Episode 11. Achievements and be observed – Or the story of a regime’s hero become criminal prisoner without parole.

Chapter 3. The communist bites the hand that feeds? No! The truth is something more than that!

Episode 11. Achievements and be observed – Or the story of a regime’s hero become criminal prisoner without parole.

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Preamble: A conflict that is difficult to explain: Pham Xuan An- A premier spy “he is well respected by friends and foes alike, and standing out larger than life, almost a myth.” and “Major General Pham Xuan An of the Vietnam People’s Army, the recipient of four Liberation Exploit medals and six Soldier of Emulation medals along with the title he held to that day, People’s Army Hero.” But, he be observed very closely! (than the enemy.)

Where is the truth?

I. Achievements.

  1. An sent us everything”

“… The introduction of U.S. helicopters and ARVN mopping-up exercises were taking a heavy toll on Viet Cong forces. An’s assignment was to analyze the new tactics so that Communist military planners could develop countertactics of their own. “They trusted me and gave me the documents, even Tuyen,” said An. “So I read them all, spoke with American advisors and my friends who were returning from training, and I wrote reports, nothing else. It was easy once I had the documents…All I did was read their documents, attend briefings, listen to what people were saying, provide my analysis and send the report to the jungle. I never knew what happened after that until years later.”

                Between 1961 and 1965, An sent forward just about every important document regarding military and civilian plans for operations in the south.

…What Lansdale did not know was that everything An learned was being sent to Hanoi. “In 1962, Hai Trung sent us twenty-four rolls of film of all plans related to the U.S. Special War strategy,” recalled Muoi Nho, An’s direct supervisor at the time. “They included the master plan of the war, the materials concerning the buildup of armed forces, the support of American troops, the strategic hamlet plan, the plan of reoccupying liberated zones and the plan of consolidating the puppet army with American military equipment.”28

Muoi Nho personally developed the film; his hands trembled when he saw the entire text of the Staley and Taylor reports. “We could not have purchased such documents, even if we had offered to pay a billion dollars. The understanding of the enemy these documents gave us helped us to prepare pro-active plans to deal with the enemy strategy…. The enemy’s total defeat in the battle of Ap Bac forced the U.S. to end its pursuit of its special war plan and seek a new strategy.”29

When I asked Mai Chi Tho what he considered to be An’s most valuable contribution, he surprised me by saying, “An sent us everything on the pacification program, the strategic hamlets, so that we could devise an ‘anti’ plan to defeat them.” Yet An had not received a medal for these activities, I said. Tho smiled. “There are many more accomplishments that An made that could have earned medals, but I consider this to be the most important because of its strategic scale.” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 11/27)

                “An would receive the first of his four Exploit medals for his contributions to the victory at Ap Bac. Only two medals were awarded for this early battle in the war, one to the People’s Liberation Armed Forces commander, Nguyen Bay, and the other to Reuters stringer Pham Xuan An for submitting reports that helped transform the nature of the war.” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 16/27)

“…An’s work during this period, most especially his contributions just prior to Campaign 275, would earn him a final Exploit medal. “I didn’t know what he had done before. But during the period I was the head of the intelligence network, Hai Trung managed to obtain all U.S. documents of strategic importance every year,” said Ba Minh, his immediate supervisor during this final phase of the war.6(Perfect Spy, Chapter 6, Page 2/24)

Reviews: We could not have purchased such documents, even if we had offered to pay a billion dollars.“, ““Hai Trung managed to obtain all U.S. documents of strategic importance every year”.”…

Muoi Nho personally developed the film; his hands trembled”?

  1. Four Liberation Exploit medals and six Soldier of Emulation medals.

Major General Pham Xuan An of the Vietnam People’s Army, the recipient of four Liberation Exploit medals and six Soldier of Emulation medals along with the title he held to that day, People’s Army Hero.” (Perfect Spy, Prologue, Page 2/12)

                “WITHIN FIVE YEARS OF HIS return from the United States, Pham Xuan An had received two Exploit medals for his strategic reports and contributions to both Ap Bac and the Americanization of the war. He had also gained the well-earned reputation as perhaps the very best Vietnamese journalist working for the western press. Still, it would be over the next decade, from 1965 to 1975 that he would leave an indelible imprint of his work in espionage and as a journalist for Time.” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 23/27)

Reviews: But being controlled?

This is a joke! No more!

I I. Resolute!

  1. An decided that he could best serve his country by returning to Vietnam.

“He had received no instructions to return home.

                At this important crossroads, An decided that he could best serve his country by returning to Vietnam. “I was worried about my family, my leaders, and my mission. I had given my word to the party. I was thirty-two years old already. I knew sooner or later I must return. I had people depending on me and my mission.”” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 3, Page 17/20)

Reviews: He had received no instructions to return home.

I asked him how he felt about his new popularity. “Now they know I have not done anything wrong and I will die soon. I have not betrayed them. They tried to change my way of talking for one year and my way of thinking for much longer. What can they do? They cannot take me out and shoot me. They told me that they do not like my way of talking and that I am different. Even today, they do not know how much information I have and what I know. Still, I have proven my loyalty to them, so now the people may find out about me. I had the courage to return from the United States, and this is a lesson for our youth. I am considered a good model to many young people about my love for the country.”

An oxygen tank was stationed nearby, and about two hours into our conversation, An said he needed to lie down and take oxygen.(Perfect Spy, Prologue, Page 5/12)

Reviews: “I had the courage to return from the United States, and this is a lesson for our youth.

  1. May be dead still return to Vietnam.

                “ON RETURNING TO SAIGON IN LATE September 1959 after two years in the United States, An’s greatest fear was getting off the plane and being taken away, never to be heard from again. An arranged for his entire family to greet him at the airport, figuring that if he was going to get arrested, it was best to have witnesses. “With my family at the airport, at least my mother would know if I disappeared,” An told me… ” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 1/27)

                Reviews: An’s greatest fear was getting off the plane and being taken away, never to be heard from again.

But being controlled?

This is a joke! No more!

III. Be observed  = Criminal prisoner without parole!

  1. Be observed .

The new government offered An a job in the censorship office, which he declined. He was then asked to train Communist journalists, but he thought it was a practical joke: “Anyone I trained would lose their red card. What could I possibly teach Vietnamese journalists about my profession? If they practiced it the way I believed, they would be sent to reeducation, so I was really saving them a lot of expense and problems.”

And so the reeducated An had trouble fitting in and being trusted. That is why whenever a friend from the old days arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, officials said either that An did not want to see them or that he was out of town. “In 1982, I was in Saigon for a few days on my way to Cambodia,” recalled Dan Southerland. “In those days any reporter passing through Saigon ended up with a Viet Cong ‘handler.’ Mine was an old cadre, Phuong Nam. I asked him if I could see An. Phuong Nam told me that he’d check, and then came back with the answer: ‘He’s not seeing foreign visitors.’” Thirteen years later Southerland finally got to see An. “He lied to you,” An told Southerland at their first meeting in thirty years. “I did want to see you.”17” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 8/23)

Stanley Karnow related a similar story about a visit in 1981:

“I asked a communist official to schedule a meeting for me with him.

“‘Forget it,’ the official snapped. ‘Colonel Pham Xuan An doesn’t want to see you or any other Americans.’

“‘Colonel?’

“‘Yes,’ the official said. ‘He was one of us.’”18” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 8/23)

  1. “We even got photographed by the security guys”

Meanwhile, An’s old friend Phong was released from his five years in prison. Two “brother enemies” now living in a unified Vietnam pooled their talents: “During twenty years, from 1980 to 2000, An and I used to get together several times a week, most of the time sitting by the side of the road sipping coffee on Dong Khoi Street to relax and forget the past. We even got photographed by the security guys, trying to find out what plots we were cooking up!”” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 8/23)

  1. “a house-husband”

“An had no choice but to become what he described as “a house-husband” and jokingly referred to himself as a “collective millionaire,” spending his days reading, listening to the BBC, and running errands for his wife.19 He also became renowned as one of Saigon’s best trainers of fighting cocks, a practice the new regime had outlawed but which still flourished underground.“(Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 8/23)

  1. Ironically,…Criminal prisoner without parole!

“…After dinner, my friend Khanh Le, who works for the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech and whose family fled the Communist takeover in April 1975 just a few days after An’s wife and children evacuated Saigon for the United States, told me that I had just spent three hours with Major General Pham Xuan An of the Vietnam People’s Army

Ironically, it was Khanh who was free to travel regularly between his home in Lubbock, Texas, and Ho Chi Minh City for extended visits with his family. General Pham Xuan An, Hero of the Revolution, had never been permitted to leave Vietnam to visit his many friends or family members in America….” (Perfect Spy, Prologue, Page 2/12)

“…During the 1975–1986 period when An was being closely watched, he spent quite a bit of time reading with his children …” (Perfect Spy – Epilogue , Page 7/10 )

Reviews: Hero of the Revolution, had never been permitted to leave Vietnam= Criminal prisoner without parole!

  1. Be observed than enemies!

“…In 1988 Bob Shaplen was in Ho Chi Minh City and asked to meet with An. For the very first time, security permitted the meeting, so long as a member of the foreign ministry was present. As their reunion was coming to an end, An asked a favor from his ministry friend: Could he and Shaplen go to dinner alone? Permission was granted. “We went to the Majestic Hotel,” recalled An. “I think it was the first time I was allowed to speak alone with an old friend since the war ended. I did not want the evening to end.”

When Shaplen returned to the United States he passed the word that perhaps the government was loosening up on contact with former colleagues.” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 11/23)

Reviews: What to one “Major General Pham Xuan An of the Vietnam People’s Army, the recipient of four Liberation Exploit medals and six Soldier of Emulation medals along with the title he held to that day, People’s Army Hero.” was monitored over the enemy?

When meeting has “so long as a member of the foreign ministry was present“, when a favorthey do not “electronic listening devices“?

The original has been removed:

DeVoss later made the startling claim that An had asked him in 1981 to help smuggle his family out of Vietnam:

My goal was to find An, but that was no easy task. Old city maps had been confiscated and burned. All but the major streets had new names. Houses still had numbers, but they were not in sequence, making it nearly impossible to locate a home even if you had the address. Finally, in desperation, I bribed a Hanoi official with baby vitamins and disposable diapers brought in from Bangkok and got An’s phone number. I called and we arranged to meet at the Bird Market. ‘I’ll be walking my dogs,’ he said.

An warned me not to say or do anything when we saw each other because police would be watching. Apparently, not even a decorated hero now in charge of diplomatic intelligence for the government could escape surveillance. The Bird Market actually was a sidewalk both sides of which were stacked high with bamboo cages filled with twittering birds that could be taken home as pets or simply released to improve one’s karma. An had come with his German shepherd, and we passed each other with barely a nod. An and I got into separate cyclos, each pedaled by an impoverished veteran of the South’s defeated army, and I followed him home.

Once inside the house, An expressed great sadness over what had become of his country. ‘Why did we fight a war just to replace Americans with Russians?’ he sighed. He confided that twice in the past he had tried unsuccessfully to smuggle his family out of the country. The first time the boat had had an engine problem. The second time, the boat had appeared to be seaworthy but the captain had failed to show. An escape was even more critical now, he said, because his son soon would be sent away to school in Moscow. An asked me to go to Singapore and seek out a mysterious man at a Chinese hotel who could arrange passage on a boat if paid the right sum of money. An said he was desperate.24

I was stunned by this story, especially given De Voss’s 1981 letter to Karsten Prager. I then asked An Pham for his assessment: “We are not worried by his article because what he wrote could be verified easily by people here, and we never did that.”” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 9/23)

Reviews: An warned me not to say or do anything when we saw each other because police would be watching. Apparently, not even a decorated hero now in charge of diplomatic intelligence for the government could escape surveillance.

  1. I’m not sure I want to“?

In one of his final questions, Safer asked if An had any regrets. “‘I hate that question. I have asked it of myself a thousand times. But I hate the answer more. No. No regrets. I had to do it. This peace that I fought for may be crippling this country, but the war was killing it. As much as I love the United States, it had no right here. The Americans had to be driven out of Vietnam one way or another. We must sort this place out ourselves.’”

As the interview drew to a close, Safer asked, “‘Will they let you leave?’”

“‘I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to,’” said An. “‘At the very least, I would like my children to go to the States and study.’”30” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 14/23)

Reviews:  Real “I’m not sure I want to”?

  1. Explain the reasons censored.
  2. Help Tran Kim Tuyen escapade?

“- Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen had missed several chances to leave. His wife, Jackie, and children were already in Singapore, having gone earlier under the auspices of the British Embassy. Tuyen had spent the last twelve years either in prison or under house arrest.54 He was still in Saigon because several of his supporters and friends had been jailed in early April under trumped-up charges of coup plotting and general opposition to the Thieu government. Tuyen refused to leave Vietnam without securing their release.

Tuyen was high on the CIA’s evacuation list. His agency contact, William Kohlmann, assured him the CIA would not let him down. Dr. Tuyen saw Kohlmann at least twice during the last week, including when he came to see Tuyen at An’s home.55

…“It is hopeless,” said Shaplen, who had been unable to get Tuyen onto the list. He tried calling the embassy again, but after ten minutes the reporters on the bus were becoming impatient. It was time to go. There was little else Shaplen could do than reach into his pocket and hand his friend all the money he had, plus another spare key to his hotel room, telling him, “Stay with An!” One of the final entries in Shaplen’s notes is “I left the Continental at about 10:15. Waited. Tony [Tuyen] and Nghiem in room just before I left. Told them to stay there with An and gave Tony the 22 Gia Long information (he finally went there, hopefully not too late.)”57

Tuyen went to the Time office and asked An if he was leaving. “No. Time got my wife and children out. But I cannot leave now. My mother is very old and ill and she needs me. Of course you must go.”58

…The guards were rolling down the gate and locking up.

An jerked the car to a stop, jumped out shouting, “By order of the ambassador, this man must get in.”64 The guards said no one else was to enter; the last helicopter was about to depart. On the rooftop, CIA employee O. B. Harnage was making his final pickup of the day. He had been landing a silver Huey on the elevator shaft and shuttling fifteen people at a time to Tan Son Nhut, where larger helicopters took them to ships in the South China Sea. He would later receive a CIA medal for his heroism that day.

The situation seemed hopeless, but as the gate was being closed, An instinctively reached under the gate with his left hand and used his right to push the diminutive Dr. Tuyen under the gate. No more than eighteen inches separated the gate from the ground. There was no time to say good-bye or thank you. “Run,” An said as tears ran down his face. Tuyen was also crying and could say nothing except “I can never forget.”65 (Perfect Spy, Chapter 6, Page 16/24)

                Reviews: Help Tran Kim Tuyen escapade?

                                     Very vague, not convinced!

  1. What’s the mystery?

“It was widely reported that in 1997 that the Vietnamese government denied An an exit visa that would have permitted him to appear on a panel with other journalists in New York City to discuss the legacy of Vietnam. “As far as we know, due to his old age and weakening health, Mr. Pham Xuan An did not request an exit visa,” said the Foreign Ministry.11

                This was not true. “I wanted to attend that meeting very much,” An told me. “They do not understand me, so they are afraid. I understand why no one wants to sign my exit visa and be responsible for letting me out. It could ruin their career if I said or did something wrong.”

Then he joked, “What if I found another girlfriend in America?”12(Perfect Spy – Epilogue , Page 7/10 )

Reviews: It could ruin their career if I said or did something wrong.”?   It is the story: An truth is? (An not a Communist!)

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