Letter: Tibet’s relation to Camp Hale | VailDaily.com

Letter: Tibet’s relation to Camp Hale

Bob Winsett
Frisco, CO Colorado

To most people, Tibet is a far-off land whose name conjures up images of piercing mountain peaks, stark landscapes and hearty, weather-beaten people. It is the home of the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet who is also considered to be a reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion to all Tibetan Buddhists. Sadly, he has not “been home” since he escaped Tibet and its Chinese occupiers in 1959.

Over the last five decades, China has done its best to suppress any news related to its human-rights violations in Tibet as well as the cultural genocide that is taking place at the hands of the Chinese. Due to our economic involvement and dependence on Chinese trade, etc., the U.S. has done little in recent years to change the situation on behalf of the Tibetan people. Over one million people have died and hundreds of monasteries have been destroyed since China “liberated” Tibet.

However, in 1958, it was a different story. At that time, Camp Hale, the dismantled training sight of the 10th Mountain Division located between Leadville and Vail, was selected by the CIA as a training sight for Tibetan resistance fighters due to its remoteness and similarity to Tibetan topography. In fact, some of the Tibetan rebels who were brought to Camp Hale in planes and buses with blacked out windows (presumably so that they could not say for sure where they were trained if they were captured) thought that they were still in Tibet when they first set eyes on the place. The CIA issued a decree that Camp Hale was now off-limits to locals and tourists alike due to “atomic-related research.”

To the Tibetans, Camp Hale seemed almost like home. They nicknamed it “Dumra,” Tibetan for “flower garden.”

Under the direction of a man named Roger McCarthy, the Tibetans were trained for re-infiltration, on-the-ground surveillance, air-drop receptions, radio operations and general sabotage. The training continued until 1961.

Touted by some in the CIA as one of the CIA’s most successful undertakings, the training of the Tibetans ceased when Richard Nixon became president and the U.S. chose to engage China. The Tibetans were left high and dry. The rest is history.

While I have never been to Tibet, I am nevertheless saddened by the news reports and video footage depicting the ongoing oppression by the Chinese in Tibet. In Buddhism the idea of interdependence is part of the foundation of Buddhist philosophy. That Tibetans were trained to fight for their homeland in the mountains nearby is, to me, somehow a testament to that idea of interdependence.

I only hope that the current unrest in Tibet will help raise the awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people and that we will no longer be able to turn away from the real situation there.

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