bombing were brought to the small hospital in Laos that she attended with one other medic.

She also describes an encounter with General Vang Pao, who helped lead a secret CIA mission in Laos that was intended to stop the spread of communism deeper into Southeast Asia. During an assassination attempt, General Pao’s finger was grazed by the bullet aimed for his head. As Thao attended to him, she shared with him an important message – a message he later heeded.

To learn more about the CIA’s clandestine operation that unfolded in the shadows of the Vietnam War, and the amazing firsthand stories of sacrifice and bravery of the Hmong men and women who served in the mission, watch the full-length documentary America’s Secret War.


This story is part of the collection The Call to Serve: Stories of Sacrifice, War and the Way Home, which was funded by the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation.