The Cassandra Effect

Last Monday I did, remotely, my presentation on the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam’s western highlands. It was one of the bloodiest battles during the Vietnam war, and I was right in the middle of it. I was there to provide signals intelligence support to the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. My memory of those days is sad and bitter—so many were killed because my warning about the North Vietnamese forces hidden in the mountains and preparing to attack us was ignored.

I coined the term the Cassandra Effect to describe what it was like to foretell what the enemy was going to do and not being believed. Cassandra, according to Greek myth, was a Trojan woman blessed by the gods with the ability to foretell the future and cursed by the gods that no one would believe her. Repeatedly during the thirteen years I spent more time in Vietnam than in the U.S., I knew from intercepting the radio communications of the North Vietnamese what their next moves would be. So often my warnings fell on deaf ears.

The worst of those times came at the end of the war in April 1975. By then I was the National Security Agency (NSA) station chief in Saigon. I warned Graham Martin, the American ambassador, about overwhelming evidence showing that Saigon was about to be attacked. He refused to believe me and didn’t call for an evacuation of the thousands of American civilians still in the city, along with our South Vietnamese counterparts. When the North Vietnamese attacked a few days later, the city descended into panic. I escaped under fire. My South Vietnamese partners, the men I was working with intercepting and explopiting North Vietnamese communications, weren’t so lucky. Some 2,700 of them were killed or captured and sent to so-called “re-education” camps—really concentration camps.

So the stories I tell about the Cassandra Effect are bitter. I’m no longer an active spy, long since retired. But I’m told by those still in the business that we learned by our mistakes and that intelligence is now acted upon. My impression is that that changed for the worse during the Trump administration but that we are mending rapidly under Biden.

I can only hope for the best.

3 thoughts on “The Cassandra Effect”

  1. Thank you Sir for your honorable service to our country and our allies. I found your story while looking up “The Cassandra Effect” at the urging of a fellow investor and Macroeconomic quasi-expert in reference to what I believe is the coming collapse of the dollar and our way of life. I have experienced that feeling for quite a while now. When I give those whom I care about advice about how to protect themselves financially and physically during the upcoming mayhem it is very frustrating. I feel like I am giving them answers to questions that they don’t even know exist. Most seem to believe, “it can’t happen here. Not to us” even though the exact same scenario has played out repeatedly throughout history. “History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it does rhyme”. My only issue is your final comments that we are rapidly mending under the current administration. I did vote for President Trump, but I don’t consider myself a zealot Sheep who worships the man. I agree that his administration had its shortcomings. That being said, this current administration, along with its cartel of elite, wealthy bad actors stands for all that I abhor was an America. They embrace the very principles that you so bravely fought against in Vietnam and the Cold War. Socialism is no longer a dirty word. Order, the Constitution and responsibility are frowned upon and adverse opinions are silenced and ridiculed and those making them are shunned and penalized with the sanctioning of the federal government and it’s powerful cohorts. These same people used American tax dollars and the full force of the FBI to unlawfully pursue Mr Trump and knowingly fabricated the now debunked Russian collusion dossier. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I now realize that there isn’t any difference except the same tired talking points to promote discord and division among the majority of society while they continue with their expansion of government, crony capitalism, and unrepeatable damage to all things that our founders considered sacred. These career politicians reject equally reject liberty , privacy, and nearly all of our right. Time and again they legislate assaults upon our freedom under the veil of concern for our collective welfare. It can not be denied that these so called leaders never act in the best interest of America. President Trump may have had his shortcomings, and I agree that he is a pompous and vain man, but he his term and the events surrounding both elections makes obvious that their is certainly a deep state that will use all of its influence and power to maintain the current system that they thrive in while doing nothing for Americans. Thank you for your time. I pray that my thoughts have not fell upon deaf ears as yours unfortunately had in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately i feel that a much higher debt is on the horizon for America and the world and the amount of death and suffering will prove to be exponentially worse than your undoubtedly painful and tragic experiences in Vietnam.


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