It was approaching two years that George had been working the Laotian border, with different partners during that period. He had saved the worst for last, or perhaps it should be said, the most difficult for last, which would be the northernmost two provinces, Sam Neua and Phong Sally.
In his first attempt to reach a Montagnard village accompanied by a Laotian army patrol, they came under small-arms fire. The Pathet Lao had supposedly vacated the region, but some of the Communist bands were still roaming the area. The exchange of fire did not last long, and only one of the Laotian troops was injured; he was attended to by a field dressing.
The next injury was much more severe, however. One of the soldiers proceeding on-point was hit by a King Cobra just below his knee. The other soldiers immediately threw the man to the ground, placed a tourniquet above his knee, then chopped his leg off above the tourniquet with a machete. While this was going on, the rest of the soldiers built a strong fire and heated a machete until it was white-hot and applied it to the thigh of the stricken soldier, thus cauterizing the wound.
George mentioned that this seemed a radical treatment, but the sergeant explained that the bite of a King Cobra under field conditions was absolutely deadly. In those days, there was no anti-snake bite serum available, and this man would have surely succumbed to this venomous bite.
It was a few months later that George encountered this soldier in Vientiane. Though the man ambulated on crutches, he seemed perfectly happy to be alive. He even joked with George about what a frightful experience that had been, and how now he believed that he was the brother of the King Cobra.
I write of George’s experiences in Laos during his CIA service in the run-up to the Vietnam War in my book: Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying.