My book Vietnam: A Reporter’s War (first published 1985 and still in print) tells the story of me making friends slowly with reporter Pham Ngoc Dinh. In my book Dinh revealed for the first time that his Saigon journalist friend Pham Xuan An, a Staff Correspondent for TIME Magazine between 1966 and the end of the War in 1975, was all the time a Viet Cong Colonel! After the war Colonel An was promoted to General! An revealed himself as a spy to Dinh the day before Dinh got out of Vietnam to Australia (with An’s help) in 1980 — and Dinh told me all about it for my book. BUT HE ASKED ME TO KEEP ONE PART OF THE INTERVIEW SECRET UNTIL AFTER THE DEATH OF HIMSELF AND COLONEL AN. So here it is; this bit is not in my book:
Dinh said Colonel An invited Dinh to his house that day in 1980 (five years after the War ended) to ask a favour. An told Dinh: “When you get out you try to contact Robert Shaplen from the New Yorker; Beverly Deepe of Newsweek; Anthony Lawrence of the BBC, and American journalist Neil Sheehan and ask them to find out a way to take me and my family out.” Dinh asked how they could do that and An replied: “Meet me on sea.”
Dinh said he speculated that An was suffering because of the lack of food and schooling for his children “and he feel guilty he bring back his wife and four children who already evacuated from Saigon to New York by TIME Magazine five months before”. Dinh said: “An, he was the man who guarantee I leave Vietnam. He proved he could guarantee I go and he expect I return him favour.” But Dinh decided not to act as Colonel An’s agent and said he never contacted those journalists because he wanted his two young boys (one named after me) to begin again in Australia. Dinh said he was worried “from both sides — Communist Vietnam or CIA”.