Knox Press

Tony Poe’s CIA War: A Secret War Waged by His Paramilitary Army in Southeast Asia


Tony Poe’s CIA War lifts the shroud on the CIA’s efforts to stem the advance of communism in postwar Asia—and reveals a real-life Apocalypse Now.

The character of Colonel Kurtz in the Vietnam War film epic Apocalypse Now is reportedly the cinematic depiction of a real CIA agent and a trained killer. His name was Anthony Poshepny, but he was better known as Tony Poe. Poe was a heavy drinker, a stocky former Marine sergeant with the elite Parachute Battalion, and a CIA paramilitary agent.

In 1942, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Marine Raiders. In Guadalcanal, he hunted down Japanese soldiers. In 1945, he led his machine gun section ashore across the knee-deep black sands at Red Beach on Iwo Jima. Recruited by the CIA in 1951, he was told that his role as a paramilitary agent was to carry out the Agency’s dirty work, which could be “plausibly denied.” He was the dagger in the phrase “cloak and dagger.”

In 1961, he was in Laos, where his role as field commander of the CIA’s secret war leading 17,000 mountain villagers against a well-equipped communist force, crossing enemy lines into China. Poe spent nine years living in his mountain hideout with his tribal fighters and absorbed sufficient shrapnel in his body to set off airport security alarms. He was awarded a chest full of medals, including two Purple Hearts and the CIA’s highest award: the Intelligence Star.