News and Views on Tibet

Memorial to honour CIA trained Tibetan resistance fighters held at Camp Hale, Colorado

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(L-R) Panellists Tenzing Sonam, Ritu Sarin, Bruce Walker and Dr. Carole McGranahan during the panel discussion on June 7 (Photo/X)

By Tenzin Nyidon 

DHARAMSHALA, June 10: The Vail Symposium, a grassroots and non-profit organisation, in partnership with the Eagle County Historical Society, hosted a panel discussion on Friday on the CIA’s program to train Tibetan resistance fighters at Camp Hale, Colorado from 1958 to 1964. This event was followed by a special commemorative gathering on Sunday at Camp Hale National Monument in Colorado. 

The panelists featured  Dr. Carole McGranahan, anthropologist and scholar of Tibet; former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Agent Bruce Walker who trained the Tibetan fighters at Camp Hale; and Tibet-Indian filmmakers Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin. 

From 1958 to 1964, the CIA ran a secret training camp, codenamed Dumra (The Garden), at Camp Hale to support Tibetan freedom fighters. The trainees were members of Chushi Gangdruk (Four Rivers, Six Ranges), a citizen’s army formed to defend His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and Tibet against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In 2010, a plaque was installed at Camp Hale, publicly acknowledging the CIA-Tibet training camp for the first time. Recently, the exact location of the training facility was rediscovered by Dr. Carole McGranahan, Bruce Walker, and Vail Valley local Tracy Walters.

The panellists opined that this particular event has been a lesser-known chapter of Tibetan history, focusing on the resistance and the fight against Chinese rule. They also expressed interest in publishing a book about the Tibetan resistance. Bruce Walker, now 91, shared his experiences with the secret training camp, including learning the Tibetan language, the daily routines of the resistance fighters, and the strict secrecy surrounding Camp Hale as a testing site for their weapons.

Tenzing Sonam, who has been researching this story for many years using archival material from his late father, Lhamo Tsering- a leader in the Tibetan resistance and liaison between the Tibetans and the CIA, emphasised the importance of remembering the sacrifices of the Tibetan resistance fighters. He featured clips from his 1998 documentary, “The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet,” to highlight this pivotal yet overlooked part of history.

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