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

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