Little did they know that their self-deprecating colleague was a top espionage agent for the Communist regime in North Vietnam. An was first recruited as a spy in 1952. Five years later, his intelligence unit sent him 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 and interned at The Sacramento Bee. With journalism as his cover, he was ordered to return to Vietnam in 1960 on a mission to infiltrate the American press.
“An made a lot of friends, but he was ultimately committed to ensuring that the Americans lost the war,” says Luke Hunt, author of Punji Trap — Pham Xuan An: The Spy Who Didn’t Love Us, a book about An’s life.
Read more from Mat Nashed at Ozy magazine: