Anthony Alexander Poshepny
Born (1924-09-18)September 18, 1924
Long Beach, California
Died June 27, 2003(2003-06-27)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps and Central Intelligence Agency
Unit Special Activities Division
Battles/wars World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Laos
Awards Intelligence Star (very rare CIA valor award), Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Parachutist Badge

Anthony Alexander Poshepny (September 18, 1924 – June 27, 2003), known as Tony Poe, was a CIA paramilitary officer in what is now called Special Activities Division. He is best remembered for training the United States Secret Army in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Early life and career[edit | edit source]

Accurate accounting of Poshepny's career is complicated by government secrecy and by his tendency to embellish stories. For example, he often claimed to be a refugee from Hungary, but was actually born in Long Beach, California. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1942 serving in the 2nd Marine Parachute Battalion and fought in the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima,[1] receiving two Purple Hearts. After graduating from San Jose State University in 1950, he joined the CIA and worked in Korea during the Korean War, training refugees for sabotage missions behind enemy lines.

After the Korean war, Poshepny joined the Bangkok-based CIA front company Overseas Southeast Asia Supply (SEA Supply), which provided military equipment to Kuomintang forces based in Burma. In 1958, Poshepny tried unsuccessfully to arrange a military uprising against Sukarno, the president of Indonesia. From 1958 to 1960, he trained various special missions teams, including Tibetan Khambas and Hui Muslims at Camp Hale, for operations in China against the Communist government. Poshepny sometimes claimed that he personally escorted the 14th Dalai Lama out of Tibet, but this has been denied, both by former CIA officers involved in the Tibet operation, and by the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Laos[edit | edit source]

The agency was impressed with Poshepny's ability to train paramilitary forces quickly and awarded him the Intelligence Star in 1959. Two years later, he was assigned with J. Vinton Lawrence to train Hmong hill tribes in Laos to fight North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces. In Laos, Poshepny gained the respect of the Hmong forces with practices that were barbaric by agency standards. He paid Hmong fighters to bring him the ears of dead enemy soldiers, and, on at least one occasion, he mailed a bag of ears to the US embassy in Vientiane to prove his body counts. He dropped severed heads onto enemy locations twice in a grisly form of psy-ops. Although his orders were only to train forces, he also went into battle with them and was wounded several times by shrapnel.

Over several years, Poshepny grew disillusioned with the government's management of the war. He accused then-Laotian Major General Vang Pao of using the war, and CIA assets, to enrich himself through the opium trade. The CIA extracted Poshepny from Laos in 1970 and reassigned him to a training camp in Thailand until his retirement in 1974. He received another Intelligence Star in 1975.

Retirement[edit | edit source]

After the war Poshepny remained in Thailand with his Hmong wife and four children. He moved the family to California in the 1990s. He frequently appeared at Hmong veteran gatherings and helped veterans immigrate and settle in the US. He freely admitted his actions during the war to reporters and historians, saying they were a necessary response to communist aggression.

Several press stories have suggested that Poshepny was the model for Colonel Walter Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now, but both Poshepny and director Francis Ford Coppola have denied the connection.

See also[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

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