Before 1950, citizens of the United States had, at most, very limited relations with residents of what is today the nation of Laos. Relations became more regular only after Laos gained its independence from the French Empire following World War II
Modern Flag of Laos
The United States recognized the Kingdom of Laos on February 7, 1950, when the U.S. Department of State made an announcement to that effect. Laos previously had been a Protectorate of France and had become an independent state as part of the French Union in 1949.
The United States opened consular relations with Laos with the assignment of Charles J. Baker as Vice Consul at Vientiane on April 25, 1950. The first Consul assigned to Laos was Alfred T. Willborn, who was assigned to Vientiane on December 7, 1952. These consular officials had multiple postings and were also assigned to Saigon, Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Diplomatic relations were established on July 29, 1950, when American Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Donald R. Heath presented his credentials to the King of Laos. Heath was also accredited to Cambodia and Viet-Nam and was resident at Saigon.
The American Legation in Vientiane was established on August 22, 1950, when it opened under Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Paul L. Guest.
According to a joint announcement by the Governments of the United States and Laos on August 10, 1955, the United States elevated its diplomatic mission in Vientiane from a Legation to an Embassy. Prior to this, on July 27, 1955, the United States Senate confirmed Charles W. Yost, who was then Minister to Laos, for the post of Ambassador to Laos. He presented his credentials soon after the joint announcement of August 10 of that year.
After the proclamation of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) in December 1975, the United States downgraded its chief of mission in Vientiane from Ambassador to Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. On January 9, 1987, this position was designated as Chargé d’Affaires.
The United States posted its first Ambassador to the LPDR when Ambassador Charles B. Salmon Jr. presented his credentials to the Lao Government on August 6, 1992.