Memorial plaque honours Tibetan `freedom fighters` at CIA camp

The Tibetan Freedom Fighters had received CIA training between 1958 and 1964.

Washington: The US Forest Service has unveiled a plaque to commemorate the training given to Tibetan "freedom fighters" by the CIA at Camp Hale in the mountainous Colorado from 1958 to 1964.

The event, presided over by Senator Mark Udall, included former CIA agents and Tibetans involved in the operation, family members and representatives of the US Forest Service and the Tibetan-American community in Colorado, a media release said.

"What (the plaque) represents is a shared worthy endeavour of the American and Tibetan people, a lasting memorial to the brave freedom fighters and their dedicated CIA instructors," said Udall.

As part of a programme to aid Tibetan resistance, CIA had trained Tibetan soldiers in guerrilla warfare in Camp Hale, Colorado. This site was chosen because of its physical similarities to eastern Tibet where the trainees would later be airdropped.

Camp Hale had served as a training base for the 10th Mountain Division in World War II.

Those living in the surrounding community were unaware of the operation, and had been purposely misled by government officials who claimed that it was an atomic testing site.

Like many CIA operations, the US involvement with Tibetan guerrillas, including the training programme at Camp Hale, had not officially been acknowledged by the US government previously.

The history of this era is increasingly being written about by academics, journalists and those who participated in it, both Tibetans and Americans.

"From 1958 to 1964, Camp Hale played an important role as a training site for Tibetan Freedom Fighters. Trained by the CIA, many of these brave men lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.”

"`They were the best and bravest of their generation, and we wept together when they were killed fighting alongside their countrymen` (Orphans of the Cold War, by John Kenneth Knaus). This plaque is dedicated to their memory," the plaque read.