During my Vietnam years, I had two multiyear accompanied tours there—my wife and my children were with me in country. Since there was no denying that I was in Vietnam, my connection with NSA was concealed. The covers I used at various times were as a State Department diplomat, a free-lance civilian employee of MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam), and a CIA agent.
The point of the deception was to prevent the enemy, the North Vietnamese, from knowing that we were intercepting and exploiting their radio communications. As far as I know, it worked. We never uncovered any evidence that the enemy knew what we were doing.
And the American public never suspected that I was a civilian working undercover as military in Vietnam. So often after 1968 when I’d be returning with the troops, we’d be met at the San Francisco airport by mobs who called us “butchers” and “baby killers” and spat on us. The American public humiliated me alongside my military buddies.
Since my retirement in the early 1990s (I retired as early as possible to write full time), I have been faced with the opposite dilemma: how to become well-known. As a novelist and public speaker, my success depends in part on people knowing who I am. And it’s working. My recent blog post on the three media interviews just published pointed to the evidence that I am being noticed.
Moving from pretending to not exist to being a public figure ain’t easy. But I’m getting better at it.