Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A Dark Day In American History: Today Is The Anniversary Of The Fall Of South Vietnam

Today is the anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 to the North Vietnamese Communists.

It was a dark day in America as well, as after losing 58,000 Americans in our support of the South Vietnamese government, the Democratic-led Congress cut off funds and military aid and allowed the Communists to march in and take over.

The North Vietnamese defeated the South Vietnamese militarily and did not defeat American troops in combat. All American combat troops had left the country in 1973.

As I noted here on this past National Vietnam Veterans' Day, back in 1970 and 1971, I was an 18 and 19-year-old sailor stationed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier launched combat aircraft against the North Vietnamese from "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

I recall that nearly every pilot, intelligence officer and seasoned military man I spoke to aboard the carrier was disgusted with the conduct of the war. 

They thought we should win it. 

If only, I was told, we were allowed to unleash the full power of the aircraft carrier, the North Vietnamese would quickly surrender. 

I agreed then and now, after all these years in which I’ve interviewed many soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and CIA officers who fought in the war, I still agree. 

We could have – we should have - won the Vietnam War. 

Militarily, we did win, as we never lost a battle over company strength during our entire time there, and when the North Vietnamese defeated the South Vietnamese in 1975, there were no American combat troops in the country. 

We lost the war only in the sense that America lacked a political will to go all out and defeat the Communists.

You can read my Washington Times review of The Vietnam War via the below link:

… “The Vietnam War: An Intimate History” is an impressive-looking book, with a vast array of photos that accompanies a look back at the long and complicated war. Unfortunately, the companion book suffers from the same bias we saw in the television series. 

… Many veterans believed in the war, many volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and many Vietnam veterans are proud of their service. Many Americans, then and now, believe we should have gone all out to win the war. 

Certainly, the many South Vietnamese murdered and imprisoned by the Communists after the fall of the South, and the many Vietnamese “boat people” who endured hardships and sacrifices to escape the Communists, wish we had stayed the course. 

Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Review Of 'The Vietnam War: An Intimate History' 

You can also read my Washington Times on another view of the Vietnam War via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: Another View Of The Vietnam War 

Former NSA Employee Sentenced To More Than 21 Years In Prison For Attempted Espionage

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 32, of Colorado Springs, was sentenced today to 262 months in prison for attempted espionage in connections with his efforts to transmit classified National Defense Information (NDI) to an agent of the Russian Federation.

According to court documents, Dalke pleaded guilty in 2023 to six counts of attempting to transmit classified NDI to a foreign agent. From June 6 to July 1, 2022, Dalke was an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) where he served as an Information Systems Security Designer. Dalke admitted that between August and September 2022, in order to demonstrate both his “legitimate access and willingness to share,” he used an encrypted email account to transmit excerpts of three classified documents to an individual he believed to be a Russian agent. That person was an FBI online covert employee. All three documents from which the excerpts were taken contain NDI, are classified as Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and were obtained by Dalke during his employment with the NSA.

“This defendant, who had sworn an oath to defend our country, believed he was selling classified national security information to a Russian agent, when in fact, he was outing himself to the FBI,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This sentence demonstrates that that those who seek to betray our country will be held accountable for their crimes. I am grateful to the FBI Denver and Washington Field Offices for their extraordinary work on this case.”

“This sentence should serve as a stark warning to all those entrusted with protecting national defense information that there are consequences to betraying that trust,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Dalke believed he was passing classified information to an agent of the Russian government. The hard work of our FBI employees prevented that from happening and any potential harm to the United States.”

“Two primary objectives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado include keeping our citizens safe, and safeguarding the United States of America,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan for the District of Colorado. “Not only is this case an exceptional example of federal law enforcement cooperation, but the sentence Mr. Dalke received today reflects the seriousness of the actions he took in attempt to injure our country and help a foreign government.”

On or about Aug. 26, 2022, Dalke requested $85,000 in return for all the information in his possession. Dalke claimed the information would be of value to Russia and told the FBI online covert employee that he would share more information in the future, once he returned to the Washington, D.C.-area.

Dalke subsequently arranged to transfer additional classified information in his possession to the purported Russian agent at Union Station in downtown Denver. Using a laptop computer and the instructions provided by the FBI online covert employee, Dalke transferred five files, four of which contain Top Secret NDI. The other file was a letter, which begins (in Russian and Cyrillic characters) “My friends!” and states, in part, “I am very happy to finally provide this information to you… I look forward to our friendship and shared benefit. Please let me know if there are desired documents to find and I will try when I return to my main office.” The FBI arrested Dalke on Sept. 28, 2023, moments after he transmitted the files.

As part of his plea agreement, Dalke admitted that he willfully transmitted files to the FBI online covert employee with the intent and reason to believe the information would be used to injure the United States and to benefit Russia.

The FBI Washington and Denver Field Offices investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julia K. Martinez and Jena R. Neuscheler for the District of Colorado and Trial Attorneys Christina A. Clark and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section handled the prosecution.




Monday, April 29, 2024

'Generous And Reflective’: Letters Show Other Sides To Macho Ernest Hemingway

Dalya Alberge at the British newspaper the Guardian offers a look at The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1934-1936. 

He cultivated a hard-drinking macho image, with a taste for big-game hunting and a love of bullfighting, but Ernest Hemingway had a generous and thoughtful side that is revealed in previously unpublished letters. 

In the decade after he made his name with A Farewell to Arms, his 1929 war novel, his correspondence shows that he repeatedly offered advice and encouragement – as well as insights into his own craft – to aspiring young novelists.

In a letter from 1934, he wrote: “The real secret in writing a novel is to keep inside of your action all the time like a horse. Don’t let the damned horse run away on you when you are going to have to keep racing him forever. And always stop at an interesting place when you still know what is going to happen.

“Then you can go on from there the next day and the next and etc. Never write yourself out in those bursts. It is just like making a 300-mile race a succession of runaways. Do a certain amount every day or every two days and always stop where it is interesting and while you are going good.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

‘Generous and reflective’: letters show other sides to macho Ernest Hemingway | Ernest Hemingway | The Guardian

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1926-1929 below:  

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Rook: A Look Back At A Vietnam Era Spy Sentenced In Philadelphia

My Crime Beat column below originally appeared in the South Philadelphia American in October of 1997:

Spy stories traditionally unfold in Berlin, Hong Kong or some other exotic locale, but a 30-year espionage drama ended right here in a Philadelphia courthouse last week when Robert Stephen Lipka was sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying for the Soviet Union.

Lipka, 51, a coin collector from Lancaster, PA, admitted to spying from 1965 to 1974, the years of the Vietnam War, while serving as a young soldier attached to the National Security Agency (NSA). (NSA HQ at Fort Meade in Maryland is seen in the below photo).

A series of FBI investigations originating in the 1960's led to Lipka's sentencing day in the federal court at 6th and Market Streets. U.S. District Judge Charles r. Weiner, a WWII Navy veteran, admonished Lipka by saying that the parents of military servicemen might feel his crimes caused their children's deaths or maiming during the Vietnam War. Weiner also imposed a fine of $10,000 to repay the $10,000 the FBI paid him during the undercover "sting" operation that ultimately netted him.

Lipka, who resembles the actor who plays the despicable character Newman on TV's Seinfeld, no doubt shares some of Newman's more unsavory characteristics. 

Lipka aided the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese while I, my brother and thousands of other soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen were fighting over there. Lipka sold out his brothers-in-arms for a paltry $27,000.

Lipka's spy story began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963. He was assigned to NSA at Fort Meade in Maryland, a cushy headquarters job far from the combat zone. 

NSA, the super-secret organization we called "No Such Agency" when I was in the Navy, intercepts foreign electromagnetic, radio, radar and other transmissions for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Lipka's clerical job was to simply make distribution of NSA's highly classified reports. 

We now know that Lipka took it upon himself to add the Soviet Union to his mailing list.

According to the FBI, Lipka used special spy cameras to clandestinely photograph sensitive documents. He also hid classified documents inside his shirt and wrapped around his legs to slip past NSA security. Using common "tradecraft" such as a prearranged "dead drop," he passed the documents to the Komitet Gosudarstevennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB), the Soviet Committee of State security. He later retrieved payment at another prearranged site.

Lipka left the Army and NSA and moved to Lancaster in 1967 and attended college. Lipka took some "souvenirs" when he left NSA and was still meeting with the KGB as late as 1974.

It was an independent FBI investigation of a couple who lived near Philadelphia that led to FBI to Lipka. Peter Fischer, whom the FBI suspected was a KGB agent, Ingeborg Fischer, whom the FBI suspected of assisting her husband in his KGB activities, made contact with Lipka in 1968. Evidence suggests the Fischers passed NSA documents from Lipka to a Soviet citizen, Artem Shokin, who worked at the United Nations in New York. The Fischers and Shokin subsequently flew the coup and returned to Mother Russia.

An FBI undercover agent posing as an official Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye (GRU), the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Soviet General Staff, met with Lipka several times in Lancaster and Baltimore in 1993. Lipka insisted that the undercover FBI special agent provide Lipka's code word or he would end their contact. 

The undercover agent mentioned Lipka's code word "Rook," which the FBI discovered during the Fischer investigation. Lipka, ever the greedy little spy, told the undercover agent that the Soviets had not paid him enough money. He would complain again and again about money and even wrote the undercover agent letters demanding more money.

The undercover agent mailed Lipka a copy of a book called The First Directorate, which was written by former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin. The book implicates Lipka in its detailed description of espionage committed by a "young soldier at NSA," who provided "reams of top-secret material to the KGB in the mid-1960's.

According to the FBI, an unnamed "cooperating witness" who was granted immunity told the FBI that Lipka said he took NSA documents and sold them to the KGB. Lipka told the witness he gave them to a Russian contact named "Ivan" for money. Lipka said he would contact "Ivan" and have face-to-face meetings over a chess game in a park, hence the code name "Rook."

The witness was shown the three cameras, one of which was only an inch in height. Lipka told the witness that the Russian had sent him a postcard and Lipka, accompanied by the witness, met in Maryland with the Russian.

Faced with overwhelming evidence of the cooperating witness and the FBI undercover agent, Lipka had no choice but to plead guilty. He thought he had gotten away with espionage, but the long arm of the FBI and justice finally caught up with him. 

Note: Robert Lipka died in 2013.

You can also read my later Counterterrorism magazine interview with one of the FBI special agents involved with the Lipka investigation via the below link:


Saturday, April 27, 2024

A Little Humor: Suave Like James Bond

I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado since I was a teenager back in the 1960s, as well as fan of the James Bond films, especially the 1960s films starring Sean Connery as Bond.

Gaeton, a big and rugged guy I grew up with, was also a fan of the Bond films, but I could never get him to read the Fleming novels. 

Like me, he strived to be as cool and suave as James Bond, but we both failed to varying degrees in that nearly impossible task. 

I recall Gaeton telling me about his dinner date with a girl he called “classy.” 

He took her to a high-priced restaurant, hoping to impress her and show how sophisticated he was. 

That impression failed at the door of the restaurant. 

“Good evening, Sir. A table for how many?” The maître d asked Gaeton. 


“A table for how many?” 

Gaeton looked at his pretty and classy date and pointed at his chest. 

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I can’t count this high either.” 

Gaeton and his date were showed to a good table thanks to the $20 he slipped the maître de. They sat down and ordered dinner. Gaeton told his date that money was no object, so she could order whatever she wanted. 

An impatient man, Gaeton saw a waiter walk by his table a few minutes later, and he called him over. 

“Excuse me, but are you the waiter who took our order?” 

“Yes, Sir,” the waiter said. 

“Funny, you don’t look a day older.”

The wine waiter then came to the table and without looking at a menu, Gaeton ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, the favorite drink of his hero James Bond. 

“Very good, Sir. What year?” 

“This year – now!” 

Gaeton told me he was surprised when the girl refused to return his phone calls.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Discussing the Philadelphia Carjacking Task Force On Dawn Stensland's Philadelphia Talk Radio WPHT 1210 Program

I appeared as a guest today again on Dawn Stensland’s WPHT Talk Radio 1210 program in Philadelphia. 

I was invited on the popular talk show to discuss my recent Broad + Liberty piece on the Philadelphia Carjacking Task Force.

After she talks about tax credits for homemakers and President Trump meeting construction workers outside court, she asked me about my Broad & Liberty piece on carjacking. 

You can listen to the broadcast via the below link: 

Talk Radio 1210 WPHT - The NEW Talk Radio 1210, WPHT. - LISTEN LIVE | Audacy

You can read my Broad & Liberty piece via the below link:

 Paul Davis On Crime: City And Federal Task Force Is Combating Carjacking

Chief Of Naval Operations Admiral Lisa Franchetti: Navy Has a Lot to Offer Young People

C. Todd Lopez at the DOD News offer a piece on the recruitment of Navy sailors. 

Recruiters across the U.S. military are challenged every day to bring young people into service. But the chief of naval operations said she thinks the Navy has what young people are looking for — if only they knew more about it. 

"All the services are facing some challenges in recruiting, and it's really broader than that," said Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti who spoke yesterday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's probably challenges in just propensity to serve, in general." 

One challenge the Navy has in recruiting, Franchetti said, is that so many young people are simply unaware of what it does. 

"If you don't live near a coast or you don't live near a base, you may not really know what your Navy does every day," she said. "So, talking a little bit about ... operations in the Red Sea, keeping commerce flowing [and] having your Amazon box get to your doorstep, there's a lot of stuff that people don't even recognize every day that your Navy is out there doing." 

Young people, part of Generation Z, are now of age to consider military service, and Franchetti said the Navy must consider what that generation values if they're going to be convinced to enlist in military service. 

"Thinking about what they value, what they're looking for ... in terms of wanting to understand why, wanting to understand the values of the organization, I think we have a really good story to tell, because we're all about honor, courage, commitment, democracy ... and the pursuit of all who threaten it," she said. "But also, it's about helping them become the best version of themselves ... we offer a lot of opportunity, we have 150 different career specialties that they can go into." 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Franchetti: Navy Has a Lot to Offer Young People > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News

Note: I enlisted in the U.S. Navy when I was 17 in 1970. I served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War, and later on a Navy harbor tugboat at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.

I traveled halfway around the world during my four years, from Southeast Asia to Europe, and I met people and experienced things that have made me the man I am today.

You can take the boy out of the Navy, but you can’t take the Navy out of the boy.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

My Crime Fiction: 'Byrne's Sitdown'

 The below short story originally appeared in American Crime Magazine in 2023: 

Byrne’s Sitdown 

By Paul Davis 

I was sitting in a booth at the Penrose Diner in South Philadelphia waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. 

I was drinking a cup of the diner's good coffee and looking out the window to see if my friend had arrived when I received a text on my phone that he could not make it. 

Not wanting to hog a booth by myself, I started to pick up my coffee and move to the counter when someone said my name. I looked up and saw Fred Byrne. 

“Paul, you eating alone? Can I join you?” Byrne said. 

“Sure. I was waiting for a friend, but he just texted me that he can’t make it.” 

Byrne, a stocky man with gray hair, was about 70 years old. He was a hardware store owner that I met at a cigar dinner some years ago. He came up to me at the cigar dinner and told me he recognized me from the photo that accompanied my crime column in the local newspaper. He introduced himself and we shook hands. 

As we smoked our fine cigars, we spoke of our military service during the Vietnam War. Byrne had been a Marine at Da Nang in South Vietnam, and I had been a sailor on an aircraft carrier serving on “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam. 

I liked him and I gave him my card that had my telephone number and email address on it. He wrote his telephone number and email address on a piece of notepaper and handed it to me. But for whatever reason we never contacted each other. 

The waitress stopped by our table and Byrne and I ordered lunch. Byrne had a copy of the Philadelphia Daily News, a newspaper that I used to sell to sailors, Marines and yard civilians as a teenager in the 1960s down at the old Navy Yard, and I later came to write for. 

He opened the newspaper and showed me an article on the murder of John “Johnny Boy” Grillo, a local mobster who had just been released from federal prison. He had been shot multiple times and died on the street. 

“I read that online this morning,” I said. “I didn’t know him, but I knew his father Dom some years back. I heard the kid was nothing like his father.” 

“I knew them both,” Byrne said. “I knew the father from the neighborhood, but only to say hello to. I knew he was a mob guy, but he was always polite. I knew the kid as he was a friend of my daughter’s. 

“Want to hear a story about my “Sitdown” with Dom over his kid?” 

“Sure,” I replied. 

I didn’t pull out my notebook or my small tape recorder, as I didn’t yet know if he was telling me this story for my crime column, and I didn’t want him to shut him down by asking just yet. 

“Well, it wasn’t a formal “sitdown,” as I wasn’t a member of the mob. Hell, I’m not even Italian. But like I says, Johnny Boy was a friend of my daughter when they was teenagers." 

Our lunch orders arrived and as we ate, Byrne went on to tell me about the time he was returning to his South Philly rowhome years ago. He was accompanied by his friend Mike Fratelli, a Philly detective. 

Byrne’s teenage daughter and wife and gone to the New Jersey shore and were staying at his in-law’s summer home. Byrne had remained in South Philadelphia as he had to work at the hardware store he owned. He met Fratelli, and they had a couple of beers at their favorite corner taproom. 

They walked from the bar to Byrne’s house and when they got there, Fratelli saw that one of the basement windows and been pushed in. Lights were on in the basement, and they heard music. 

"Your family is down the shore, right?” Fratelli asked. 


“Give me your house keys and you stay here,” Fratelli said. 

Fratelli took the keys, drew his Glock service firearm, ran up the steps to the front door and let himself in. 

Byrne bent down and looked in the busted basement window and saw about four or five teenage boys and girls drinking his liquor from his basement bar and dancing to the music from his radio. 

Byrne, who had a license to carry a firearm, drew his 9mm Beretta and pointed it at the group in his basement. 

“Get the hell out of my house, you punks,” Byrne yelled. 

“Fuck you,” one of the boys said. 

Byrne fired a round into his basement wall away from the teenagers as a warning shot. The teenagers ran up the basement stairs in fright and straight into the arms of Fratelli. Fratelli herded the teenagers out the front door and onto the sidewalk. 

“We thought you were all at the shore,” one of the girls said. “We just broke in as a goof. We weren’t going to steal anything.” 

“I know you. You’re Janice, my daughter’s friend,” Byrne said. “What the hell do all of you think you are were doing?” 

One of the boys, a big and husky teenager, rushed Byrne and pushed him up against the wall. Byrne slapped the teenager across the back of his head and face with his Beretta. The kid fell to the sidewalk bleeding. 

“You killed Johnny Boy,” Janice cried out. 

The kid stood up and placed his hand on the back of his head. Byrne told the teenagers to get lost. He told them to never see his daughter again. 

“That kid was Dom Grillo’s kid,” Fratelli said as the teenagers walked away. 

“He shouldn’t have broken into my house.” 


The following evening, Janice and her father visited Byrne. The father apologized for his daughter’s behavior and pleaded with Byrne to not have his teenage daughter arrested. Byrne told the man he did not plan to press charges. 

The father thanked Byrne and assured him that his daughter would be punished. 

The two men shook hands as Janice looked down in shame and embarrassment. 

While at work the next day, a neighborhood hoodlum strolled into his hardware store and approached Byrne. Byrne’s hand reached behind his back to the holster that held his Beretta. 

The man smiled and said that Dom Grillo wanted to buy him a drink at a local bar that night at eight o’clock. 

“Tell him I’ll be there.”


Promptly at eight, Byrne walked into the dimly lit bar with Fratelli. They began to walk to the back of the bar where Dom Grillo was sitting with his son. 

A young hoodlum stepped in the way and asked if they were armed. 

“Hell, yeah. I got a gun on me,” Byrne said. “And I’m a Marine, so I know how to use it.” 

“I’m a cop, so you know I’m packing,” Fratelli said. 

“Let ‘em through,” Dom Grillo said. 

Grillo, a lean, rugged and gruff man in his 60s, was a captain, or capo, in the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime family. He controlled illegal gambling and loan sharking in the neighborhood. But having faced the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers in close-quarter combat, Byrne was not intimidated by Grillo or any other gangster.

 “Sit down,” Grillo offered. 

Byrne and Fratelli sat down across from Grillo and his son, whose head were bandaged. 

“I see you brought Mike the cop with you,” Grillo said. 

“Yeah, he’s my friend and he was with me when we caught your son and the other kids in my house.” 

“And you felt you had to pistol-whip my son because he broke into your house.” 

“He attacked me. So yeah, I was defending myself. I could have shot him.” 

“This true?” Grillo asked Fratelli. 

“Yeah,” Fratelli asked. 

Grillo turned his head and faced his son. 

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” 

"This crazy guy threatened us with a gun, so I rushed him and …” 

“Shut up now.” Grillo ordered. “You broke into the man’s house. He had the right to shoot you. Perhaps he should have.” 

Johnny Boy Grillo sat back and remained quiet. 

“I’m truly sorry for my boy’s rash and stupid behavior, and I’m grateful that you didn’t shoot him. I hear you are a decent man, and I hear you was a Marine, so I respect you.

 “Let me pay for the damage to your home,” Grillo said. 

“I own manage a hardware store, so the repairs got done. I don’t need or want any money.” 

Grillo rose and shook Byrne’s hand. 

“Even after this, Johnny Boy still went on to be a pain in the ass to his father. He followed his dad into the mob and the dad had to get him outta of jams," Byrne said as the Penrose busboy cleared away our dishes.

“The kid was always mouthing off to people and making trouble for his father. I think the old man was glad that Johnny Boy was put in prison. Old Dom got to spend his last years not worrying about his stupid son.” 

Byrne added that he was not surprised that someone shot and killed Johnny Boy Grillo the minute he walked out of prison.  

“Apparently, he didn’t get the kind of homecoming he expected,” I said. 

© 2023 Paul Davis 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

HBO's 'The Sympathizer' And The Real Vietnam Spy.

I consider the Vietnam War to be my war, as World War II was my father’s war, although I played only a minor role in the conflict.

I was a teenage sailor on the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier launched combat sorties from “Yankee Station” in the gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam in 1970-1971. The Kitty Hawk also operated off South Vietnam and made a port of call to Da Nang, South Vietnam. 

I’ve long been interested in the Vietnam War, and I’ve read nearly every book - history, memoir, and novel - about the war. I’ve also watched the films, although I’ve often been disappointed by them.

As a writer, I’ve interviewed many Vietnam War veterans over the years, including aircraft carrier pilots, Army helicopter pilots, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Army and Marine infantry grunts, CIA officers and journalists who covered the war.

So, due to my interest in the Vietnam War, I’m watching The Sympathizer on HBO’s MAX channel.

I’m enjoying the series, just as I enjoyed Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 novel, which the series is based on.

Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, part spy thriller, part satire, was interesting and unique, portraying the Vietnam War (or the American War, as the Communist Vietnamese called the conflict) from the Vietnamese point of view. The debut novel won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.

Nguyen, a university professor, was born in Vietnam, but he grew up in America.    

The novel’s (and the TV series) narrator, a nameless character known only as “the Captain,” is a South Vietnamese Army captain, Viet Cong spy and conflicted communist sympathizer.

The fictional character has often been compared to a real Vietnamese spy, Pham Xuan An (seen in the below photo).

You can read my Crime Beat column on the real Vietnam spy via the below link:  

Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At The Vietnam Spy Who Betrayed Us

You can also read about the USS Kitty Hawk on Yankee Station via the below links:

Paul Davis On Crime: On Yankee Station: A Look Back At The Aircraft Carrier USS Kitty Hawk During The Vietnam War, 1970-1971

Paul Davis On Crime: Chapter 12: On Yankee Station

Monday, April 22, 2024

City And Federal Task Force Is Combating Carjacking

Broad & Liberty ran my piece on carjacking today.

You can read the piece via the below link or the below text:

Paul Davis: City and federal task force is combating carjacking (broadandliberty.com)

I noted here in a previous piece, I have a friend who was carjacked by gunpoint some months ago when he was picking up his daughter from her workplace late one evening.

He’s a tough South Philly guy, hardly a snowflake, but he is still traumatized over the incident, although he did not use the word traumatized.

He told me that he remains bothered over the carjacking, wondering if he should have drawn his legally carried firearm and defended himself and his car.

“The car was insured, but in the car were personal items and I hate that these two creeps took them from me,” my friend said. “I could have blasted the one who came to my car window and pointed a gun at me, but I’m not sure I would have got the second one.”

He said he worried that his daughter might have been hit with a stray bullet when she walked out into the street, so he got out of his car and handed over his car keys. 

“They were kids, teenagers, and we know they can’t shoot for shit, holding the gun sideways like they do in the movies. I thought these idiots would shoot at me and hit my daughter.” 

I mentioned to my friend that city and federal law enforcement recently held a press conference to highlight the impact of their two-year task force on carjacking in the city. 

“I hope they can put an end to this violent crime and make sure nobody else becomes a victim like me,” he said. “I just hate being a crime victim.”     

On April 12th, Jaqueline C. Romero, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, held a press conference along with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel, ATF Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Eric J. DeGree, and FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs, the leaders of the law enforcement agencies that comprise the Philadelphia Carjacking Task Force.

The law enforcement officials at the press conference spoke of the benefits of the task force partnership, the task force’s several significant investigations. and accomplishments over the past two years. 

U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero spoke of the number of carjackings in Philadelphia. After hitting a historical high of 1,311 in 2022, it dropped 31 percent to 900 in 2023. In addition, the numbers for the first quarter of 2024 are indicative of another marked decline from last year.

She said that from January 2022 through March 2024, 59 cases investigated by the Carjacking Task Force have resulted in federal charges, with a total of 103 defendants federally charged in connection with 121 individual carjackings.

Romero also discussed recent case developments, such as the sentencing of Dashawn Pringle to 10½ years in prison for two armed carjackings and the guilty plea of John Nusslein to two carjackings, including one where an elderly delivery driver was fatally beaten, resulting in a potential sentence of 25 years in prison. She also noted the guilty pleas of Angel Fayez and Kevin Antun to a crime spree that began with a carjacking. According to Romero, Fayez and Antun are now facing mandatory minimum sentences of seven years in prison, and statutory maximum sentences of life in prison.

“We want our community to know that significant strides are being made on their behalf by the Philadelphia Carjacking Task Force,” Romero said. “At the same time, we want carjackers, and would-be carjackers, to know that we can and have charged defendants as young as eighteen years old federally, and in the cases we’ve prosecuted, we’ve obtained some very significant sentences. Carjacking defendants routinely receive sentences of seven to fifteen years — and can even face up to a lifetime of imprisonment in some cases.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge DeGree talked about ATF’s role on the task force, providing investigators and employing ATF’s crime gun intelligence tools. He also highlighted one of the agency’s key cases, in which Tarik Chambers and Kikeem Leach-Hilton committed three back-to-back carjackings, then crashed into and critically injured an elderly driver while fleeing from police. The men were sentenced to more than eighteen years in prison. Two other defendants in the same carjacking crew, Rashad Johnson-Price and Khasir Lynch, have pleaded guilty to additional carjackings; each faces about a decade in federal prison when sentenced.

“Our team of ATF special agents are working tirelessly with our partners in the Philadelphia Carjacking Task Force to seek justice and prevent these dangerous crimes,” DeGree said. “Carjacking is not only a deadly dangerous crime, it is a serious federal offense, carrying lengthy federal prison sentences, even for first-time offenders.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Jacobs spoke of the cases of Shamire Young and Robert Riles. Jacobs said Young and three co-conspirators committed a carjacking at gunpoint in Northwest Philadelphia, pistol-whipping one of the victims. Young pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years behind bars. Riles and two co-conspirators committed a carjacking at gunpoint of a mother and daughter in West Philadelphia, with Riles pleading guilty and receiving a sentence of more than eleven years in prison.

“Whether a single subject or a group of subjects — with criminal history or without — the message is simple. Your actions have consequences,” Jacobs said.  “No matter who you are, the FBI and each agency on this task force will hold you to account.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Bethel spoke of the decrease in carjackings in the city over the last two years, crediting the work of the task force for getting numerous violent offenders off the street. Bethel spoke of the importance of partnerships like the Carjacking Task Force and how local and federal authorities must work together to reduce violent crime.

The success of the task force, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuting the carjackers in federal court rather than having Philadelphia District Attorney Larry “Let ‘Em Loose” Krasner prosecute them, is a step in the right direction. 

There are still carjackings, to be sure, but the feds, along with the Philadelphia Police, can cause would-be-carjackers to pause, and they can put the violent carjackers in federal prison. 

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times. He can be reached at pauldavisoncrime.com.