The Legacy of
Unexploded Bombs in Laos
Bombing Missions over Laos
The lobby of the Vinh Thong Guesthouse in Phonsavanh displays an amazing array of defused UXO as well as a mural depicting fighting around the Plain of Jars in 1968. Photo | Jerry Redfern.
Karen Coates and Jerry Redfern, senior fellows at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, report primarily from Southeast Asia, working as a print and photojournalist team on issues involving the environment, health, and human rights.
“THIS MAP (right) IS
says Redfern, “but it still doesn't show the scope
and scale of what happened. The dots are simply too big
[in that map], and they don't show that many sites were bombed repeatedly—sometimes hundreds of times.”
A Phoenix Clearance Limited clearance team searches a garden plot belonging to the local doctor inSophoon. They found a BLU-3B cluster bomb and several pounds of bomb shrapnel just below the surface. Photo | Jerry Redfern.
Video Data Visualisation:
U.S. Airforce Bombing in Laos
by Redcoates Studios
U.S. Airforce Bombing Data Maps, Pek District, Xiangkhouang Province, Lao PDR
The two maps below of Ziangkouang Province were also made by the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR (UXO-NRA) of Laos and are based on U.S. military data.
Says Redfern, "These UXO-NRA maps focus on the target points in one northern province, and then in one district in that province. Remember that the pilots may have aimed for those target points, but often those aren't where the bombs landed—no one really knows where they land. A pilot who testified in front of Congress in 1973 when this became public said that he and others often got rid of their payload as quickly as they could somewhere near the target point to avoid the risk of getting shot down. So the country-wide map (top) is accurate in showing the general areas bombed, while the closer maps show the number of missions in general areas.
“Also important to understand,” adds Redfern, “is that each dot on the map is a mission, not one bomb. And missions usually had more than one plane, ranging anywhere from a couple of small fighters to several B-52s.” As a result, there may be many more bombs than each dot suggests.
Above, a man holds his head in disbelief as he surveys the fresh crater from the destruction of a 750-pound bomb near his home town of Sophoon. Photo | Jerry Redfern.