BANGKOK, Thailand -- When the CIA's most macabre paramilitary officer
Tony "Poe" Poshepny demanded and received the hacked-off ears and
heads of communists in Laos during the Vietnam War, no one predicted
he would become an exhibit in a new museum in Bangkok's red-light

The Patpong Museum, on Patpong Road, also describes why U.S.
intelligence and military officers, airlines, IBM, and others rented
buildings alongside sleazy bars packed with prostitutes, especially
during the Vietnam War which ended in 1975.

"In 1957, we have the American Chamber of Commerce here. We have the
U.S. Information Service Library here. We have Shell Oil here. Pan Am,
TWA," the museum's founder and curator Michael Messner said in an

The CIA's clandestine Air America secretly flew troops, casualties,
refugees, ammunition, rice and other supplies in Laos and elsewhere
and staffed an office here until 1972.

On display is a 1963 letter with an Air America logo from 3 Patpong
Road informing a pilot's parents that he vanished in Laos when
communists shot down his plane.

Photos and memorabilia also document Patpong's raunchy bar girls
including a museum-inspired machine mimicking a woman shooting
ping-pong balls from her genitals.

Videos briefly flash real women who insert and expel goldfish and
razor blades inside themselves on stage.

Photos of men and women recently enjoying bondage in a fetish club also appear.

Americans who helped finance Patpong Road comprise the most
fascinating exhibits.

"When you see there is a [digital] go-go dancer coming alive here in
the exhibition, and how that directly relates to the Vietnam War and
all of that, people ask why is it happening in Patpong?" Mr. Messner

Historic exhibits portray a Chinese immigrant who purchased a banana
plantation with profits from rice and cement and was awarded a royal
Thai name, Luang Patpongpanich.

During World War II one of his sons, Udom, studied in the U.S. where
he was trained by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a U.S.
intelligence organization which became the CIA.

Udom was supposed to join the Seri Thai ("Free Thai") insurgency
against Japan's occupation of Thailand, but the war suddenly ended
with the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When Udom returned home, he upgraded the plantation and built
two-story buildings which he rented to his American buddies, including
from the OSS and CIA.

"Why was the CIA here in Bangkok? They were preparing to fight the
communists" Mr. Messner said.

"That would be the Vietnam War. When the Vietnam War comes to an end,
all these people were still here and they don't want to go home, and
they start businesses.

"Ex-military, ex-intelligence people, some of them chose to stay here
and they started opening bars."

In the Madrid Bar, still open today, CIA paramilitary officer Jack
Shirley would sit on a reserved stool, regaling friends about how he
helped train mercenary Hmong tribesmen in Laos in 1961 to fight Lao
communists and invading North Vietnamese.

After retiring, Mr. Shirley died in Thailand in 2003. An exhibited
photo shows him in Lucy's Tiger Den, another Patpong bar, drinking
with the CIA's infamous Mr. Poe.

The museum describes how Mr. Poe paid Hmong mercenaries to bring him
enemy ears and heads to prove they killed communists.

"I threw two heads from an airplane, it was a Dornier plane," Mr. Poe,
laughing, told me in his San Francisco home in 2001 before he died in

"The heads landed right in that [Lao] bastard's front door. We were
flying at 100 feet.

"I had a bunch of heads in my hut and the blood was seeping through
the floor. It was sticky. And [CIA officer] Bill Lair said, 'Get rid
of those goddamn heads'," Mr. Poe said.

Poe angrily sent ears in a bag to then-U.S. Ambassador G. McMurtie
Godley in Laos after being mocked as no threat to the enemy.

"You see cut-off [plastic] ears in a glass box, it kind of makes you
understand that this was a real war," Mr. Messner said, gesturing
toward a display.

"A photo of one of those Poe necklaces was given to me by a Thai
patrol border force soldier in 2007," said Tom Vater, co-author of the
documentary film, "The Most Secret Place on Earth: America's Covert
War in Laos."

"We used the image in the film to illustrate just how far beyond rhyme
and reason the American war in Southeast Asia had become," Mr. Vater
said in an interview.

The museum also displays anti-communist comic books distributed to
Thai students decades ago, when Thailand felt threatened by China's
Mao Zedong and North Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh.

Today, Patpong Road features about 15 go-go bars with strippers
illicitly offering themselves to passersby, plus restaurants, live
music, shops and a night bazaar, conveniently located in the heart of