PHAM XUAN AN DIES AT 79; REPORTER SPIED FOR HANOI

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Psi mê Xuan An often spent his days chain-smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes at Givral Cafe, a popular spot in what was then the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. As a trusted source of information during the Vietnam giới War, the local correspondent won praise & admiration from foreign journalists, many of who marveled at his ability lớn reCall major events of the conflict in impeccable detail.

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Little did they know that their self-deprecating colleague was a top espionage agent for the Communist regime in North Vietphái mạnh. An was first recruited as a spy in 1952. Five sầu years later, his intelligence unit sent hyên to study journalism in California, believing that masquerading as a reporter would be the perfect cover. During his two years in America, he worked for his campus paper at Orange Coast College & interned at The Sacramenkhổng lồ Bee. With journalism as his cover, he was ordered to lớn return lớn Vietphái nam in 1960 on a mission to infiltrate the American press. 


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North Vietnamese tanks roll inkhổng lồ the đô thị of Saigon on April 30, 1975, ending the United States’ 15-year involvement in Vietnam giới. 


Once Viet Cong forces captured Saigon in 1975, An feared that his country would slip baông chồng inkhổng lồ war. To save sầu his friends from reprisal, he begged American officials khổng lồ airlift them lớn the U.S. His wife & four children were also flown lớn Washington, D.C., where they waited for An to join them. But Hanoi prohibited An from living out the rest of his life in America, forcing his family to lớn return a year later. At the time, Hanoi suspected that An had grown too fond of the Americans, so they sent hyên to lớn a reeducation camp.

More than a decade later, William Thatcher Dowell — who also covered the Vietnam giới War as a radio journadanh mục — began meeting with An as Time’s Southeast Asia correspondent in the 1990s. By then, Hanoi had already announced that An had been one of its most remarkable spies. For the rest of An’s life, he lived off a modest pension và took refuge in books. The government tightly monitored hyên until his dying days, although it allowed more of his former colleagues khổng lồ visit hyên as he grew gray.

“An described his mission as simply interpreting the behavior of the Americans,” Dowell says. “The U.S. was doing things so insane that the North Vietnamese couldn’t understvà our motives.”

While that may be true, An shaped American public opinion more than arguably any other journacác mục covering the war. Few of his former colleagues still hold a grudge, but others admire hyên for fighting what they believe sầu was a noble cause khổng lồ liberate his country from foreign occupation. In the obituaries và tributes that poured inkhổng lồ the American press after he died in 2006, he was often depicted as the spy who loved America. 

The framing may overshadow a less lãng mạn truth: What if An was simply keeping his friends cthất bại and his enemies closer during the war?