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MEETINGS 2013-2015

387th meeting :   "The Life of Harold Young in the Golden Triangle."

Tuesday 10 Feb 2015.

A talk by David Lawitts

The Talk:
When the United States entered WWII, it lacked significant international intelligence networks on which to draw. Unlike the European colonial powers whose residents served for decades in Africa and Asia, the only Americans with on-the-ground experience and contacts abroad were missionaries. Harold Young, born and raised in the mountains of the Sino-Burma border, was one of dozens of these missionaries recruited by the OSS and early CIA to shed light on the darkest fringes of US national security.

Harold was the son of the pioneer missionary William Young, who preached for decades to the Wa and Lahu hill tribes of eastern Burma. Both the Wa and Lahu held traditions that foretold of a White Man, carrying a White Book, who would one day arrive to bring salvation to the lost souls of the mountains. When the light-skinned Baptist, William Young, raised up his white Bible, the Wa and Lahu immediately began converting by the tens of thousands.

To this day, many Wa and Lahu regard the Youngs as a dynasty of prophets, and have looked to them for both spiritual as well as political guidance. During WWII, Harold commanded two battalions of Shan warriors to fight the Japanese invading Burma. In the Korean War, he trained the Thai Border Patrol Police in jungle survival tactics and sent Lahu spy teams to gather intelligence on communist troops movements in southern China. During the Secret War in Laos, he assisted his son Bill in recruiting a pan tribal army, establishing a line of mountain strongholds to block communist incursion into Thailand. As his CIA cover, Harold worked forpdf/intg_386.pdf decades as a zoologist, and citizens of Chiang Mai remember him as the creator of the Chiang Mai Zoological Gardens. To his hill tribe people, he was the first effective ambassador to the mountains, liaising between tribal leaders and the elite strata of northern Thai society.
The Speaker:       
David Lawitts is an American who has lived on and off in Chiang Mai since 2002. During undergraduate (B.A., East Asian Studies, University of Madison in Wisconsin) and graduate research (M.A., Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University), he has studied ethnic minorities in the Mekong region and the relationship between hill tribes and their respective “host” governments. Close friend of the Young family, David spent 10 months interviewing Harold’s son, Bill, just before his death in 2011, and has since amassed an unprecedented body of research on the legacy of the family and their impact in Thailand, Laos and Burma.

Want to read more? ....click "HERE" (PDF File for downloading or reading on line - 150 pages).



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