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Army Veteran, former NSA spy writes to cope with trauma from Vietnam War

Posted at 11:38 AM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 06:51:18-04

BALTIMORE — Tom Glenn is an award-winning author who published six books and 17 short stories.

"So much of my stories is about what happened to me in Vietnam as a way to vent the terrible things that happened," said Glenn. "One of my books is called the Trion Syndrome. It's about a man suffering from post-traumatic stress injury and how he coups with it."

Glenn suffers from PTSI.

He stressed, "it’s not a disorder, it’s an injury. If you’re on the battlefield and your soul is wounded... that’s not a disorder, that’s an injury."

Glenn spent 13 years, on and off, in Vietnam. He was in the army and worked for NSA.

"My job was being on the battlefield with the troops in combat using intercepted North Vietnamese communications to tip off the troops as to where the enemy was. What he was doing. What his plans were," Glenn explained.

When explaining his work, Glenn talked about how often his communications helped but there were times commanders wouldn't listen to his warnings. The worst instance was the Battle of Dak To.

"I knew from intercepted communications that the North Vietnamese had a huge force up in the mountains right along the ocean... they were getting ready to attack us."

So Glenn warned the soldiers but he said they didn't believe him. Eventually the Battle of Dak To began, "which was one of the bloodiest in the Vietnam War. At the end, no territory had changed hands."

The other instance was the fall of Saigon.

Glenn knew an attack was coming and nothing was being so he did what he could to at least get his people out, no matter the cost. He explained how he created fake business trips and sent people home on early leave. He had 43 guys working for him and all of their families living in Saigon. "I got them all out safely by lying and cheating and stealing." Those people gave him a plaque, 'The Last Man Out Award,' for his heroic efforts.

Saigon fell on April 30, 1975.

"3,000 south Vietnamese I was working with... they were all left behind. Most of them were killed on the spot, of course by North Vietnamese. The ones who survived were sent to concentration camps," Glenn explained.

Glenn was in his office in North Saigon when the attack happened, saved by Marine Colonel Al Gray who directed the evacuation of Saigon and later became the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

"I finally got on a helicopter," said Glenn. He added, "just as we were taking off hit by so many rounds it thought we were gonna go down but we didn't. We made it."

He continued working for NSA until he retired about 30 years ago, that's when he focused on his writing. His most popular book is the "The Last of the Annamese," which is about the fall of Saigon. His work in Vietnam became public in 2016. What he did after Vietnam is still classified so he can't talk about it just yet.

Writing has been his outlet. His way of coping with the trauma. "I realized I had to face these memories, look at this and learn to live with them."