meeting : "The Life of Harold Young in the
talk by David Lawitts
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.
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?
(PDF File for downloading or reading on line - 150 pages).