April 20, 2018
Colloquium Speaker: Tom Glenn
Tom Glenn has worked as an intelligence operative, a musician, a linguist (seven languages), a cryptologist, a government executive, a care-giver for the dying, a leadership coach, and, always, a writer. Many of his prize-winning short stories (seventeen in print) came from the better part of thirteen years he shuttled between the U.S. and Vietnam as an undercover NSA operative supporting army and Marine units in combat before escaping under fire when Saigon fell. With a BA in Music, a master’s in Government, and a doctorate in Public Administration and trained as a musician, actor, and public speaker, he toured the country lecturing on leadership and management, trained federal executives, and was the Dean of the Management Department at the National Cryptologic School. In recent years, he has spoken extensively on his writing, offered many presentations on fiction craftsmanship, and, more than forty times, given a presentation on the fall of Saigon. Maryland Public Television interviewed him and 15 others in its 2016 salute to Vietnam vets aired in May 2016, and his memoir article on the fall of Saigon has been published by Studies in Intelligence and reprinted in the Atticus Review and NSA’s Cryptologic Quarterly. His writing is haunted by his five years of work with AIDS patients, two years of helping the homeless, seven years of caring for the dying in the hospice system, and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, a consequence of his time in Vietnam. These days he is a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books where he specializes in books on war and Vietnam. His Vietnam novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties, is now available on Amazon.com. Apprentice House of Baltimore brought out his novels No-Accounts in 2014 and The Trion Syndrome in 2015. The Naval Institute Press will publish his latest novel, Last of the Annamese, in March 2017. You can access his blog at https://tomglenn.blog/
In 1967, Tom Glenn was in the western highlands of South Vietnam operating as a civilian under cover in support of U.S. combat units. Coaching and guiding a small signals intelligence unit, he pulled together signals intelligence indicators and predicted a major North Vietnamese offensive designed to destroy the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He briefed the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division that his forces were about to be attacked by a multi-division North Vietnamese force. The general didn’t believe him.
The ensuing battle, one of the bloodiest in the Vietnam War, pitted U.S. military and air power against the cunning of the North Vietnamese. Losses on both sides were historic, but little territory changed hands. It was the precursor of the North Vietnamese Têt Offensive.
Failure of U.S. military commanders to heed signals intelligence warnings was so common in the Vietnam War that Glenn refers to it as “the Cassandra Syndrome.”