When history is intentionally murky: Was Air America the CIA?
WASHINGTON —- In 1961, Sam Jordan had just finished a six-year stint flying helicopters in the Marine Corps when he saw a want ad for an upstart airline called Air America.
"They said they wanted pilots," he recalled. "They didn't say anything about where the flying would be."...
In 14 years working for Air America, Jordan was never formally told who was footing the bill for his often-harrowing flights. But he and the other Air America pilots knew. They called their mystery client "the customer," Jordan said.
"And the CIA was always the customer."
Few Americans know it, but Air America is embedded in some of the most iconic images of the Vietnam War. In the famous photo of the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, the helicopters lifting stranded diplomats off the rooftop belonged not to the military but to Air America.
The company was shut down after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and the U.S. government subsequently acknowledged that Air America was a wholly owned subsidiary of the CIA.
But more than 30 years later, the government is still grappling with where that leaves Air America's former employees. They worked for Air America, but does that mean they worked for the CIA?
comments powered by Disqus
- Five Things You Need to Know to be a Better Digital Preservationist
- Book on Losing British Generals Wins American History Prize
- Stanford scholar explores civil rights revolution's positive impact on the South's economy
- Harvard Historian Nancy Koehn on Amazon's Tentacular Reach
- Q&A with historian and author Nick Turse