Air America Veterans

And they are veterans even though they weren’t officially “there”. Just like I wasn’t!

From an article in Asia Times.

The United States Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) has again refused to recommend paying federal retirement benefits to the surviving employees of Air America, despite overwhelming evidence the legendary secret airline was created, controlled and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during 25 years of service in Indochina.

In a long-delayed report to the US Congress in late July, the DNI said granting retirement benefits and civil service status would “undermine national security proprietaries, creating a costly precedent for granting such benefits to other proprietary employees and would not stand legal or public scrutiny”.

These men agreed to this dangerous job thinking they would be accruing retirement benefits. Many are dying with no pension plan now. This is just plain wrong.

Time is a luxury the aging Air America claimants don’t have. In the seven years their unpaid lawyers worked to get the DNI’s attention, 15 of the 34 survivors who flew with the airline for two decades or more died, as did more than 70 of the 466 crewmen with five to 20 years experience.

More than 240 pilots and crew members were killed during the lifetime of Air America and its predecessor, Civil Air Transport (CAT), between 1950 and 1975. Most of them perished as a result of hostile fire during the so-called secret war in Laos, where their existence was never officially acknowledged.

Paradoxically, however, the DNI and CIA argue that Air America can’t be legally called a government entity because it did not conform as such to Section 9102 of the Civil Code. The reason is that its existence was classified top secret and remained so long after the end of the Vietnam War.

Some “secret”. I learned that Air America was a “CIA front company” my first month as a door gunner. All the GIs knew it. Their planes flew everywhere, ferrying supplies and people around Viet Nam. It wasn’t exactly like the movie but there were similarities.

This is appalling to treat these men this way.