Phạm Xuân Ẩn

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Phạm Xuân Ẩn
Nickname(s) Hai Trung
Born (1927-09-12)September 12, 1927
Died September 20, 2006(2006-09-20) (aged 79)
Allegiance Vietnam
Service/branch Vietnam People's Army
Rank Vietnam People's Army Major General.jpgMajor General
Awards Hero of the People's Armed ForcesOrder of IndependenceMilitary Exploit OrderFeat Order

Phạm Xuân Ẩn (September 12, 1927 – September 20, 2006) was a Vietnamese general whose nicknames were "Hai Trung" and "Tran Van Trung." He worked in South Vietnam as a reporter for Reuters, Time magazine and the New York Herald Tribune during the Vietnam War but was simultaneously spying for North Vietnam. Ẩn earned a North Vietnam war medal, the Viet Minh, after the Battle of Ap Bac and contributed to the ultimate defeat of the US and Saigon. He was awarded the "People's Army Force Hero" by the Vietnamese government on January 15, 1976.[1] He was also put in a "softer" version of a reeducation camp for a year after the war for being considered too close to the Americans.[2]


He was born in in Binh Truoc, Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai Province, but his parents were originally from Hải Dương Province. His grandfather was the headmaster of a school in Huế and was awarded the king of Vietnam's gold ring. Ẩn's father was a high-level engineer of the Public Administration Department. His family's service to France did not earn French citizenship. Phạm was born in Biên Hòa Hospital with the help of French doctors.

When Ẩn was a child, he lived in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). He then moved to Cần Thơ and studied at the College of Cần Thơ. When the August Revolution began against the French government, Pham left school and joined the Volunteer Youth Organisation. Later, he took classes offered by the Viet Minh.

In the 1950s, Ẩn attended Orange Coast College (OCC) and earned an Associate of Arts degree. He wrote for the campus newspaper, then called The Barnacle.

According to The Fall of Saigon by David Butler and Flashbacks by Morley Safer, Ẩn helped Tran Kim Tuyen, a South Vietnamese intelligence commander and CIA asset, escape Saigon on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon in 1975.[3] (See also Operation Frequent Wind).

Toward the fall of Saigon, Ẩn obtained transport of his wife and four children to the safety of the US by transport provided by Time magazine. After the fall of Saigon, he was interrogated by the Communists and put under house arrest after that to ensure he had no contact with Westerners and was him of being "corrupted" by capitalism after decades of living in South Vietnam as a spy.

His family was subsequently allowed to return to Saigon and him. He was made a brigadier general and retired on a pension of around $US30 a month. He told his friend Stanley Karnow, in Karnow's book Vietnam: A History, that his love for America and Vietnam was like the French song "J ai Deux Amours", but Ẩn felt obliged to bring violent communist revolution to Vietnam.

Ẩn died in Ho Chi Minh City in a military hospital from complications of emphysema.

In February 2009, The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An's Dangerous Game by Thomas A. Bass was published.[4]

Safer interview of 1989[edit]


In 1989, Ẩn did an interview with Morley Safer, described in Safer's book Flashbacks. Ẩn told Safer he had joined the Viet Minh in 1944 to fight the Japanese during World War II and the French later on. The book says he got a scholarship to the US in the late 1950s and worked at a newspaper in Orange County, California, before returning to Vietnam. Ẩn said that in 1960, he joined Reuters and later Time, when he was made a colonel in the Viet Cong. He claimed to have passed information periodically through secret meetings in the Ho Bo forest near Saigon during the Vietnam War and that only a handful of Viet Cong knew about his identity as a spy. Safer also writes that Ẩn was close with Charlie Mohr, Frank McCulloch, David Greenway, Richard Clurman, Bob Shaplen, Nguyen Hung Vuong, and other noted journalists.

Safer called Ẩn a "dignified and decent man" but also noted the "enigma" and "layers" of the man. Safer also mentions Arnaud de Borchgrave's 1981 testimony before Senator Jeremiah Denton's subcommittee that Ẩn had a "mission" to "disinform the Western press". Ẩn denied the disinformation charge, claiming his superiors felt such tactics would have given him away. Safer and Ẩn also discuss Ẩn's year-long imprisonment in a reeducation/lecture camp near Hanoi by the Viet Cong after the end of the war because of his connection with Americans. Ẩn also described to Safer Ẩn's opinion of the "paternalism and a discredited economy theory" being used by the Vietnamese leadership that had led to the failure of the revolution to help "the people."[6][page needed]


  1. ^ Berman, Larry (2007). Perfect Spy. Smithsonian Books. ISBN 978-0-06-088839-8, pps 134-143
  2. ^ Flashbacks, Morley Safer, St Martin's Press/Random House, 1991
  3. ^ Butler, David (1990). The fall of Saigon. Abacus. also Flashbacks, by Morley Safer, 1990, St Martins Press/Random House
  4. ^ Bass, Thomas A. (2015-02-01). "Vietnam’s concerted effort to keep control of its past". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  5. ^ This section has been isolated from the rest of the article because the rest of the article does not specifically cite the source for each piece of information. The isolation of this section will help ensure accuracy in the article
  6. ^ This entire paragraph is from Safer's book, Flashbacks, 1991 St Martin's Press paperback edition of the Random House original.

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