A day in the life of a Vietnamese intelligence agent

By Quynh Tran   April 28, 2017 | 10:01 pm PT
From his small home, 90-year-old Colonel Nguyen Van Tau remembers the day the war ended.

Colonel Nguyen Van Tau, 90, is better known by his alias Tu Cang. He used to head the H63 intelligence network with many famous agents, including the legendary spy Pham Xuan An. He now lives with his wife in a small home in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.


“I joined the revolutionary forces when I was 17,” he said. “In 1954, I changed my name to Tran Van Quang when I moved to the north. Five years later I returned to the south for my missions.”


“When the H63 network was set up, Pham Xuan An was our top spy, working as a deep cover agent within the enemy. I was leading the whole network until the reunification in 1975.” The veteran was also the political commissar of the famous Brigade 316. In April 1975, commando units of his brigade took over the Rach Chiec Bridge, a strategic point of Saigon, paving the way for the revolutionary forces.


On the morning of April 30, 1975, he was leading his units from Hoc Mon to downtown Saigon. “After my mission was completed in the evening, I drove right back to Thi Nghe to see my wife after years of being apart.”


As an intelligence agent, he could hardly ever meet his wife Tran Ngoc Anh during the war. “We were both in Saigon but rarely met. She raised our daughter alone and waited for me for nearly 30 years,” Tau said. Anh is now 88.


This U.S. military revolver is one of the memorabilia items in his house. Tau said he was one of the best shooters in his team.


Now he’s spending most of the time writing. “I used to write about my glorious and fierce days of the war in my books. But now I’m old, and I usually just write short stories for newspapers.”


The colonel said he was also a journalist during the war. He speaks English and French fluently.


He can’t live without his birds and garden...


... and his dogs.


And he will continue to share his stories.


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