Hundreds of Tibetan warriors who doggedly fought a 15-year guerrilla war against the Chinese in Tibet after being trained and armed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) now have a memorial that is likely to ruffle Beijing.
The US has, for the first time, paid a tribute to the resistance forces and acknowledged the CIA's role in training them as the agency is erecting a memorial plaque at Camp Hale, a training base in Colorado for US troops during World War II.
Unknown to the local residents, who were told it was an atomic testing site, Camp Hale served as a training camp for nearly 2,000 Tibetan warriors who were taught the art of guerrilla warfare by the CIA from 1957 to 1972 to fight China's People's Liberation Army that attacked Tibet in 1949 and annexed the Buddhist kingdom within two years.
The event last week saw former CIA agents, Tibetans involved in the operation, and representatives of the US Forest Service and the Tibetan-American community in Colorado gather at Camp Hale.
The plaque reads: '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.' This plaque is dedicated to their memory.'
When China attacked Tibet under Mao Zedong, the American government, regarding Beijing as a potential exporter of communism and threat to US allies and interests in the region, trained Tibetans and air-dropped them into occupied Tibet.
The guerrillas also had the support of the Indian government. Some of them operated from Mustang, Nepal's northernmost district sharing the border with Tibet.
'Like many CIA operations, the US involvement with Tibetan guerrillas, including the training programme at Camp Hale, has not officially been acknowledged by the US government previously,' said the New York-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).
'The history of this era is increasingly being written about by academics, journalists, and those who participated in it, both Tibetan and American.'
'We commend Senator (Mark) Udall for his lead in the US Congress and for working with the US Forest Service to provide proper recognition of the historic US support rendered in the name of Tibetan freedom and the heroism demonstrated by many Tibetans who fought for their country,' said Todd Stein, director of government relations at the ICT.
But the tribute is bound to ruffle the feathers of Beijing that still remains suspicious of Mustang, regarding it as a base from where the 'Free Tibet' movement could start again and has begun a campaign in Nepal to intensify patrolling along the border.
Beijing has also prevented efforts by the US to offer asylum to Tibetan refugees in Nepal who are especially vulnerable to Chinese attempts to have them deported.
The Tibetan resistance ended after Tibetan ruler Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959, sent a message to the warriors, asking for an end to it.