Tonight at the International Spy Museum is a visit to our nation’s past, as we look ahead to our future.
As the East and West battled for dominance in the Cold War, the fate of Vietnam was a matter of enormous importance. In the 1950s, the U.S. Saigon Military Mission (SMM) was created to respond to this situation with dual purposes: a covert CIA and an overt military aid mission. Under the command of Colonel Edward G. Lansdale, the legendary covert political action operative, the SMM was preparing stay-behind agents for both North and South Vietnam, should the North succeed. At Lansdale’s side was Rufus Phillips, an Airborne Infantry Officer detailed back to the CIA. For his role as the sole adviser to two major Vietnamese army pacification operations, Phillips was awarded the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit. He later joined the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Saigon Mission to lead its counterinsurgency efforts. In this wide-ranging discussion, Phillips, the author of Why Vietnam Matters: An Eyewitness Account of Lessons Not Learned, will describe his wartime experiences in Vietnam, how the SMM operated, the renowned Lansdale, the extraordinary North Vietnamese spy Pham Xuan An, and the real lessons of Vietnam and their applicability today.
Rufus took a few moments to answer a couple of questions about his latest book – Saigon Stories – giving you a taste of tonight’s discussion.