July 5, 2022
David Kouba visits General Vang Pao for the first time in Fresno, CA on May 13, 2007 to mark their 32nd anniversary since the fall of Long Cheng. Kouba showing General Vang Pao his Laos diary dating May 9–11, 1975. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)
David Kouba visits General Vang Pao for the first time in Fresno, CA on May 13, 2007 to mark their 32nd anniversary since the fall of Long Cheng. Kouba showing General Vang Pao his Laos diary dating May 9–11, 1975. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)

Clovis, California (April 26, 2008) — The entire Hmong Community wishes to pay tribute to a fallen Comrade in Arms. Captain David Kouba risked his life on many occasions flying supplies into Major General Vang Pao’s Army fighting the Communist in Laos. Hmong community leaders say that Captain Kouba will never be forgotten.

By the time 30 year old Captain Kouba arrived in Laos in 1968 the struggle against the communist had been going on for 14 years. The French had been defeated at Dien Bien Phou in 1954, and the US government was concerned about Communist aggression in the region. The Eisenhower Administration had great concern of the Domino Theory.

With the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Accord in effect, the United States was prevented from sending regular troops into Laos, secretly it was decided that the CIA would handle the assignment, it would later be called, “The Secret War.” Specially trained agents were into Laos. The Hmong people of Laos were recruited by the CIA to help fight a covert war against Communist aggression.

David Kouba in 1958. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)
David Kouba in 1958. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)

David H. Kouba was born on July 11, 1938 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was the oldest son of Harold Louis Kouba and Vida Eileen Vernon.

Upon graduation from Alburnett High School in 1957, Kouba entered college at Fayette, IA. After a year, Kouba left college and joined the US Army Reserves for a short period. He then went onto Texas Christian College where he got his pilot license and began crop dusting in Mississippi and Australia.

With his skills, specifically for the job, Kouba was hired by Continental Air Services, Inc. (CASI) and began the most memorable career of his life. Captain Kouba was one of many civilian pilots who flew in Laos during the U.S. Secret War against Communism in Southeast Asia. He flew many missions in and out of Laos from 1968 to 1975.

Like others of his kind, Captain Kouba flew support for USAID, Public Health, Public Works, USIS, and other civilian projects. The Captain also played a vital role to the CIA including SAR (Search And Rescue) missions, delivering food, medicines, and other supplies to both refugees and ground troops. These pilots were sent on many night missions to re-supply the teams observing the movement of North Vietnamese troops and military supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail through coordination with US military planes that orbited the night sky of Laos and Vietnam.

David Kouba on Long Cheng Runway to evacuate General Vang Pao and Jerry Daniels. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)
David Kouba on Long Cheng Runway to evacuate General Vang Pao and Jerry Daniels. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)

In 1974, Air America was forced to withdraw from Laos, leaving CASI to fulfill the remaining covert obligations of the US Government; they flew until the day Laos fell to Communism. Those who were there over thirty years ago will never be silent about their experiences during their time in Laos. Kouba is credited with flying the last Porter plane out before the communist took over the country.

For nearly eight years of his flight time in Laos, Kouba was recognized to have taken some of the best photos in the upcountry part of Laos. The panorama sweeps of various Lima Sites, including Long Cheng (LS-98), were well documented. By May 14, 1975, he was among the few remaining American civilian pilots in Southeast Asia.

A Top Secret mission was given to Captain Kouba and chopper pilot Jack Knotts. They were given the task of flying the last upcountry mission to evacuate Jerry Daniels (Hog), who was a CIA Case Officer, and Major General Vang Pao (VP), commander of Military Region 2 of the Royal Lao Army, out of their headquarters at Long Cheng. Jack Knotts flew both Hog and VP out of Long Cheng to Muang Cha. From there, Kouba flew both men out to safety into Udorn (T08), Thailand. Kouba placed this entry in his log book: “Arrived at Long Chieng at dawn to evacuate General Vang Pao and head customer. All was in turmoil. Danang, Vietnam all over. Meos were beginning to mob aircraft. We took off at 10:47 and this ended the Secret CIA base of Long Chieng, Laos.”

General Vang Pao and his high ranked military officers were airlifted to safety in Thailand while tragically hundreds of thousands of their soldiers and their families were left behind to face persecution for their alliance with the U.S. Some managed to escape into Thailand while others sought refuge in the remote jungles of Laos and are still in hiding to this day. One month after the evacuation, Capt. Kouba left Southeast Asia and spent 32 years living in the States.

In 1976 Kouba married in Texas and shortly after relocated to Florida where he operated a Plant Nursery Factory. He continued to fly while running the plant, and at the same time voluntarily provided shelter and support to assist Laotian refugees who were resettled in Florida.

David Kouba in his Las Vegas home with his collection of photos taken in Laos and Southeast Asia. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)
David Kouba in his Las Vegas home with his collection of photos taken in Laos and Southeast Asia. (Photos courtesy of David Kouba/Tua Vang)

In 1992, Kouba and his wife divorced, they had no children. For a short while his family and friends lost touch with him. After a while he surfaced and relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1997, he remarried and shortly after that divorced.

In September 2006, with the encouragement of his lifetime friend – Mary Dorch, Kouba finally returned to Laos to revisit some of the most memorable sites of his lifetime: Vientiane, The Plain of Jars and Long Cheng. Unfortunately, Long Cheng was closed to outsiders so he never got to step foot on its runway again. After his return from Southeast Asia, with his memory refreshed, Kouba was coincidentally contacted by Thua Vang to sit down to do an interview for a Hmong documentary. It was then that Kouba was re-introduced to the Hmong community living in the United States.

On May 13, 2007, for the first time in 32 years since they last saw one another, Kouba was reunited with General Vang Pao in Fresno, California. He also met other members of the Hmong-American community of whom many recollected riding in the Porter plane Kouba once flew some thirty years before. Kouba said that it was emotional for him to meet Vang Pao and the community again but it brought back a lot of memories.

Sadly on April 24, 2008, Capt. Kouba was found dead in his home in Las Vegas. He had lost the fight to a decade old illness that eventually led to terminal cancer.  He died at the age of 69, leaving behind his mother, two brothers, a step-brother and step-sister, five nephews and two nieces. The memorial service is scheduled for July 20, 2008 in Clovis, CA. The service will be held at the Clovis Memorial Building, in the Liberty Ballroom, located at 453 Hughes Avenue, Clovis, CA It is anticipated that many distinguished guests including elected officials, services men and women, expatriates, and local and national leaders will attend. Please, join us in honoring and paying our last respects to one of our fallen but, unforgotten comrades.

1 thought on “Captain David Harold Kouba – hero of Hmong Secret CIA War dies

  1. Yes , I knew Dave when I was a kid. The remarks about his photos are spot on. My father Dick Douglas was the director of operations for CASI when it all went down. I personally was with my mom and sisters and the Laotians that were clamoring for us to leave then started clamoring for us to stay. Those last few months in the CASiI Compound were surreal . Many great pilots, Stan Pelzinsky , Gene Isaacs , Joe Hammer, Joe M’coy ..
    It was a time that is underrepresented as far as Continentals Role. It is cool that Kouba is getting props. He is one of many . Good dude and far from the only good pilot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.