Me and Indiana Jones

For the cover story on me and Last of the Annamese published in February in the Columbia Flier and the Howard County Times, reporter Janene Holzberg interviewed several fellow authors. One was Larry Matthews who wrote about me along with six other men in his 2016 book, Age in Good Time. Larry characterized me as having lived a life “that Indiana Jones would envy.”

That remark made me laugh, but it also got me to thinking. Indiana Jones went out his way to seek adventure, but I didn’t. My wild escapades resulted from a vortex of circumstances, my odd affinity for languages (especially Vietnamese, French, and Chinese, the three languages spoken in Vietnam), and my willingness to go into combat with the U.S. Army and Marine troops I was supporting.

During my thirteen years of trundling between the U.S. and Vietnam during the war, culminating with escaping under fire during the fall of Saigon, I never considered anything I did as heroic. I was just doing my job. Granted, the scrapes I got myself into were bizarre. But operating under cover is weird by nature, especially since I masqueraded variously as a soldier, a Marine, a CIA employee, and a foreign service officer. Several times over my years in Vietnam, an American who knew me under one cover would stumble across me acting under another, forcing me to explain—without much credibility—that I had changed jobs. As far as I know, my true affiliation, to the National Security Agency (NSA), was never discovered. It was finally completely declassified at the beginning of 2016.

At least, during my Vietnam years, I never was required to use an assumed name. That did happen later in my career, but everything after 1975 is still classified.

So, Indiana Jones? Nah, more like Beetle Bailey on a toot.

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