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The Spy Who Kept the Cold War From Boiling Over

The Spy Who Kept the Cold War From Boiling Over

In 1984, U.S. spies monitoring the Soviet press found an alarming piece in a Russian magazine. It wasn’t an expose on officials in the Soviet Union or a worrying account about Cold War attitudes toward the United States. Rather, it was a recipe for coot, a small water bird that’s common in Eastern Europe.

For CIA officials, that meant trouble. They had long had an agreement with a Russian double agent they called TOP HAT—if he wanted to get in touch with them, he’d indicate it by publishing the recipe. Was TOP HAT in danger?

As it turns out, yes. Soon after, America’s most valuable spy, Dmitri Polyakov, fell off the map entirely. For nearly 25 years, the Soviet military intelligence officer had served as the United States’ most trusted resource on the Soviet military, providing reams of intelligence and becoming a legend in the process.

Polyakov’s documents and tips informed U.S. strategy in China during the Cold War and helped the U.S. military determine how to deal with Soviet-era weapons. And Polyakov was credited with keeping the Cold War from boiling over by giving the United States secrets that gave it an inside view of Soviet priorities.

But was Polyakov a double agent…or a triple one who kept the U.S. on an IV drip of false tips and misinformation? And what happened to him after his sudden disappearance?

Polyakov was born in what is now Ukraine in 1921. After serving in World War II, he was recruited by the GRU, the USSR’s military intelligence agency. He wasn’t the type of man anyone would peg as a spy—the son of a bookkeeper, he was an unassuming father who did carpentry projects in his spare time. On the surface, he was a dutiful worker and a reliable GRU asset. But as he rose through the ranks of the agency, following protocol and living a seemingly routine life, he began to work to undermine the USSR itself.

At the time, the GRU had agents all around the world, and was tasked with learning everything possible about American life, priorities, and military assets. The United States did the same thing with the USSR, but had a harder time because of the absolute secrecy that ruled Soviet intelligence.

Until Polyakov offered himself to the CIA as a double agent, that is. At the time, he was stationed at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations in New York. Though Polyakov was fiercely loyal to the USSR, he was increasingly disgusted by what he saw as the corruption and impending failure of Soviet leaders. So he offered his services to the United States.

One CIA officer who worked with Polyakov believed his motivation to help the Americans stemmed from his service in World War II. "He contrasted the horror, the carnage, the things he had fought for, against the duplicity and corruption he saw developing in Moscow," this source told TIME’s Elaine Shannon.

Polyakov considered himself to be “a Russian patriot,” writes author Ronald Kessler. The spy lived modestly and refused to accept large amounts of money for his work. Instead, he insisted on being paid only $3,000 a year. And the money wasn’t delivered in cash. Instead, writes Kessler, Polyakov accepted payment in the form of “Black & Decker power tools, fishing gear, and shotguns.”

It took years for the spy to prove his loyalty to skeptical U.S. intelligence officials. But once he began to pass on information, mistrust turned to glee. Polyakov provided a dizzying amount of material, received by agents during fishing trips (the spy’s fishing rod had a secret chamber for information), tucked into fake stones and flashed via radio transmissions as the spy rode past CIA headquarters on a U.S. Embassy trolley.

The information he passed along proved, among other things, that relations between the USSR and China were becoming increasingly tense. The United States, in turn, exploited those dynamics as it attempted to resume a relationship with China. Polyakov also exposed the espionage of Frank Bossard, a British military officer who was caught selling secrets to the Soviets.

Polyakov was not only fearless—he was well positioned within the Soviet military, where he rose in ranks in the GRU year after year.

“He was absolutely at the top,” said Sandy Grimes, a former CIA officer, in a 1998 interview. Because Polyakov had access to so many kinds of information within the Soviet intelligence machine, said Grimes, he provided unprecedented and unparalleled intelligence.

“Polyakov was a consummate intelligence officer,” Grimes recalled. Motivated by his dislike of Soviet leadership, the “crown jewel” of intelligence officers knew he would pay with his life if his double-cross ever came to the attention of the Soviets. “He knew that if he were caught, he would be sentenced to die.”

In the meantime, Polyakov took advantage of his role as a top officer in the GRU. From his post in the United States, he photographed massive numbers of documents, obtained information face-to-face from dangerous informants, and became a beloved asset to CIA officials, who gave him the freedom to choose his own tactics and even his own missions.

Over time, he passed on a treasure trove of important documents, from Soviet intelligence related to the Vietnam War to monthly Soviet military strategy reports to a list of military technology the Soviets wanted to obtain from the West. Eventually, the information he passed along to the United States filled 25 deep file drawers.

As Polyakov climbed the ranks of the Russian military, he continued providing invaluable information to U.S. intelligence. But in 1980, the double agent was summoned back to Moscow. Then he suddenly retired and disappeared from view entirely.

This unsettled members of the intelligence community, who knew that the Soviets had begun arresting and killing American agents. Though some insisted that Polyakov had simply retired, others worried he had been executed.

Then, in 1990, the Communist Party's official newspaper Pravda published an article that proclaimed Polyakov had been caught in the act of espionage, captured and sentenced to death. Puzzled intelligence experts argued about the purpose of the article—a rare admission that some Soviet spies had worked on behalf of the United States.

“Does he lie in a traitor's grave, as Pravda suggests, or is he a secret hero, quietly retired at the end of a daring career?” speculated intelligence expert Thomas Powers in the Los Angeles Times. “Only one thing about the Polyakov case is now certain: Whoever decided to publish the Pravda story was certainly willing—most probably wanted—to remind the world that the Cold War may be ending, but the intelligence war goes on forever.”

As analysts agonized over the meaning of the report, Polyakov’s U.S. colleagues mourned their friend and cursed the loss of the crucial intelligence he had coordinated. According to Pravda, the spy who had meant so much to the United States had been convicted of treason and executed in 1988.

For years, the U.S. suspected that Aldrich Ames, an American double agent who was convicted of espionage against the United States in 1994, had ratted out Polyakov. But in the early 2000s, officials discovered that Ames wasn’t the only person who had contributed to the agent’s downfall. In 2001, former FBI agent Robert Hanssen was accused of spying for Moscow, and FBI officials learned he had betrayed Polyakov to his Russian bosses.

Hanssen’s admission about Polyakov’s service as a double agent had taken place at least 5 years before Polyakov was charged with espionage, raising questions as to whether the general had been lured back to the Soviet side, perhaps misleading U.S. intelligence in the last years of his service.

So was Polyakov a real asset, or a triple-crossing spy who had sown discord and disinformation in the United States? High-ranking intelligence officials maintain that Polyakov was the real deal. “The guy was legit, absolutely,” an official told the New York Times in 1990. Grimes agrees. “This was a man of tremendous courage,” recalled Grimes. “In the end, we won. The Cold War is over and the Soviet Union was dissolved.”

Former CIA director James Woolsey agreed. “What Gen. Polyakov did for the West didn't just help us win the Cold War,” he told a reporter in 2001, “it kept the Cold War from becoming hot.”

Powers was born August 17, 1929, in Jenkins, Kentucky, the son of Oliver Winfield Powers (1904–1970), a coal miner, and his wife Ida Melinda Powers ( née Ford 1905–1991). His family eventually moved to Pound, Virginia, just across the state border. He was the second born and only male of six children. [ citation needed ]

His family lived in a mining town, and because of the hardships associated with living in such a town, his father wanted Powers to become a physician. He hoped his son would achieve the higher earnings of such a profession and felt that this would involve less hardships than any job in his hometown. [2] [ non-primary source needed ]

Graduating with a bachelor's degree from Milligan College in Tennessee in June 1950, he enlisted in the United States Air Force in October. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in December 1952 after completing his advanced training with USAF Pilot Training Class 52-H [3] at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. Powers was then assigned to the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, as an Republic F-84 Thunderjet pilot.

He married Barbara Gay Moore in Newnan, Georgia, on April 2, 1955. [4]

In January 1956 he was recruited by the CIA. In May 1956 he began U-2 training at Watertown Strip, Nevada. His training was complete by August 1956 and his unit, the Second Weather Observational Squadron (Provisional) or Detachment 10-10, was deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. By 1960, Powers was already a veteran of many covert aerial reconnaissance missions. [5] Family members believed that he was a NASA weather reconnaissance pilot. [6]

Powers was discharged from the Air Force in 1956 with the rank of captain. He then joined the CIA's U-2 program at the civilian grade of GS-12. U-2 pilots flew espionage missions at altitudes of 70,000 feet (21 km), [7] [8] [9] supposedly above the reach of Soviet air defenses. [10] The U-2 was equipped with a state-of-the-art camera [10] designed to take high-resolution photos from the stratosphere over hostile countries, including the Soviet Union. U-2 missions systematically photographed military installations and other important sites. [11]

Reconnaissance mission Edit

The primary mission of the U-2s was overflying the Soviet Union. Soviet intelligence had been aware of encroaching U-2 flights at least since 1958 if not earlier [12] but lacked effective countermeasures until 1960. [13] On May 1, 1960, Powers's U-2A, 56-6693, departed from a military airbase in Peshawar, Pakistan, [14] with support from the U.S. Air Station at Badaber (Peshawar Air Station). This was to be the first attempt "to fly all the way across the Soviet Union . but it was considered worth the gamble. The planned route would take us deeper into Russia than we had ever gone, while traversing important targets never before photographed." [15]

Shot down Edit

Powers was shot down by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 "Guideline") surface-to-air missile [16] over Sverdlovsk. A total of 14 Dvinas were launched, [17] one of which hit a MiG-19 jet fighter which was sent to intercept the U-2 but could not reach a high enough altitude. Its pilot, Sergei Safronov, ejected but died of his injuries. Another Soviet aircraft, a newly manufactured Su-9 on a transit flight, also attempted to intercept Powers's U-2. The unarmed Su-9 was directed to ram the U-2, but missed because of the large differences in speed. [a]

As Powers flew near Kosulino in the Ural Region, three S-75 Dvinas were launched at his U-2, with the first one hitting the aircraft. "What was left of the plane began spinning, only upside down, the nose pointing upward toward the sky, the tail down toward the ground." Powers was unable to activate the plane's self-destruct mechanism before he was thrown out of the plane after releasing the canopy and his seat belt. While descending under his parachute, Powers had time to scatter his escape map, and rid himself of part of his suicide device, a silver dollar coin suspended around his neck containing a poison-laced injection pin, though he kept the poison pin. [18] "Yet I was still hopeful of escape." He hit the ground hard, was immediately captured, and taken to Lubyanka Prison in Moscow. [19] Powers did note a second chute after landing on the ground, "some distance away and very high, a lone red and white parachute". [20] [ non-primary source needed ] [21]

Attempted deception by the U.S. government Edit

When the U.S. government learned of Powers's disappearance over the Soviet Union, they lied that a "weather plane" had strayed off course after its pilot had "difficulties with his oxygen equipment". What CIA officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact and that the Soviets had recovered its pilot and the plane's equipment, including its top-secret high-altitude camera. Powers was interrogated extensively by the KGB for months before he made a confession and a public apology for his part in espionage. [22]

Portrayal in U.S. media Edit

Following admission by the White House that Powers had been captured alive, American media depicted Powers as an all-American pilot hero, who never smoked or touched alcohol. In fact, Powers smoked and drank socially. [23] : 201 The CIA urged that his wife Barbara be given sedatives before speaking to the press and gave her talking points that she repeated to the press to portray her as a devoted wife. Her broken leg, according to the CIA disinformation that she was to mouth, was the result of a water-skiing accident, when in fact her leg was broken after she had had too much to drink and was dancing with another man. [23] : 198–99

In the course of his trial for espionage in the Soviet Union, Powers confessed to the charges against him and apologized for violating Soviet airspace to spy on the Soviets. In the wake of his apology, American media often depicted Powers as a coward and even as a symptom of the decay of America's "moral character." [23] : 235–36

Pilot testimony compromised by newspaper reports Edit

Powers tried to limit the information he shared with the KGB to that which could be determined from the remains of his plane's wreckage. He was hampered by information appearing in the western press. A KGB major stated "there's no reason for you to withhold information. We'll find it out anyway. Your Press will give it to us." However, he limited his divulging of CIA contacts to one individual, with a pseudonym of "Collins". At the same time, he repeatedly stated the maximum altitude for the U-2 was 68,000 feet (21 km), significantly lower than its actual flight ceiling. [24]

Political consequence Edit

The incident set back talks between Khrushchev and Eisenhower. Powers's interrogations ended on June 30, and his solitary confinement ended on July 9. On August 17, 1960, his trial began for espionage before the military division of the Supreme Court of the USSR. Lieutenant General Borisoglebsky, Major General Vorobyev, and Major General Zakharov presided. Roman Rudenko acted as prosecutor in his capacity of Procurator General of the Soviet Union. Mikhail I. Grinev served as Powers's defense counsel. In attendance were his parents and sister, and his wife Barbara and her mother. His father brought along his attorney Carl McAfee, while the CIA provided two additional attorneys. [25]

Conviction Edit

On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage, "a grave crime covered by Article 2 of the Soviet Union's law 'On Criminality Responsibility for State Crimes'". His sentence consisted of 10 years' confinement, three of which were to be in a prison, with the remainder in a labor camp. The US Embassy "News Bulletin" stated, according to Powers, "as far as the government was concerned, I had acted in accordance with the instructions given me and would receive my full salary while imprisoned". [26]

He was held in Vladimir Central Prison, about 150 miles (240 km) east of Moscow, in building number 2 from September 9, 1960 until February 8, 1962. His cellmate was Zigurds Krūmiņš, a Latvian political prisoner. Powers kept a diary and a journal while confined. Additionally, he learned carpet weaving from his cellmate to pass the time. He could send and receive a limited number of letters to and from his family. The prison now contains a small museum with an exhibit on Powers, who allegedly developed a good rapport with Soviet prisoners there. Some pieces of the plane and Powers's uniform are on display at the Monino Airbase museum near Moscow. [27]

Prisoner exchange Edit

CIA opposition to exchange Edit

The CIA, in particular, chief of CIA Counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton, opposed exchanging Powers for Soviet KGB Colonel William Fisher, known as "Rudolf Abel", who had been caught by the FBI and tried and jailed for espionage. [28] [23] : 236–37 First, Angleton believed that Powers may have deliberately defected to the Soviet side. CIA documents released in 2010 indicate that U.S. officials did not believe Powers's account of the incident at the time, because it was contradicted by a classified National Security Agency (NSA) report which alleged that the U-2 had descended from 65,000 to 34,000 feet (20 to 10 km) before changing course and disappearing from radar. The NSA report remains classified as of 2020. [29]

In any event, Angleton suspected that Powers had already revealed all he knew to the Soviets and he reasoned, therefore, that Powers was worthless to the U.S. On the other hand, according to Angleton, William Fisher had yet revealed little to the CIA, refusing to disclose even his real name, and for this reason, William Fisher was still of potential value. [ citation needed ]

However, Barbara Powers, the wife of Francis Powers, was often drinking and allegedly having affairs. On June 22, 1961, she was pulled over by the police after driving erratically and was caught driving under the influence. [23] : 251 To avoid bad publicity for the wife of the well-known CIA operative, doctors tasked by the CIA to keep Barbara out of the limelight arranged to have her committed to a psychiatric ward in Augusta, Georgia under strict supervision. [23] : 251–51 She was eventually released to the care of her mother. But the CIA feared that Francis Powers languishing in Soviet prison might learn of Barbara's plight and as a result reach a state of desperation causing him to reveal to the Soviets whatever secrets he had not already revealed. Thus, Barbara unwittingly may have aided the cause of the approval of the prisoner exchange involving her husband and William Fisher. [23] : 253 Angleton and others at the CIA still opposed the exchange but President John F. Kennedy approved it. [23] : 257

The exchange Edit

On February 10, 1962, Powers was exchanged, along with U.S. student Frederic Pryor, for William Fisher, in a well-publicized spy swap at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. The exchange was for Soviet KGB Colonel William Fisher, known as "Rudolf Abel", who had been caught by the FBI and tried and jailed for espionage. [28] Powers credited his father with the swap idea. When released, Powers's total time in captivity was 1 year, 9 months, and 10 days. [30]

Powers initially received a cold reception on his return home. He was criticized for not activating his aircraft's self-destruct charge to destroy the camera, photographic film, and related classified parts. He was also criticized for not using a CIA-issued "suicide pill" to kill himself (a coin with shellfish toxin embedded in its grooves, revealed during CIA testimony to the Church Committee in 1975). [31] [ better source needed ]

He was debriefed extensively by the CIA, [32] Lockheed Corporation, and the Air Force, after which a statement was issued by CIA director John McCone that "Mr. Powers lived up to the terms of his employment and instructions in connection with his mission and in his obligations as an American." [33] On March 6, 1962, he appeared before a Senate Armed Services Select Committee hearing chaired by Senator Richard Russell Jr. which included Senators Prescott Bush, Leverett Saltonstall, Robert Byrd, Margaret Chase Smith, John Stennis, Strom Thurmond, and Barry Goldwater. During the hearing, Senator Saltonstall stated, "I commend you as a courageous, fine young American citizen who lived up to your instructions and who did the best you could under very difficult circumstances." Senator Bush declared, "I am satisfied he has conducted himself in exemplary fashion and in accordance with the highest traditions of service to one's country, and I congratulate him upon his conduct in captivity." Senator Goldwater sent him a handwritten note: "You did a good job for your country." [34]

Divorce and remarriage Edit

Powers and his wife Barbara separated in 1962 and divorced in January 1963. Powers stated that the reasons for the divorce included her infidelity and alcoholism, adding that she constantly threw tantrums and overdosed on pills shortly after his return. [35] He started a relationship with Claudia Edwards "Sue" Downey, whom he had met while working briefly at CIA Headquarters. Downey had a child, Dee, from her previous marriage. They were married on October 26, 1963. [36] Their son Francis Gary Powers Jr. was born on June 5, 1965. [37] The marriage proved to be a very happy one, and Sue worked hard to preserve her husband's legacy after his death. [38]

Praise Edit

During a speech in March 1964, former CIA Director Allen Dulles said of Powers, "He performed his duty in a very dangerous mission and he performed it well, and I think I know more about that than some of his detractors and critics know, and I am glad to say that to him tonight." [39]

Later career Edit

Powers worked for Lockheed as a test pilot from 1962 to 1970, though the CIA paid his salary. [ citation needed ] In 1970, he wrote the book Operation Overflight with co-author Curt Gentry. [40] Lockheed fired him, because "the book's publication had ruffled some feathers at Langley." Powers then became a helicopter traffic reporting pilot for Los Angeles radio station KGIL. After that he became a helicopter news reporter for KNBC television. [ citation needed ]

Powers was piloting a helicopter for KNBC Channel 4 over the San Fernando Valley on August 1, 1977, when the aircraft crashed, killing him and his cameraman George Spears. [41] [ failed verification ] [ non-primary source needed ] They had been recording video following brush fires in Santa Barbara County in the KNBC helicopter and were heading back from them. [ citation needed ]

His Bell 206 JetRanger helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed at the Sepulveda Dam recreational area in Encino, California, several miles short of its intended landing site at Burbank Airport. The National Transportation Safety Board report attributed the probable cause of the crash to pilot error. [42] [ unreliable source? ] According to Powers's son, an aviation mechanic had repaired a faulty fuel gauge without informing Powers, who subsequently misread it. [43] [ unreliable source? ]

At the last moment, he noticed children playing in the area and directed the helicopter elsewhere to avoid landing on them. [42] He might have landed safely if not for the last-second deviation, which compromised his autorotative descent. [43]

Powers was survived by his wife, children Claudia Dee and Francis Gary Powers Jr., and five sisters. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery as an Air Force veteran. [42] [ unreliable source? ] [44]


Nineteenth century Edit

Commentator William Bendler noted that "Chapter 2 of the Hebrew Bible's Book of Joshua might count as the first Spy Story in world literature. (. ) Three thousand years before James Bond seduced Pussy Galore and turned her into his ally against Goldfinger, the spies sent by General Joshua into the city of Jericho did much the same with Rahab the Harlot. [4] "

Spy fiction as a genre started to emerge during the 19th Century. Early examples of the espionage novel are The Spy (1821) and The Bravo (1831), by American novelist James Fenimore Cooper. The Bravo attacks European anti-republicanism, by depicting Venice as a city-state where a ruthless oligarchy wears the mask of the "serene republic".

In nineteenth-century France, the Dreyfus Affair (1894–99) contributed much to public interest in espionage. [5] For some twelve years (ca. 1894–1906), the Affair, which involved elements of international espionage, treason, and antisemitism, dominated French politics. The details were reported by the world press: an Imperial German penetration agent betraying to Germany the secrets of the General Staff of the French Army the French counter-intelligence riposte of sending a charwoman to rifle the trash in the German Embassy in Paris, were news that inspired successful spy fiction. [6]

The major themes of a spy in the lead-up to the First World War were the continuing rivalry between the European colonial powers for dominance in Asia, the growing threat of conflict in Europe, the domestic threat of revolutionaries and anarchists, and historical romance.

Kim (1901) by Rudyard Kipling concerns the Anglo–Russian "Great Game", which consisted of a geopolitical rivalry and strategic warfare for supremacy in Central Asia, usually in Afghanistan. The Secret Agent (1907) by Joseph Conrad examines the psychology and ideology motivating the socially marginal men and women of a revolutionary cell determined to provoke a revolution in Britain with a terrorist bombing of the Greenwich Observatory. Conrad's next novel, Under Western Eyes (1911), follows a reluctant spy sent by the Russian Empire to infiltrate a group of revolutionaries based in Geneva. G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) is a metaphysical thriller ostensibly based on the infiltration of an anarchist organisation by detectives, but the story is actually a vehicle for exploring society's power structures and the nature of suffering.

The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle, served as a SpyHunter for the British government in the stories "The Adventure of the Second Stain" (1904), and "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" (1912). In "His Last Bow" (1917), he served Crown and country as a double agent, transmitting false intelligence to Imperial Germany on the eve of the Great War.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) by Baroness Orczy chronicled an English aristocrat's derring-do in rescuing French aristocrats from the Reign of Terror of the populist French Revolution (1789–99).

But the term "spy novel" was defined by The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Irish author Erskine Childers. [7] The Riddle of the Sands described two British yachtsman cruising off the North Sea coast of Germany who turned amateur spies when they discover a secret German plan to invade Britain. [7] Its success created a market for the invasion literature subgenre, which was flooded by imitators. William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim became the most widely read and most successful British writers of spy fiction, especially of invasion literature. Their prosaic style and formulaic stories, produced voluminously from 1900 to 1914, proved of low literary merit.

During the First World War Edit

During the War, John Buchan became the pre-eminent British spy novelist. His well-written stories portray the Great War as a "clash of civilisations" between Western civilization and barbarism. His notable novels are The Thirty-nine Steps (1915), Greenmantle (1916) and sequels, all featuring the heroic Scotsman Richard Hannay. In France Gaston Leroux published the spy thriller Rouletabille chez Krupp (1917), in which a detective, Joseph Rouletabille, engages in espionage.

Inter-war period Edit

After the Russian Revolution (1917), the quality of spy fiction declined, perhaps because the Bolshevik enemy won the Russian Civil War (1917–23). Thus, the inter-war spy story usually concerns combating the Red Menace, which was perceived as another "clash of civilizations".

Spy fiction was dominated by British authors during this period, initially former intelligence officers and agents writing from inside the trade. Examples include Ashenden: Or the British Agent (1928) by W. Somerset Maugham, which accurately portrays spying in the First World War, and The Mystery of Tunnel 51 (1928) by Alexander Wilson whose novels convey an uncanny portrait of the first head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the original 'C'.

In the book Literary Agents (1987), Anthony Masters wrote: "Ashenden's adventures come nearest to the real-life experiences of his creator"'. [8] John Le Carré described Ashenden stories as a major influence on his novels as praised Maugham as "the first person to write anything about espionage in a mood of disenchantment and almost prosaic reality". [8]

At a more popular level, Leslie Charteris' popular and long-running Saint series began, featuring Simon Templar, with Meet the Tiger (1928). Water on the Brain (1933) by former intelligence officer Compton Mackenzie was the first successful spy novel satire. [9] Prolific author Dennis Wheatley also wrote his first spy novel, The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935) during this period.

In the sham state of Manchukuo, spies often featured in stories published in its government-sponsored magazines as villains threatening Manchukuo. [10] Manchukuo had been presented since its founding in 1931 as an idealistic Pan-Asian experiment, where the officially designated "five races" of the Japanese, Han Chinese, Manchus, Koreans and Mongols had come together to built an utopian society. [11] Manchukuo also had a substantial Russian minority who initially been considered as the "sixth race", but had been excluded. [11] The spy stories of Manchukuo such as "A Mixed Race Woman" by the writer Ding Na often linked the willingness to serve as spies with having a mixed Russian-Han heritage the implication being that people of "pure" descent from one of the "five races" of Manchukuo would not betray it. [12] In "A Mixed Race Woman", the villain initially appears to Mali, the eponymous character who has a Russian father and a Han mother, but she ultimately is revealed to be blackmailed by the story's true villain, the foreign spy Baoerdun, and she proves to be loyal to Manchukuo after all as she forces the gun out of Baoerdun's hand at the story's climax. [13] However, Ding's story also states that Baoerdun would not dared to have attempt his blackmail scheme against a Han woman and that he targeted Mali because she was racially mixed and hence "weak". [14]

When Japan invaded China in 1937 and even more so in 1941, the level of repression and propaganda in Manchukuo was increased as the state launched a "total war" campaign to mobilise society for the war. [15] As part of the "total war" campaign, the state warned people to be vigilant at all times for spies alongside this campaign went a mania for spy stories, which likewise warned people to be vigilant against spies. [15] Novels and films with a counterespionage theme became ubiquitous in Manchukuo from 1937 onward. [16] Despite the intensely patriarchal values of Manchukuo, the counter-spy campaign targeted women who were encouraged to report anyone suspicious to the police with one slogan saying "Women defend inside and men defend outside". [17] The spy stories of Manchukuo such as "A Mixed Race Woman" often had female protagonists. [17] In "A Mixed Race Woman", it is two ordinary women who break up the spy ring instead of the Manchukuo police as might be expected. [13] The South Korean scholar Bong InYoung noted stories such as "A Mixed Race Woman" were part of the state's campaign to take over ". the governance of private and family life, relying on the power of propaganda literature and the nationwide mobilization of the social discourse of counterespionage". [16] At the same time, she noted "A Mixed Race Woman" with its intelligent female protagonists seemed to challenge the patriarchal values of Manchukuo which portrayed women as the weaker sex in need of male protection and guidance. [16] However, Bong noted that the true heroine of "A Mixed Race Woman", Shulan is presented as superior to Mali as she is Han and the story is one ". of female disempowerment in that Mali is completely subordinate to the racial order Shulan sets". [18]

Second World War Edit

The growing support of fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain, and the imminence of war, attracted quality writers back to spy fiction.

British author Eric Ambler brought a new realism to spy fiction. The Dark Frontier (1936), Epitaph for a Spy (1938), The Mask of Dimitrios (US: A Coffin for Dimitrios, 1939), and Journey into Fear (1940) feature amateurs entangled in espionage. The politics and ideology are secondary to the personal story that involved the hero or heroine. Ambler's Popular Front–period œuvre has a left-wing perspective about the personal consequences of "big picture" politics and ideology, which was notable, given spy fiction's usual right-wing tilt in defence of establishment attitudes. Ambler's early novels Uncommon Danger (1937) and Cause for Alarm (1938), in which NKVD spies help the amateur protagonist survive, are especially remarkable among English-language spy fiction. [ citation needed ]

Above Suspicion (1939) by Helen MacInnes, about an anti-Nazi husband and wife spy team, features literate writing and fast-paced, intricate, and suspenseful stories occurring against contemporary historical backgrounds. MacInnes wrote many other spy novels in the course of a long career, including Assignment in Brittany (1942), Decision at Delphi (1961), and Ride a Pale Horse (1984). [19]

Manning Coles published Drink to Yesterday (1940), a grim story occurring during the Great War, which introduces the hero Thomas Elphinstone Hambledon. However, later novels featuring Hambledon were lighter-toned, despite being set either in Nazi Germany or Britain during the Second World War (1939–45). After the War, the Hambledon adventures fell to formula, losing critical and popular interest. [ citation needed ]

The events leading up to the Second World War, and the War itself, continue to be fertile ground for authors of spy fiction. Notable examples include Ken Follett, Eye of the Needle (1978) Alan Furst, Night Soldiers (1988) and David Downing, the Station series, beginning with Zoo Station (2007). [ citation needed ]

Writers on World War II: 1939–1945 Edit

Author(s) Title Publisher Date Notes
Mashbir, Sidney I Was an American Spy: published 1953, republished as 65th Anniversary Edition in 2019 Horizon Productions 1953, republished 2019 American intelligence agent who played a significant role in both WWI and WWII. Colonel Mashbir is included in the Army Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame. He is a pioneer of military intelligence and is one of two men who first created the framework for the C.I.A.
Babington-Smith, Constance Air Spy: The Story of Photo Intelligence in World War II 1957
Berg, Moe The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg Vintage Books 1994 — Major league baseball player and OSS Secret Intelligence (SI) spy in Yugoslavia
Bryden, John Best-Kept Secret: Canadian Secret Intelligence in the Second World War Lester 1993
Doundoulakis, Helias Trained to be an OSS Spy Xlibris 2014 OSS Secret Intelligence (SI) spy in Greece
Hall, Virginia The Spy with the Wooden Leg: The Story of Virginia Hall Alma Little 2012 SOE and OSS spy in France
Hinsley, F. H. and Alan Stripp Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park 2001
Hinsley, F. H. British Intelligence in the Second World War 1996 Abridged version of multivolume official history.
Hohne, Heinz Canaris: Hitler's Master Spy 1979
Jones, R. V. The Wizard War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939–1945 1978
Kahn, David Hitler's Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War II 1978
Kahn, David Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939–1943 1991 FACE
Kitson, Simon The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France 2008
Leigh Fermor, Patrick Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation in Crete New York Review Books 2015 SOE spy who abducted General Kreipe from Crete
Lewin, Ronald The American Magic: Codes, Ciphers and the Defeat of Japan 1982
Masterman, J. C. The Double-Cross System in the War of 1935 to 1945 Yale 1972
Persico, Joseph Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage 2001
Persico, Joseph Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey-From the OSS to the CIA 1991
Pinck, Dan Journey to Peking: A Secret Agent in Wartime China US Naval Institute Press 2003 OSS Secret Intelligence (SI) spy in Hong Kong, China, during WWII
Ronnie, Art Counterfeit Hero: Fritz Duquesne, Adventurer and Spy 1995 ISBN 1-55750-733-3
Sayers, Michael & Albert E. Kahn Sabotage! The Secret War Against America 1942
Smith, Richard Harris OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency 2005
Stanley, Roy M. World War II Photo Intelligence 1981
Wark, Wesley The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany, 1933–1939 1985
Wark, Wesley "Cryptographic Innocence: The Origins of Signals Intelligence in Canada in the Second World War" in Journal of Contemporary History 22 1987
West, Nigel Secret War: The Story of SOE, Britain's Wartime Sabotage Organization 1992
Winterbotham, F. W. The Ultra Secret Harper & Row 1974
Winterbotham, F. W. The Nazi Connection Harper & Row 1978
Cowburn, B. No Cloak No Dagger Brown Watson, Ltd. 1960
Wohlstetter, Roberta Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision 1962

Cold War Edit

Early Edit

The metamorphosis of the Second World War (1939–45) into the Soviet–American Cold War (1945–91) gave new impetus to spy novelists. Atomsk by Paul Linebarger (later known as Cordwainer Smith), written in 1948 and published in 1949, appears to be the first espionage novel of the dawning conflict. [ citation needed ]

The "secret world" of espionage allowed a situation when writers could project anything they wanted onto the "secret world". The author Bruce Page complained in his 1969 book The Philby Conspiracy:

"The trouble is that a man can hold almost any theory he cares to about the secret world, and defend it against large quantities of hostile evidence by the simple expedient of retreating behind further and further screens of postulated inward mystery. Secret services have in common with Freemasons and mafiosi that they inhabit an intellectual twilight-a kind of ambiguous gloom in which it is hard to distinguish with certainty between the menacing and the merely ludicrous. In such circumstances the human affinity for myth and legend easily gets out of control". [20]

This inability to know for certain about what is being going on in the "secret world" of intelligence-gathering affected both non-fiction and fiction books about espionage. The Cold War and the struggle between Soviet intelligence-known as the KGB from 1954 onward-vs. the CIA and MI6 made the subject of espionage a popular one for novelists to write about. [21] Most of the spy novels of the Cold War were really action thrillers with little resemblance to the actual work of spies. [21] The writer Malcolm Muggeridge who had worked as a spy in World War Two commented that thriller writers in the Cold War took to writing about espionage "as easily as the mentally unstable become psychiatrists or the impotent pornographers". [21] The city that was considered to be the "capital of the Cold War" was Berlin, owning to its post-war status as the city was divided between the two German states while Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States all had occupations zones in Berlin. [22] As a result, Berlin was a beehive of espionage during the Cold War with the city full of American, British, East German, French, Soviet and West German spies it was estimated that there was an average of about 8, 000 spies in Berlin at any given moment during the Cold War. [22] Because Berlin was a center of espionage, the city was frequently a settling for spy novels and films. [23] Furthermore, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 made the wall into a symbol of Communist tyranny, which further increased the attraction for Western writers of settling a Cold War spy novel in Berlin. Perhaps the most memorable story set in Berlin was The Spy Who Came In From The Cold which in both the novel and the film ended with disillusioned British spy Alec Leamas and his lover, the naïve young woman Liz Gold being shot down while trying to cross the Berlin Wall from East Berlin into West Berlin. [23]

British Edit

With Secret Ministry (1951), Desmond Cory introduced Johnny Fedora, the secret agent with a licence to kill, the government-sanctioned assassin. Ian Fleming, a former member of naval intelligence, followed swiftly with the glamorous James Bond, secret agent 007 of the British Secret Service, a mixture of counter-intelligence officer, assassin and playboy. Perhaps the most famous fictional spy, Bond was introduced in Casino Royale (1953). After Fleming's death the franchise continued under other British and American authors, including Kingsley Amis, Christopher Wood, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz. The Bond novels, which were extremely popular in the 1950s, inspired an even more popular series of films starting in 1962. The success of the Bond novels and films has greatly influenced popular images of the work of spies even through the character of Bond is more of an assassin than a spy. [24]

Despite the commercial success of Fleming's extravagant novels, John le Carré, himself a former spy, created anti-heroic protagonists who struggled with the ethical issues involved in espionage and sometimes resorted to immoral tactics. Le Carré depicted spies as living a morally grey world having to constantly make morally dubious decisions in an essentially amoral struggle where lies, paranoia and betrayal are the norm for both sides. [25] In le Carré best known novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1963), the hero Alec Leamas views himself as serving in ". a war fought on a tiny scale, at close range" and complained that he has seen too many "people cheated and misled, whole lives thrown away, people shot and in prison, whole groups and classes of men written off for nothing". [25] Le Carré's middle-class hero George Smiley is a middle-aged spy burdened with an unfaithful, upper-class wife who publicly cuckolds him for sport. [26] The American scholars Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen described Smiley as the fictional spy most likely to be successful as a real spy, citing le Carré's description of him in A Murder of Quality:

"Obscurity was his nature, as well as his profession. The byways of espionage are not populated by the brash and colorful adventurers of fiction. A man who, like Smiley has lived and worked for years among his country's enemies learns only one prayer: that he may never, never be noticed. Assimilation is his highest aim, he learns to love the crowds who pass him in the street without a glance he clings to them for his anonymity and his safety. His fear makes him servile—he could embrace the shoppers who jostle him in their impatience and force him from the pavement. He could adore the officials, the police, the bus conductors, for the terse indifference of their attitudes.
But this fear, this servility, this dependence had developed in Smiley a perception for the colour of human beings: a swift, feminine sensitivity to their characters and motives. He knew mankind as a huntsman knows his cover, as a fox the woods. For a spy must hunt while he is hunted, and the crowd is his estate. He could collect their gestures, record the interplay of glance and movement, as a huntsman can record the twisted bracken and broken twig, or as a fox detects the signs of danger". [27]

Like Le Carré, former British Intelligence officer Graham Greene also examined the morality of espionage in left-wing, anti-imperialist novels such as The Heart of the Matter (1948), set in Sierra Leone, the seriocomic Our Man in Havana (1959) occurring in Cuba under the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista before his deposition in the Cuban Revolution (1953–59), and The Human Factor (1978) about a MI6 agent's attempts to uncover a mole in apartheid-era South Africa. [8] Greene had worked as a MI6 agent in Freetown, an important British naval base during World War Two, searching for German spies who would radio information about the movements of ships to the Kriegsmarine, experiences which inspired The Heart of the Matter. [28] Greene's case officer during World War Two was Harold "Kim" Philby, who was later revealed in 1963 to be a long time Soviet spy, who had been recruited by Soviet intelligence in the early 1930s while he was an undergraduate at Cambridge. [28] Greene's best known spy novel The Quiet American (1955), set in 1952 Vietnam featured a thinly disguised version of the real American intelligence officer, Major General Edward Lansdale as the villain. [8] Greene had covered the Vietnam war in 1951-52 as a newspaper correspondent where he met Lansdale who appears in The Quiet American as Alden Pyle while the character of Thomas Fowler, a cynical, but goodhearted British journalist in Saigon was partly based on himself. [29]

MI6 was outraged by Our Man In Havana with its story of James Wormold, a British vacuum cleaner salesman in Cuba, recruited to work for MI6 who bamboozles his employers by selling them diagrams of vacuum cleaners, which he persuades MI6 are really diagrams of Soviet missiles. [29] MI6 pressed for Greene to be prosecuted for violating the Official Secrets Act, claiming that he revealed too much about MI6's methods in Our Man in Havana, but it decided against charging Greene out of the fear that prosecuting him would suggest the unflattening picture of MI6 in Our Man in Havana was based on reality. [21] Greene's older brother, Herbert, a professional con-man had briefly worked as a spy for the Japanese in the 1930s before his employers realised that the "secrets" that he was selling them was merely information culled from the newspapers. [29] The bumbling vacuum cleaner salesman Wormold in Our Man in Havana seems to been inspired by Herbert Greene. [29] In The Human Factor, Greene portrayed MI6 again in a highly unsympathetic light, depicting the British government as supporting the apartheid regime of South Africa because it was pro-Western while the book's protagonist, the MI6 officer Maurice Castle, married to a black South African woman, provides information to the KGB to thwart MI6 operations. [29] [30] Much of the plot of The Human Factor concerned a secret plan by the British, American and West German governments to buy up South African gold in bulk in order to stabilise the economy of South Africa, which Greene presented as fundamentally amoral, arguing that the Western powers were betraying their values by supporting the white supremacist South African government. [29] Much controversy ensured when shortly after the publication of The Human Factor it emerged that such a plan had in fact been carried out, which led to much speculation about whatever this was just a coincidence or whatever Greene had more access to secret information than what he led on. [29] There was also much speculation that the character of Maurice Castle was inspired by Philby, but Greene consistently denied this. [28] Other novelists followed a similar path. Len Deighton's anonymous spy protagonist of The IPCRESS File (1962), Horse Under Water (1963), Funeral in Berlin (1964), and others, is a working-class man with a negative view of "the Establishment". [31]

Other notable examples of espionage fiction during this period were also built around recurring characters. These include James Mitchell's 'John Craig' series, written under his pseudonym 'James Munro', beginning with The Man Who Sold Death (1964) and Trevor Dudley-Smith's Quiller spy novel series written under the pseudonym 'Adam Hall', beginning with The Berlin Memorandum (US: The Quiller Memorandum, 1965), a hybrid of glamour and dirt, Fleming and Le Carré and William Garner's fantastic Michael Jagger in Overkill (1966), The Deep, Deep Freeze (1968), The Us or Them War (1969) and A Big Enough Wreath (1974). [ citation needed ]

Other important British writers who first became active in spy fiction during this period include Padraig Manning O'Brine, Killers Must Eat (1951) Michael Gilbert, Be Shot for Sixpence (1956) Alistair MacLean, The Last Frontier (1959) Brian Cleeve, Assignment to Vengeance (1961) Jack Higgins, The Testament of Caspar Schulz (1962) and Desmond Skirrow, It Won't Get You Anywhere (1966). Dennis Wheatley's 'Gregory Sallust' (1934-1968) and 'Roger Brook' (1947-1974) series were also largely written during this period. [ citation needed ]

Notable recurring characters from this era include Adam Diment's Philip McAlpine as a long-haired, hashish-smoking fop in the novels The Dolly Dolly Spy (1967), The Great Spy Race (1968), The Bang Bang Birds (1968) and Think, Inc. (1971) James Mitchell's 'David Callan' series, written in his own name, beginning with Red File for Callan (1969) William Garner's John Morpurgo in Think Big, Think Dirty (1983), Rats' Alley (1984), and Zones of Silence (1986) and Joseph Hone's 'Peter Marlow' series, beginning with The Private Sector (1971), set during Israel's Six-Day War (1967) against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. In all of these series the writing is literary and the tradecraft believable. [ citation needed ]

Noteworthy examples of the journalistic style and successful integration of fictional characters with historical events were the politico-military novels The Day of the Jackal (1971) by Frederick Forsyth and Eye of the Needle (1978) by Ken Follett. With the explosion of technology, Craig Thomas, launched the techno-thriller with Firefox (1977), describing the Anglo–American theft of a superior Soviet jet aeroplane. [ citation needed ]

Other important British writers who first became active in spy fiction during this period include Ian Mackintosh, A Slaying in September (1967) Kenneth Benton, Twenty-fourth Level (1969) Desmond Bagley, Running Blind (1970) Anthony Price, The Labyrinth Makers (1971) Gerald Seymour, Harry's Game (1975) Brian Freemantle, Charlie M (1977) Bryan Forbes, Familiar Strangers (1979) Reginald Hill, The Spy's Wife (1980) and Raymond Harold Sawkins, writing as Colin Forbes, Double Jeopardy (1982).

American Edit

During the war E. Howard Hunt wrote his first spy novel, East of Farewell (1943). In 1949 he joined the recently created CIA and continued to write spy fiction for many years. Paul Linebarger, a China specialist for the CIA, published Atomsk, the first novel of the Cold War, in 1949. During the 1950s, most of American spy stories were not about the CIA, instead being about agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who tracked down and arrested Soviet spies. The popular American image of the FBI was as "coolly efficient super-cop" who always successful in performing his duties. [32] The FBI director, J.E. Hoover, had long cultivated the American press and Hollywood to promote a favorable image of the FBI. [33] In 1955, Edward S. Aarons began publishing the Sam Durell CIA "Assignment" series, which began with Assignment to Disaster (1955). Donald Hamilton published Death of a Citizen (1960) and The Wrecking Crew (1960), beginning the series featuring Matt Helm, a CIA assassin and counter-intelligence agent.

Major General Edward Lansdale, a charismatic intelligence officer who was widely credited with having masterminded the defeat of the Communist Huk rebellion in the Philippines inspired several fictional versions of himself. [8] Besides for The Quiet American, he appeared as Colonel Edwin Barnum in The Ugly American (1958) by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick and as Colonel Lionel Teryman in the novel La Mal Jaune (1965) by the French writer Jean Lartéguy. [8] The Ugly American was written as a rebuttal to The Quiet American under which the idealistic Colonel Barnum operating in the fictional Vietnam-like Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan shows the way to defeat Communist guerillas by understanding local people in just the same way that Lansdale with his understanding and sympathy for ordinary Filipinos was credited with defeating the Communist Huk guerrillas. [8] The Ugly American was greatly influenced by the modernization theory, which held Communism was something alike to a childhood disease as the modernization theory held that as Third World nations modernized that this created social-economic tensions which a ruthless minority of Communists exploited to seize power what was required from the United States were experts who knew the local concerns in order to defeat the Communists until the modernization process was completed.

The Nick Carter-Killmaster series of spy novels, initiated by Michael Avallone and Valerie Moolman, but authored anonymously, ran to over 260 separate books between 1964 and the early 1990s and invariably pitted American, Soviet and Chinese spies against each other. With the proliferation of male protagonists in the spy fiction genre, writers and book packagers also started bringing out spy fiction with a female as the protagonist. One notable spy series is The Baroness, featuring a sexy female superspy, with the novels being more action-oriented, in the mould of Nick Carter-Killmaster.

Other important American authors who became active in spy fiction during this period include Ross Thomas, The Cold War Swap (1966). The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971) by Robert Ludlum is usually considered the first American modern (glamour and dirt) spy thriller weighing action and reflection. Richard Helms, the director-general of the CIA from 1966 to 1973 loathed le Carré's morally grey spy novels, which he felt damaged the image of the CIA, and encouraged Hunt to write spy novels as a rebuttal. [34] Helms had hopes that Hunt might write an "American James Bond" novel, which would be adopted by Hollywood and do for the image of the CIA what Fleming's Bond novels did for the image of MI6. [35] In the 1970s, former CIA man Charles McCarry began the Paul Christopher series with The Miernik Dossier (1973) and The Tears of Autumn (1978), which were well written, with believable tradecraft. McCarry was a former CIA agent who worked as an editor for National Geographic and his hero Christopher likewise is an American spy who works for a thinly disguised version of the CIA while posing as a journalist. [21] Writing under the pen name Trevanian, Roger Whitaker published a series of brutal spy novels starting with The Eiger Sanction (1972) featuring an amoral art collector/CIA assassin who ostensibly kills for the United States, but in fact kills for money. [21] Whitaker followed up The Eiger Sanction with The Loo Sanction (1973) and Shibumi (1979). [21] Starting in 1976 with his novel Saving the Queen, the conservative American journalist and former CIA agent William F. Buckley published the first of his Blackford Oakes novels featuring a CIA agent whose politics were the same as the author's. [21] Blackford Oakes was portrayed as a "sort of an American James Bond" who ruthelessly dispatches villainous KGB agents with much aplomb. [21]

The first American techno-thriller was The Hunt for Red October (1984) by Tom Clancy. It introduced CIA deskman (analyst) Jack Ryan as a field agent he reprised the role in the sequel The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1987).

Other important American authors who became active in spy fiction during this period include Robert Littell, The Defection of A. J. Lewinter (1973) James Grady, Six Days of the Condor (1974) William F. Buckley Jr., Saving the Queen (1976) Nelson DeMille, The Talbot Odyssey (1984) W. E. B. Griffin, the Men at War series (1984–) Stephen Coonts, Flight of the Intruder (1986) Canadian-American author David Morrell, The League of Night and Fog (1987) David Hagberg, Without Honor (1989) Noel Hynd, False Flags (1990) and Richard Ferguson, Oiorpata (1990).

Soviet Edit

The culture of Imperial Russia was deeply influenced by the culture of France, and traditionally spy novels in France had a very low status. [36] One consequence of the French influence on Russian culture was that the subject of espionage was usually ignored by Russian writers during the Imperial period. [36] Traditionally, the subject of espionage was treated in the Soviet Union as a story of villainous foreign spies threatening the USSR. [37] The organisation established to hunt down German spies in 1943, SMERSH, was an acronym for the wartime slogan Smert shpioam! ("Death to Spies!"), which reflected the picture promoted by the Soviet state of spies as a class of people who deserved to be killed without mercy. [37] The unfavorable picture of spies ensured that before the early 1960s there were no novels featuring Soviet spies as the heroes as espionage was portrayed as a disreputable activity that inly the enemies of the Soviet Union engaged in. [37] Unlike in Britain and the United States, where the achievements of Anglo-American intelligence during the Second World War were to a certain extent publicized soon after the war such as the fact that the Americans had broken the Japanese naval codes (which came out in 1946) and the British deception operation of 1943, Operation Mincemeat (which was revealed in 1953), there was nothing equivalent in the Soviet Union until the early 1960s. [37] Soviet novels prior to the 1960s to the extent that espionage was portrayed at all concerned heroic scouts in the Red Army who during the Great Patriotic War as the war with Germany is known in the Soviet Union who go on dangerous missions deep behind the Wehrmacht's lines to find crucial information. [37] The scout stories were more action adventure stories than espionage stories proper and significantly always portrayed Red Army scouts rather than Chekisty ("Chekists") as secret policemen are always called in Russia as their heroes. [37] The protagonists of the scout stories always almost ended being killed at the climax of the stories, giving up their lives up to save the Motherland from the German invaders. [37]

In November 1961, Vladimir Semichastny became the chairman of the KGB and sent out to improve the image of the Chekisty. [37] The acronym KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti-Committee of State Security) was adopted in 1954, but the organisation had been founded in 1917 as the Cheka. The frequent name changes for the secret police made no impression with the Russian people who still call any secret policeman a Chekisty. Semichastny felt that the legacy of the Yezhovshchina ("Yezhovz times") of 1936-1939 had given the KGB a fearsome reputation that he wanted to erase as wanted ordinary people to have a more favorable and positive image of the Chekisty as the protectors and defenders of the Soviet Union instead of torturers and killers. [37] As such, Semichastny encouraged the publication of a series of spy novels that featured heroic Chekisty defending the Soviet Union. [38] It was also during Semichastny's time as KGB chairman that the cult of the "hero spies" began in the Soviet Union as publications lionised the achievements of Soviet spies such as Colonel Rudolf Abel, Harold "Kim" Philby, Richard Sorge and of the men and women who served in the Rote Kapelle spy network. [38] Seeing the great popularity of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in Britain and the United States, Soviet spy novels of the 1960s used the Bond novels as inspiration for both their plots and heroes, through Soviet prurience about sex ensured that the Chekisty heroes did not engage in the sort of womanising that Bond did. [38] The first Bond-style novel was The Zakhov Mission (1963) by the Bulgarian writer Andrei Gulyashki who had commissioned by Semichastny and was published simultaneously in Russian and Bulgarian. [39] The success of The Zakhov Mission led to a follow-up novel,, Zakhov vs. 007, where Gulyashki freely violated English copyright laws by using the James Bond character without the permission of the Fleming estate (he had asked for permission in 1966 and was denied). [39] In Zakhov vs. 007, the hero Avakoum Zakhov defeats James Bond, who is portrayed in an inverted fashion to how Fleming portrayed him in Zakhov vs. 007, Bond is portrayed as a sadistic killer, a brutal rapist and an arrogant misogynist, which stands in marked contrast to the kindly and gentle Zakhov who always treats women with respect. [39] Zakhov is described as a spy, he more of a detective and unlike Bond, his tastes are modest. [39]

In 1966, the Soviet writer Yulian Semyonov published a novel set in the Russian Civil War featuring a Cheka agent Maxim Maximovich Isaуev as its hero. [39] Inspired by its success, the KGB encouraged Semyonov to write a sequel, Semnadtsat' mgnoveniy vesny ("Seventeen Moments of Spring"), which proved to one of the most popular Soviet spy novels when it was serialized in Pravda in January–February 1969 and then published as a book later in 1969. [40] In Seventeen Moments of Spring, the story is set in the Great Patriotic War as Isayev goes undercover, using the alias of a Baltic German nobleman Max Otto von Stierlitz to infiltrate the German high command. [40] The plot of Seventeen Moments of Spring takes place in Berlin between January–May 1945 during the last days of the Third Reich as the Red Army advances onto Berlin and the Nazis grew more desperate. [41] In 1973, Semnadtsat' mgnoveniy vesny was turned into a television mini-series, which was extremely popular in the Soviet Union and turned the Isayev character into a cultural phenomena. [40] The Isayev character plays a role in Russian culture, even today, that is analogous to the role James Bond plays in modern British culture. [36] As aspect of Seventeen Moments of Spring, both as a novel and the TV mini-series that has offended Westerners who are more accustomed to seeing spy stories via the prism of the fast-paced Bond stories is the way that Isayev spends much time interacting with ordinary Germans despite the fact these interactions do nothing to advance the plot and are merely superfluous to the story. [39] However, the point of these scenes are to show that Isayev is still a moral human being, who remains sociable and kind to all people, including the citizens of the state that his country is at war with. [39] Unlike Bond, Isayev is devoted to his wife who he deeply loves and despite spending at least ten years as a spy in Germany and having countless chances to sleep with attractive German women remains faithful towards her. [42] Through Isayev is a spy for the NKVD as the Soviet secret police was known from 1934 to 1946, it is stated quite explicitly in Semnadtsat' mgnoveniy vesny (which is set in 1945) that he left the Soviet Union to go undercover in Nazi Germany "more than ten years ago", which means that Isayev was not involved in the Yezhovshchina. [43]

Later Edit

The June 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its neighbours introduced new themes to espionage fiction - the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, against the backdrop of continuing Cold War tensions, and the increasing use of terrorism as a political tool.

Writers on Cold War era: 1945–1991 Edit

  • Anderson, Nicholas NOC Enigma Books 2009 – Post-Cold War era The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture Encounter Books 2008, rev. 2010
Writers of other nationalities Edit
    , The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists McClelland & Stewart 2007, rev. 2008
  • Jean-Marie Thiébaud, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique International des Abréviations, Singles et Acronyms, Armée et armament, Gendarmerie, Police, Services de renseignement et Services secrets français et étrangers, Espionage, Counterespionage, Services de Secours, Organisations révolutionnaires et terrorists, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2015, 827 pFrench journalist Gérard de Villiers began to write his SAS series in 1965. The franchise now extends to 200 titles and 150 million books. was an influential spy novelist, writing in the Eastern Bloc, whose range of novels and novel series featured a White Russian spy in the USSR Max Otto von Stierlitz, a Soviet mole in the Nazi High Command, and Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka. In his novels, Semyonov covered much Soviet intelligence history, ranging from the Russian Civil War (1917–1923), through the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), to the Russo–American Cold War (1945–91).
  • Swedish author Jan Guillou also began to write his Coq Rouge series, featuring Swedish spy Carl Hamilton, during this period, beginning in 1986.

Post–Cold War Edit

The end of the Cold War in 1991 mooted the USSR, Russia and other Iron Curtain countries as credible enemies of democracy, and the US Congress even considered disestablishing the CIA. Espionage novelists found themselves at a temporary loss for obvious nemeses. The New York Times ceased publishing a spy novel review column. Nevertheless, counting on the aficionado, publishers continued to issue spy novels by writers popular during the Cold War era, among them Harlot's Ghost (1991) by Norman Mailer.

In the US, the new novels Moscow Club (1991) by Joseph Finder, Coyote Bird (1993) by Jim DeFelice, Masquerade (1996) by Gayle Lynds, and The Unlikely Spy (1996) by Daniel Silva maintained the spy novel in the post–Cold War world. Other important American authors who first became active in spy fiction during this period include David Ignatius, Agents of Innocence (1997) David Baldacci, Saving Faith (1999) and Vince Flynn, with Term Limits (1999) and a series of novels featuring counter-terrorism expert Mitch Rapp.

In 1993, the American novelist Philip Roth published Operation Shylock, an account of his supposed work as a Mossad spy in Greece. [35] The book was published as a novel, but Roth insisted that the book was not a novel as he argued that the book was presented only as a novel in order to give it deniability. [35] At the end of the book, the character of Philip Roth is ordered to publish the account as a novel and it ends with Roth the character saying: "And I became quite convinced that it was my interest to do that. I'm just a good Mossadnik". [35]

In the UK, Robert Harris entered the spy genre with Enigma (1995). Other important British authors who became active during this period include Hugh Laurie, The Gun Seller (1996) Andy McNab, Remote Control (1998) Henry Porter, Remembrance Day (2000) and Charles Cumming, A Spy By Nature (2001).

Post–9/11 Edit

The terrorist attacks against the US on 11 September 2001, and the subsequent War on Terror, reawakened interest in the peoples and politics of the world beyond its borders. Espionage genre elders such as John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Littell, and Charles McCarry resumed work, and many new authors emerged.

Important British writers who wrote their first spy novels during this period include Stephen Leather, Hard Landing (2004) and William Boyd, Restless (2006).

New American writers include Brad Thor, The Lions of Lucerne (2002) Ted Bell, Hawke (2003) Alex Berenson, with John Wells appearing for the first time in The Faithful Spy (2006) Brett Battles, The Cleaner (2007) Ellis Goodman, Bear Any Burden (2008) Olen Steinhauer, The Tourist (2009) and Richard Ferguson, Oiorpata (2012). A number of other established writers began to write spy fiction for the first time, including Kyle Mills, Fade (2005) and James Patterson, Private (2010).

Swede Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004, was the world's second best-selling author for 2008 due to his Millennium series, featuring Lisbeth Salander, published posthumously between 2005 and 2007. Other authors of note include Australian James Phelan, beginning with Fox Hunt (2010).

Recognising the importance of the thriller genre, including spy fiction, International Thriller Writers (ITW) was established in 2004, and held its first conference in 2006.

Many authors of spy fiction have themselves been intelligence officers working for British agencies such as MI5 or MI6, or American agencies such as the OSS or its successor, the CIA. 'Insider' spy fiction has a special claim to authenticity and overlaps with biographical and other documentary accounts of secret service.

The first insider fiction emerged after World War 1 as the thinly disguised reminiscences of former British intelligence officers such as W. Somerset Maugham, Alexander Wilson, and Compton Mackenzie. The tradition continued during World War II with Helen MacInnes and Manning Coles.

Many post-9/11 period novels are written by insiders. [45] At the CIA, the number of manuscripts submitted for pre-publication vetting doubled between 1998 and 2005. [46] American examples include Barry Eisler, A Clean Kill in Tokyo (2002) Charles Gillen, Saigon Station (2003) R J Hillhouse, Rift Zone (2004) Gene Coyle, The Dream Merchant of Lisbon (2004) and No Game For Amateurs (2009) Thomas F. Murphy, Edge of Allegiance (2005) Mike Ramsdell, A Train to Potevka (2005) T. H. E. Hill, Voices Under Berlin (2008) Duane Evans, North from Calcutta (2009) Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow (2013). [45] [47] and T.L. Williams, Zero Day: China's Cyber Wars (2017).

British examples include The Code Snatch (2001) by Alan Stripp, formerly a cryptographer at Bletchley Park At Risk (2004), Secret Asset (2006), Illegal Action (2007), and Dead Line (2008), by Dame Stella Rimington (Director General of MI5 from 1992 to 1996) and Matthew Dunn's Spycatcher (2011) and sequels.

Cinema Edit

Much spy fiction was adapted as spy films in the 1960s, ranging from the fantastical James Bond series to the realistic The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), and the hybrid The Quiller Memorandum (1966). While Hamilton's Matt Helm novels were adult and well written, their cinematic interpretations were adolescent parody. This phenomenon spread widely in Europe in the 1960s and is known as the Eurospy genre.

English-language spy films of the 2000s include The Bourne Identity (2002), Mission: Impossible (1996) Munich (2005), Syriana (2005), and The Constant Gardener (2005).

Among the comedy films focusing on espionage are 1974's S*P*Y*S and 1985's Spies Like Us.

Television Edit

The American adaptation of Casino Royale (1954) featured Jimmy Bond in an episode of the Climax! anthology series. The narrative tone of television espionage ranged from the drama of Danger Man (1960–68) to the sardonicism of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1964–68) and the flippancy of I Spy (1965–68) until the exaggeration, akin to that of William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim before the First World War (1914–18), degenerated to the parody of Get Smart (1965–70).

In 1973, Semyonov's novel Seventeen Moments of Spring (1968) was adapted to television as a twelve-part mini-series about the Soviet spy Maksim Isaev operating in wartime Nazi Germany as Max Otto von Stierlitz, charged with preventing a separate peace between Nazi Germany and America which would exclude the USSR. The programme TASS Is Authorized to Declare. also derives from his work.

However, the circle closed in the late 1970s when The Sandbaggers (1978–80) presented the grit and bureaucracy of espionage.

In the 1980s, US television featured the light espionage programmes Airwolf (1984–87) and MacGyver (1985–92), each rooted in the Cold War yet reflecting American citizens' distrust of their government, after the crimes of the Nixon Government (the internal, political espionage of the Watergate Scandal and the Vietnam War) were exposed. The spy heroes were independent of government MacGyver, in later episodes and post-DXS employment, works for a non-profit, private think tank, and aviator Hawke and two friends work free-lance adventures. Although each series features an intelligence agency, the DXS in MacGyver, and the FIRM, in Airwolf, its agents could alternately serve as adversaries as well as allies for the heroes.

Television espionage programmes of the late 1990s to the early 2010s include La Femme Nikita (1997–2001), Alias (2001–2006), 24 (2001–2010, 2014), Spooks in the UK (release as MI-5 in the US and Canada) (2002-2011), NCIS (2003-present), CBBC's The Secret Show (2006-2011), NBC's Chuck (2007-2012), FX's Archer (2009–present), Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, Homeland and The Americans.

In 2015, Deutschland 83 is a German television series starring a 24-year-old native of East Germany who is sent to the West as an undercover spy for the HVA, the foreign intelligence agency of the Stasi.

In every medium, spy thrillers introduce children and adolescents to deception and espionage at earlier ages. The genre ranges from action-adventure, such as Chris Ryan's Alpha Force series, through the historical espionage dramas of Y. S. Lee, to the girl orientation of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series, beginning with I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You.

Leading examples include the Agent Cody Banks film, the Alex Rider adventure novels by Anthony Horowitz, and the CHERUB series, by Robert Muchamore. Ben Allsop, one of England's youngest novelists, also writes spy fiction. His titles include Sharp and The Perfect Kill.

Spy-related films that are aimed towards younger audiences include movies such as the Spy Kids series of films and The Spy Next Door.

In contemporary digital video games, the player can be a vicarious spy, as in Team Fortress 2 and the Metal Gear series, especially in the series' third installment, Metal Gear Solid, unlike the games of the Third-Person Shooter genre, Syphon Filter, and Splinter Cell. The games feature complex stories and cinematic images. Games such as No One Lives Forever and the sequel No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way humorously combine espionage and 1960s design. Evil Genius, a real-time strategy game and contemporary of the No One Lives Forever series, allows the player to take on the role of the villain in a setting heavily influenced by spy thriller fiction like the James Bond series.

The Deus Ex series, particularly Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, are also examples of spy fiction. Protagonist Adam Jensen must frequently use spycraft and stealth to obtain sensitive information for a variety of clients and associates.

James Bond 007: Role-Playing In Her Majesty's Secret Service, Victory Games (1983), is a tabletop roleplaying game based on Flemming's 007 novels. [49]

The Spyland espionage theme park, in the Gran Scala pleasure dome, in Zaragoza province, Spain, opened in 2012.

For the Spy Novelist Robert Littell, The Cold War Never Ended

Two months before the election, I decided to read through the complete works of Robert Littell. They number more than 20 novels, from The Defection of A.J. Lewinter (1973) through to his newest, Comrade Koba, published in November. I had the sense that Littell’s particular style of spy novel would speak to me when American democracy seemed, and still remains, gravely under threat. Where John Le Carre channeled barely suppressed rage into realist narratives steeped in bureaucracy, and Charles McCarry took the adage that “the average intelligence officer is a sort of latter-day Marcel Proust,” Littell is more ironic and mordantly funny than his spy-writing peers, poking an eye at American patriotism while mercilessly skewering Soviet cynicism.

“The Cold War may be over but the great game goes on,” quips a CIA spy to his mentor at the end of Robert Littell’s 2002 masterwork The Company. It is meant as sarcasm, because the 900-page epic documents the on-the-ground, multi-generational, transatlantic horror resulting from the United States and Soviet Union’s bipartisan addiction to spying. But it is also stark truth that cuts deeper almost two decades later: too many people still view geopolitics as sport, the consequences (mass death, propping up tyrants, terrorism, hunger, you name it) barely registering as important.

Littell acquired his espionage acumen as a foreign correspondent for Newsweek in the 1960s, reporting from behind the Iron Curtain on multiple occasions. (His time in Bulgaria led to the 1976 novel The October Circle.) He quit the magazine to write full time and then moved to Paris with his family in the early 1970s, where he has lived ever since. The expatriate remove almost certainly allows for distance from his home country, but it also allows for clarity, as in this essay on the erosion of national security under the outgoing administration.

Littell’s characters are always aware of being pawns. AJ Lewinter is structured like a chess match. Charlie Heller, spurred by the terrorism death of his fiancée to plot revenge against her killers in The Amateur (1981), uses his top-secret cryptography skills to blackmail the agency into letting him run wild, even as they fully intend to exact opposite. The Sisters (1986), my personal favorite of Littell’s novels, is a joyous romp of intelligence hijinks by two ruthlessly intelligent case officers, until the reason for their clever goings-on – a presidential assassination – dawns with mounting dread. And Martin Odum spends the entirety of Legends (2006) grappling with his many identities, stripped away to reveal the hole at the center of his existence, as what must exist for far too many spies, current and former.

Reading through Littell’s body of work brings to mind a quote from Vladimir Nabokov, who knew a thing or two about displacement and reinventing himself in a new language: “Satire is a lesson, parody is a game.” No matter how many revolutions are staged or refuted, how many wars won or lost, how many lives destroyed or obliterated, the fights continue with wearying sameness. The game is never over. There are always new side quests to be countenanced and dispatched of, even as the major one marches forth undeterred.

Espionage is the scaffolding for nearly all of Littell’s books. (There are one-offs, like his second published novel Sweet Reason, a satire-heavy Mutiny on the Bounty homage that doesn’t quite land.) The driving force, though, took me by surprise: I did not anticipate that Littell’s body of work would be so Jewish. Spycraft is the basis for a larger project on the price of assimilation, where the act of becoming someone else, as required when taking on a CIA-produced legend, has roots in the massive waves of immigration coming through Ellis Island in the first part of the 20 th century.

This immigration wave directly links to Littell’s own family history. His grandfather, Abraham, arrived in the United States in the 1880s from Lithuania as Abraham Litzky, married Sarah Litowich, and sired three sons, including Leo, born in New York City in 1896. Leo would register for the World War I draft as Litzky, but when he married Sadie Hausman in 1925, he’d altered his name to Littell. His children would bear that surname legally. But the ghost of Litzky, the name left behind on the altar of assimilation, clung to the novelist Robert, the Diaspora Jew and the American expatriate, and surfaces in a number of his books.

That ghost wafts through the The Revolutionist’s Zander Til, an anarchist freedom fighter who organizes strikes on the Lower East Side and succumbs to betrayal (lest he be betrayed) in Stalin’s regime in the hipster, weed-smoking Rebbe Ascher ben Nachman, “a gondola plying the murky waters between the ultra-orthodox and the ultra-un-orthodox” [p. 13] who chews scenery throughout The Visiting Professor (1994) and in every murdered or missing Yiddish poet in Soviet Russia, whose art lived on for Littell to read, absorb and memorialize in various fictional forms.

Diaspora immigration doesn’t only preoccupy Littell. The State of Israel, and its shifting meanings, take up much of his literary attention. His first book, written in tandem with fellow Newsweek journos Ed Klein and Richard Z. Chesnoff, was a counterfactual novel imagining that Israel lost the Six-Day War. Decades later, Littell co-wrote a book with former Prime Minister Shimon Peres. And Israel-Palestinian relations ended up under the microscope in the chilling The Vicious Circle (2006), a hostage drama of two fundamentalists — one a rabbi, one an imam — who are closer in ideology and personality than either wishes to admit.

Whether in darkly comic or starkly tragic mode, Littell refuses to preach or moralize. The side he takes is the side that holds up all flaws to the light.

It’s quite likely that Comrade Koba will be Robert Littell’s last published work. At 85, he is firmly in the “late style” phase, where the work becomes leaner, shorter, a single movement rather than a grand concerto. Littell doesn’t have to do that anymore. The Company capped the first 30 years of his career with magnificent sweep and brio. Diversions into private detective fiction with Legends (2006) and A Nasty Piece of Work (2013) felt like change-ups to the espionage fastballs of his 1980s work in particular, The Amateur (1981), Sisters (1986) and The Revolutionist (1988).

His most recent run of novels have shifted focus more closely on the key players of the US-Soviet epic struggle, while keeping those players just out of the frame. Young Philby (2012) is about the UK’s most famous double agent and defector — Kim to some friends, Adrian to CIA director James Jesus Angleton, forever looking for moles and growing increasingly deranged after learning of Philby’s betrayal — but his story is told by others. Seeing him through the fictionalized eyes of his first wife and handler, Litzi Friedman, and his spy-friends Donald MacLean and Guy Burgess, accomplishes more than reading Philby’s own turgid memoir, My Silent War (1968), and complements Ben MacIntyre’s splendid narrative nonfiction account A Spy Among Friends (2014), published two years after Littell’s novel but proof that the novelist got a lot about Philby’s early life right.

A similar gambit animates The Mayakovsky Tapes (2016), where the Soviet poet is vividly present, but only through the stories told by four women — lovers, muses, romantic objects of affection — in a single hotel room on the day that Stalin would die. The women were real, and the stories largely true, but the conceit of assembling Lilya Brik, Elly Jones, Tatyana Yakovleva and Nora Polonskaya in a Moscow hotel room, relaxing into their ecstasies and grievances while a tape recorder runs, elevates the novel from mere trifle to something more potent.

The key is the young man responsible for the tape recorder: R. Litzky is supposed to be silent, but sometimes he can’t help himself, interrupting in English when he’s not supposed to let on how well he understands Russian. His late-book confession of his own identity, the lies and misrepresentations, also cloud Littell’s gamesmanship with the reader: R. Litzky — Rasputin as a joke, Robespierre as a reveal — is a fun-house teen mirror version of Littell himself.

Comrade Koba regresses the Littell/Litzky character further in age, to 10, and renames him Leon, after his father. The conceit is that the boy, orphaned by the sudden death of his father and the imprisonment of his mother, is hiding from Soviet intelligence in their very building. He explores and meets an old man named Koba, who has much to tell about the Stalin regime. Leon relays these stories to his best friend Isabeau, a delightful character whose narration betrays her disbelief at what she considers tall tales — especially the prospect that Koba might be Stalin himself.

The novel doesn’t quite work as a single entity: it’s a little too slight, too caught up in subverting the trope of the dying man imparting stories and wisdom to a younger charge. But it succeeds as a capstone to Littell’s career, his decades-long quest to understand the origins of the Cold War, the nature of spying, and his own reckoning with Jewish identity and assimilation. Much as we try to be someone else, we are only destined to be ourselves.

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How an Alleged Russian Spy Ring Used Cold War Tactics

A video released by Bulgarian prosecutors shows an alleged ring member at his desk at the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense.

Georgi Kantchev

BURGAS, Bulgaria—In early December, a high-ranking Bulgarian Ministry of Defense official sat down at his desk, took out a black Samsung smartphone and spent the next hour and 20 minutes snapping photographs of classified military documents on his work computer. The photos, allegedly intended for the leader of a Russian spy ring, included sensitive information about F-16 jet fighters, according to video intercepts released by Bulgarian authorities.

“You provided a lot of material last time. Four batches,” the purported ringleader told the official in another intercept. “I saw what you had on the flash drive. Good stuff.”

Last week, authorities in Bulgaria, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said they broke up a Russian spy ring that was gathering information for Moscow on the NATO military alliance, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Ukraine, and the conflict in the disputed South Caucasus territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Five men and one woman, including the alleged ringleader, were arrested and charged with espionage in what Bulgarian prosecutors call the country’s biggest spy bust since the Cold War.

Russia has used longstanding ties and sympathies with the smaller and more vulnerable members of NATO and the European Union to cultivate spy networks and get access to Western secrets. The intercepts released by prosecutors indicate that in an era of sophisticated cyberspying, Moscow still values human intelligence.

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The Audacious Escape of George Blake

Journalist and author Steve Vogel reported for the Washington Post for more than 20 years, writing frequently about defense issues. His latest book, BETRAYAL IN BERLIN: The True Story of the Cold War&rsquos Most Audacious Espionage Operation, was released in paperback Sept. 15 by Custom House.

On a rainy evening in October 1966, the British spy George Blake eased his way through a small gap between the iron bars of a window at Wormwood Scrubs, the dingy Victorian-era prison in West London where he was serving the longest sentence ever handed out by a British court.

Shielded from the guards&rsquo view by blankets draped over a stairwell railing, Blake slipped easily out the opening and felt with his feet for the roof of a passageway. The tiles were slippery from the steady rain, but Blake nimbly made his way to the edge of the roof, grabbed the gutter and dropped to the ground. He pressed himself against the building, hiding in a small recess while he waited for an accomplice to throw a rope ladder over the nearby prison wall.

After an interminable delay, Blake could see the ladder sailing over the top in the dim light of the prison yard&rsquos arc lamps. The rungs writhed momentarily and then the ladder hung motionless on the wall. &ldquoIt looked incredibly thin and fragile but the moment I saw it I knew nothing now would stop me,&rdquo he later said. In a flash he was over the wall.

The escape of George Blake, who died Dec. 26 at the age of 98, set off the largest manhunt in British history. There were howls of outrage in London and Washington, where politicians and intelligence officials were incredulous that one of the Cold War&rsquos most dangerous and notorious spies was back on the run. During a decade of spying for the KGB, Blake had done &ldquomost serious&rdquo damage to the West, CIA director Allen Dulles told President John F. Kennedy upon the spy&rsquos arrest in April 1961.

The assumption from the corridors of power to barrooms on both sides of the Atlantic was that the KGB must have engineered his escape. But the truth was even more remarkable &ndash the escape had been entirely an amateur affair, more Keystone Cops than Mission Impossible.

Escape came naturally to Blake, the son of a Turkish Sephardic Jew who fought for the British army in World War I, became a English citizen, and married a Dutch Protestant woman. As a schoolboy courier for the Dutch resistance in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II and fearing arrest because of his Jewish heritage, Blake made a daring 1,000-mile escape across Europe, jumping off a moving train in Belgium to evade German soldiers and trekking across the snowy Pyrenees Mountains on a mule trail into Spain. Making his way to England, where his mother and sisters had already been evacuated. Blake joined the Royal Navy. His underground experience and command of languages&mdashhe already spoke four fluently&mdashled to his recruitment in 1944 to join the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Blake proved adept at espionage, using his assignment in postwar Germany to develop agent networks to spy on the Soviets. In 1949, he was sent to Korea as SIS station chief in Seoul. The following year, the North Korean army invaded the south in 1950, beginning the Korean War. Blake was soon taken prisoner along with the rest of the British legation. When the prisoners were taken north, Blake unsuccessfully attempted to escape twice and was threatened with execution if he tried again. Along with captured American GIs, the prisoners were subjected to hellish treatment during a forced march further north through sub-freezing temperatures. Hundreds died, but Blake survived and endured nearly three years of captivity.

When he was released in 1953, Blake returned to a hero&rsquos welcome in England and was soon assigned to an extremely sensitive job with SIS in London. But unbeknownst to his superiors, Blake had turned during his captivity and agreed to spy for the KGB&mdashtreachery he would attribute to embracing Communism. For the next decade, Blake did enormous damage to Western intelligence, including betraying the Berlin Tunnel, an elaborate CIA and SIS espionage operation in the mid-1950s that successfully tapped Soviet Army communication lines. Assigned to Berlin, Blake gave the Soviets information about numerous British intelligence operations and blew the cover of hundreds of agents.

Blake&rsquos superiors at SIS considered him above reproach, but he finally came under suspicion in 1961 based on tips from a defecting Polish intelligence officer. Lured back to London from a posting in Lebanon, Blake confessed, pleaded guilty, and was given a 42-year sentence.

After his arrival at Wormwood Scrubs in May 1961, Blake presented himself to authorities as a model prisoner, one who had resigned himself to making the best of a long life behind bars. He was taken off the prison&rsquos list of escape threats. He made friends with fellow prisoners by always lending a sympathetic ear to their travails, helping them draft letters or petitions seeking parole, and offering counsel. Even some of the guards came to him for advice. He held German and French lessons in his cell for other prisoners. He hosted Sunday morning coffees to listen to BBC discussions of books and plays.

Throughout his captivity, Blake kept an eye out for prisoners who might be willing to help him escape. Early on, he befriended anti-nuclear activists Michael Randle and Pat Pottle and stayed in touch after their release from prison. By 1965, Blake&rsquos hopes that the KGB would help him escape or would trade him for a western spy had faded, and he decided that if he was to get out of Scrubs, he would have to make it happen himself. But Blake needed someone still on the inside, yet due to be released soon, who could serve as the go-between and help pull off the escape.

Blake had a candidate in mind: Sean Aloyisious Bourke, an Irishman with an anti-authoritarian bent and a literary streak who was serving an eight-year sentence at Scrubs for attempting to kill a police officer. Bourke was keen to help, and on walks around the prison, he and Blake began plotting. After his parole, Bourke managed to get a walkie-talkie smuggled into Blake in May 1966, allowing the two to regularly communicate. Randle and Pottle agreed to help, raising funds to buy a getaway car and rent a London flat where Blake could be hidden. The plan they settled on was relatively simple: The Irishman would toss a rope ladder over the prison wall at a pre-set time and place coordinated via the two-way radio.

The plotters set the escape for October 22, 1966, a Saturday evening, when many of the prisoners and guards would be out of the cell block watching a weekly movie. The timing was critical, but Bourke got caught in traffic and was late getting to the prison, and then further delayed by a couple necking in a car parked at the rendezvous spot beneath the wall on the prison&rsquos east boundary. Waiting on the other side, with no word from Bourke, Blake was beside himself and had concluded the escape was off when the ladder suddenly appeared.

Reaching the top of the wall in the drenching rain, Blake peered down at Bourke and began lowering himself before letting go. He fell awkwardly, breaking his wrist and knocking himself unconscious when his head slammed into the gravel path. Bourke tossed Blake into the back seat of his car and they raced off into the dark night.

Blake came to his senses as they raced from the scene, but they had driven barely a block when Bourke slammed into the bumper of a car in front that had stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road. Onlookers peered curiously into the car. Bourke managed to get around the mess and floored the accelerator, reaching the hideaway apartment within a few minutes.

Alarms were raised at Wormwood Scrubs when Blake was discovered missing. Police rushed to airports, ports and East European embassies. After receiving a tip that Blake was about to fly out of the country in a harp case being transported by a member of the Czechoslovakian State Orchestra, police searched every instrument and musician but found nothing. Blake&rsquos photo flashed on television screens across the country. Watching the news from their hideaway flat, Blake and Bourke toasted themselves with whiskey and brandy. Bourke quoted Shakespeare: &ldquoMischief, thou art afoot take thou what course thou wilt.&rdquo

For weeks, there were sightings around the world. After getting a tip, police in Australia surrounded a jet that landed in Sydney and vetted passengers for wigs, false beards or dyed hair, but found no sign of Blake. All the while Blake was lying low in London, but his accomplices were forced to move him several times. One hideaway at the posh home of a leftwing Anglican priest had to be hastily abandoned when the priest&rsquos anxious wife told her analyst that she was harboring George Blake. Meanwhile the plotters debated various hare-brained schemes to get the spy out of England. They tried to persuade Blake to dye his skin brown so he could leave the country in disguise. They also considered tossing Blake over the wall of the Soviet embassy in London. Blake nixed both plans.

The group finally settled on a plan to buy a camper van and try to smuggle Blake out of England to Berlin in a secret compartment they would build in the back. After weeks of work, Michael Randle and his wife Anne took off for the continent on the night of Dec. 17, 1966, with their two young children, and Blake hidden in the compartment, hoping to pass as a family on Christmas holiday. They had a reservation on the midnight ferry to the Belgian port of Ostende, but got a late start and were racing the catch the ship when they heard pounding from below. Stopping and opening the rear compartment, they found Blake retching from the odor of a rubber hot water bottle in the confined space.

They ditched the hot water bottle and made it to the terminal with ten minutes to spare, and the van was waved on board without inspection. The Randles drove non-stop through Belgium and into West Germany in a torrential downpour, forced to clear the windshield by hand when the wipers gave out. At the East German border, a guard looked in the back but upon spotting the children, waved the van through. Close to midnight Dec. 18, the Randles followed Blake&rsquos instructions and dropped him off near a stand of pine trees about a mile from an East German checkpoint leading into Berlin. A skeptical East German Army officer telephoned KGB headquarters in Berlin to report a man claiming to be Englishman had shown up at the checkpoint on foot.

Sergei Kondrashev, a senior KGB officer who knew Blake well, rushed to the scene, and was astonished to find the spy, unshaven and bedraggled, but easily recognizable. A week later, Blake was whisked on a KGB jet to Moscow.

From the Soviet capital, Blake wrote a note to his mother in England, which the KGB posted from Cairo to throw off Western intelligence. &ldquoI am a free man again,&rdquo he said.

KGB papers, kept in secret since 1992, released by British archive

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The papers spent years hidden in a milk churn beneath a Russian dacha and read like an encyclopedia of Cold War espionage.

Original documents from one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history — a who’s who of Soviet spying — were released Monday after being held in secret for two decades.

The files, smuggled out of Russia in 1992 by senior KGB official Vasili Mitrokhin, describe sabotage plots, booby-trapped weapons caches and armies of agents under cover in the West — the real-life inspiration for the fictional Soviet moles in the TV series The Americans.

In reality, top-quality spies could be hard to get. The papers reveal that some were given Communist honours and pensions by a grateful U.S.S.R., but others proved loose-lipped, drunk or unreliable.

Intelligence historian Christopher Andrew said the vast dossier, released by the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge University, was considered “the most important single intelligence source ever” by British and American authorities.

Mitrokhin was a senior archivist in the KGB’s foreign intelligence headquarters — and a secret dissident. For more than a decade, he secretly took files home, copied them in longhand and then typed them and collated them into volumes. He hid the papers at his country cottage, or dacha, some stuffed into a milk churn and buried.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Mitrokhin travelled to a Baltic state — which one has never been confirmed — and took a sample of his files to the U.S. Embassy, only to be turned away. So he tried the British Embassy, where a junior diplomat sat him down and asked, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“That was the sentence that changed his life,” said Andrew.

Smuggled out of Russia, Mitrokhin spent the rest of his life in Britain under a false name and police protection, dying in 2004 at 81.

The world did not learn of Mitrokhin until Andrew published a book based on his files in 1999. It caused a sensation by exposing the identities of KGB agents including 87-year-old Melita Norwood, the “great-granny spy,” who had passed British atomic secrets to the Soviets for years.

Mitrokhin’s files describe Norwood as a “loyal, trustworthy, disciplined agent” who was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour for her service.

She was more reliable than the famous �mbridge Spies,” the high-ranking British intelligence officials who worked secretly for the Soviets. The files describe Guy Burgess as 𠇌onstantly under the influence of alcohol,” while Donald Maclean was “not very good at keeping secrets.”

The newly released papers include a list of KGB agents in America over several decades. It runs to 40 pages and about 1,000 names.

One of the most notorious was code-named �n.” He was Robert Lipka, a National Security Agency employee who was paid $27,000 for handing secrets to Russia in the 1960s. After Mitrokhin’s information was passed by Britain to U.S. intelligence services, Lipka was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The volumes also reveal that Soviet agents stashed weapons and communications equipment in secret locations around NATO countries. Included is a map of Rome showing three caches, along with detailed instructions for finding them. It’s unclear how many such weapons dumps have been tracked down by western authorities.

While some agents targeted the West, many more were deployed inside the Soviet bloc. The files list undercover agents sent to then Czechoslovakia to infiltrate the dissidents behind the 1968 Prague Spring pro-democracy uprising. Others targeted the entourage of Polish cleric Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II. The KGB noted with disapproval the future pontiff’s 𠇎xtremely anti-communist views.”


The Churchill Archives is giving researchers access to 19 boxes containing thousands of Russian-language files, typed by Mitrokhin from his original handwritten notes. The notes themselves remain classified.

There are glimpses of Mitrokhin’s mindset in the titles he gave the volumes, including “The Accursed Regime” and “The Mousetrap.”

Andrew said Mitrokhin took huge risks, knowing that 𠇊 single bullet in the back of the head” would be his fate if he were caught.

“The material mattered to him so desperately that he was prepared to put his life on the line for it,” Andrew said.

A CIA spyplane crashed outside Area 51 a half-century ago. This explorer found it.

How urban explorers uncovered the site—and the memory—of a covert Cold War–era accident.

Stealth A-12 jets were never meant to be seen, then one went missing in the Nevada desert. US Air Force

“Oxcart” was an odd nickname for the plane that killed pilot Walter Ray. Oxcarts are slow, cumbersome, and old. Ray’s A-12 jet, meanwhile, was fast, almost invisible, and novel. Among the US’s first attempts at stealth aircraft, it could travel as quickly as a rifle bullet, and fly at altitudes around 90,000 feet. On a radar screen, it appeared as barely a blip—all the better to spy on Soviets with—and had only one seat.

On January 5, 1967, that single space belonged to Ray, a quiet, clean-cut 33-year old who spent his workdays inside Area 51, then the CIA’s advanced-aviation research facility. Set atop the dried-up bed of Groom Lake in the Nevada desert, the now-infamous spot made for good runways, and was remote enough to keep prying eyes off covert Cold War projects. On the books, Ray was a civilian pilot for Lockheed Martin. In reality, and in secret, he reported to the CIA.

Ray’s last morning on Earth was chilled and windy, with clouds moving in and preparing to drop snow on the nearby mountains. He took off for his four-hour flight to Florida and back a minute ahead of schedule at 11:59 a.m., the sleek curves of the Oxcart’s titanium body triggering sonic shock waves (booms) as it sliced through the atmosphere. He’d done this many times, having already logged 358 hours in these crafts.

At 3:22 p.m., Ray radioed back to base: His gas was low. “I don’t know where my fuel’s gone to,” he said. He lowered the plane out of the speedy headwinds, hoping to save some fuel. But the altitude change couldn’t cut his consumption enough.

Thirty-eight minutes later, Ray radioed in more bad news.

The fuel tank’s low-pressure lights had blinked on. The A-12′s jet engines—so powerful that the director of central intelligence once said they sounded as if “the Devil himself were blasting his way straight from Hell”—began to fail, then sputtered out.

At 4:02, Ray sent his final known transmission: He was going to eject.

Home Plate—as this group of airmen referred to Area 51—began to search. They hoped to hear a transmission from the shortwave radio in his survival kit. For them, this hunt was also personal. Many worked on the same mission as Ray: developing planes that didn’t exist in a place that didn’t exist, sometimes risking an accident like this, which also wouldn’t exist.

Isolated in the desert, the group of about 30 staffers Barnes worked with on the site’s Special Projects felt like family. “We went up on Monday morning, came home Friday night,” recalls former Area 51 crewmember T.D. Barnes. “We couldn’t tell our wives where we were at or what we were doing.”

At 3:25 p.m. the next day, a helicopter found the plane, strewn across three canyons. The crews cut a road through the sand to schlep out the debris before anyone else found it—and found out about the secret flight.

Two days after takeoff, a CIA aircraft finally spotted Ray’s parachute, and men helicoptered in to locate their comrade. His chute formed a shroud around his body, and his ejection seat sat some 50 yards above him on the hillside. The two hadn’t separated, his parachute hadn’t deployed, and so he had slammed straight into the Earth. Blood spattered the ground, but Ray’s boots still had their spurs.

To explain the aerial search going on, the Air Force told the public a cover story: An SR-71 Blackbird—whose existence had recently been revealed–flying out of Edwards Air Force Base, had gone down.

For years, Ray’s crash sites remained largely hidden from the public. But in the late 1990s, an explorer named Jeremy Krans began what would become a decades-long quest to uncover it all, and ultimately to make Ray’s once-classified life public. “I felt that we needed to do something,” he says, “because nobody knows who the hell Walt is.”

Krans had a pastime that gave him the skills to do something about it: urban exploring, sometimes called “urbex” by the initiated. It’s the art of adventuring in and around abandoned or hidden structures, urban and otherwise. Urbexers scavenger-hunt for sites and then crawl through closed tunnels, scour old buildings, flashlight around finished mines, and trek through old military bases. The community—small and loose but dedicated, lurking and sharing on forums and blogs—is populated by photographers and amateur historians. They like to go places that used to be something else, to someone else. They’ve uncovered spots others likely never knew about, like the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane and the rainwater drains under Sydney. Krans, once a frequent poster on the urbex forum UER.ca, has always favored defense sites, beginning with empty missile silos and ghostly military installations in his early 20s.

In 1995, he and a group of like-minded friends formed an exploratory crew dubbed “Strategic Beer Command” (a riff on the US’s then-recently disbanded Strategic Air Command). It would be a few years before they’d learn of Ray’s site, but the motivation was already there: a desire to remember what the rest of the world had forgotten.

Krans’s interest in aviation goes back to the 1980s, when his dad, a machinist fascinated by engineering and innovative planes, would sometimes bring home jet models. Krans’s favorite was the SR-71 Blackbird, a Cylon-ship of a craft, and the follow-on to the A-12 he’d one day search out. Meanwhile, Krans devoured films like Indiana Jones and The Goonies—tales of explorers and treasure-hunters.

His own journey into such journeying began just months after his father passed away. Krans’s employer, a General Motors dealership, had sent him to its Automotive Service Educational Program. He felt lost and listless, and spent hours killing time between classes in the school’s computer lab, largely sucked into websites about Area 51, where he had recently made a road trip. He started reading Bluefire, a blog run by a guy named Tom Mahood. In 1997, Mahood spun a tale of searching for—and finding—a long-lost A-12 crash site. It had taken him more than two years, 20 trips, and $6,000 to replace a sunk truck.

Mahood was a veteran prober of Area 51 secrets, having, for instance, dug into the conspiratorial claims of Bob Lazar, whose stories underpin most of the site’s alien lore. (The site’s true Cold War purpose wouldn’t be acknowledged until 2013.) Mahood first read about the A-12 crash in The Oxcart Story, a 1996 CIA history of the plane’s development, which said only that Ray’s craft had gone down about 70 miles from Groom Lake. That’s not a lot to go on. The lack of information appealed to Krans: a quest.

Before Bluefire, Krans hadn’t heard of an A-12, let alone one that had gone down in the desert. The jet, he soon learned, was a marvel in its time. It could fly nearly four miles higher and four times faster (around 2,200 miles per hour, or nearly three times the speed of sound) than its predecessor, the U-2.

At such speeds, friction with the air heated much of its skin up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. In the 1960s, the only metal light and tough enough for such a feat was a titanium alloy, which made up 90 percent of the aircraft. The remainder comprised composite materials—relying heavily on iron ferrite and silicone laminate, swirled with asbestos—that absorbed radar, rather than bouncing the waves back to whoever was watching.

That wasn’t the end of the innovation list. The lubricants also had to work at both the extreme temperatures reached while traveling at three times the speed of sound, and at lower, cooler speeds. The engines needed “spike-shaped cones’’ that could slow down, squish, and then superheat the air coming in for better combustion. According to a CIA history of the plane’s development, without the spikes, the engines would only have gotten 20 percent of the required power. Amidst all this, pilots had to don astronaut-ish suits, with their own temperature and pressure controls and oxygen supplies.

While the A-12 represented a big leap forward, its usefulness would be short-lived. The US decided to stop flying over the USSR in 1960 after a U-2 pilot was shot down satellites had begun to snap recon pictures from orbit and the A-12 progeny, the SR-71 had performed its first test flight in 1964. The Oxcart flew only 29 missions, between May 1967 and May 1968, in an operation called Black Shield out of East Asia.

Ray was preparing for Black Shield during his final ride, which went sideways due to several factors: a malfunctioning fuel gauge, electrical mishaps, and perhaps an untested modification he himself had added—a common practice for test pilots. Ray, a short man, had added a 2-by-4 to his seat to make the headrest hit right. When he ejected, the wood kept him from separating from the seat, which stopped the parachute from deploying.

It was in that entrapment that Ray lost his life. And it was in that computer lab that Krans decided he needed to go find out where. At the time, it was just another exploration. “It’s Indiana Jones,” he says. “It’s treasure hunting.”

He liked how his explorations changed his conception of the past. “I’ve had a love-hate relationship with history,” he says. Reading stuff in school? Closer to “hate.” But seeking and finding something physical felt different. “You walk back in time, and you say, ‘Okay, what was happening right here if I was here 40 years ago?’” he says. “It gets you thinking.”

So he set out to think about Walt Ray.

Krans began collecting information that might lead him to Ray. The accident had left two crash sites, one for the pilot and one for his plane, which rocketed on after Ray ejected. He started with the details Mahood had spilled, which did not include the actual site of the crash. Urbexers don’t like to spoil the ending, or make it too easy for crowds to spoil the site itself, and generally leave what they discover as a mystery for others to keep solving. Maps and satellite images are typically their best tools, supplemented by databases of historical, military, or former industrial sites. UrbexUnderground.com recommends aimlessly following rivers, railroad beds, or rural roads—because those routes usually track development.

Mahood had scoured old newspapers. The Los Angeles Times put reports of the covered-up version of the crash four miles southeast of a Union Pacific Railroad site called Leith the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun plotted it four miles to Leith’s southwest. Not helpful. He’d searched topographic maps and the land itself, looking for scars on the landscape, or roads that seemed to lead nowhere. Krans gathered all the information he could from Mahood’s descriptions.

Wanting to get more details, Krans told officials a “BS story” and then offered to cover a doughnut bill for the recorder’s office in Pioche, Nevada. Information gathered from the paperwork, which included Ray’s death certificate, revealed that the pilot had died 200 yards east of a particular mining claim, a couple miles from the larger Cherokee mining operation. Krans began to gather his own detailed maps of the area, and negatives of aerial photos. Soon, he knew approximately where Ray had met his end: just off an area called Meadow Valley Wash—a low drainage that flows with water when it storms. The spot was miles from anywhere, on the side of a hill whose poky desert plants scrape anyone who walks by, and over which wild horses keep watch.

The search for Walter Ray

Krans first headed out in the fall of 1998, driving to Cherokee Mine, and searching for plane debris, at a site somewhere farther out than Ray’s landing spot. To try to find that second location, he took pictures, tried to match them to his maps, and marked down the labeled sticks denoting mining claims. Two more subsequent trips, over a few ensuing years, also revealed nothing.

He gave up for a while. But the story kept flying through his mind. Not a good quitter, he ordered more digital photos from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA. The results offered a few (differing) sets of coordinates for Ray’s hard landing and his plane’s.

The next time Krans went out, in 2005, he took eight people and three trucks. At the time, a flood had washed out the area, leaving 30-foot drops off the side of a narrow road. They uncovered nothing that he was sure came from a downed jet.

When he returned next in 2008, Krans brought along two four-wheelers, companions, and his daughter, Mercedes. At four years old, she’d been hearing about Ray much of her life. All they discovered were water bottles from earlier explorers.

“Something just told us that we were close,” Krans wrote at the time in a post on Roadrunners Internationale’s website, run by Area 51 veteran Barnes. The group aims to preserve the history of those who worked on Area 51′s classified aircrafts during the Cold War—and reunite, digitally and physically, the ones who are left, now that they can freely talk. The Roadrunners, about two dozen strong, have inducted Krans as an “associate member.”

On Krans’s next trip in 2009, he brought old hands and newcomers. One first-timer asked Krans if—after so many years of seeing nothing—he expected to just walk up and uncover the crash site. “Yup,” Krans said around the campfire, a cigar in his mouth and a near-empty beer in his hand. “I’ve been here too many times and know too many places that it wasn’t,” he wrote for the Roadrunners. “Like a life-size game of Battleship, it just can’t hide anymore.”

The next morning, the Commanders began their search where the group had halted the year before. It happened right away: As Krans was walking up a wash offshoot, something synthetic-looking caught his eye. Leaning down, he picked it up. It was an artifact from the A-12.

The others fanned out, and soon found their own pieces. They were right in the middle of the field of debris, left scattered by tragedy more than 40 years before.

Recalling this moment, Krans—who, since graduating from GM, has owned his own car-servicing shop and worked as an HVAC specialist—what it was like to find the site after so long, his voice breaks. “I don’t know how to describe it, I really don’t,” he says.

His limbic system manifests mostly in actions. Such as when, five years later, in 2014, Krans brought a memorial—a model of the A-12, welded to a metal pole—to near Ray’s resting place. He and Mercedes made it. They traced the plane’s edges onto body-shop paper, overlaid it onto a steel plate, and sliced the shape with a plasma cutter. Using a pipe bender from Krans’s old shop, they fabricated the engine housings, which stick out like devilish exhaust pipes.

At one point in their explorations, Mercedes asked her father why they were doing all this.

“Because nobody else did,” Krans told her.

Over the 12 years Krans and various Strategic Beer Command adherents had spent seeking, the true goal of their quest had shifted. “As I kept making trips back, I just—” he pauses. “It got to be more about Walt.”

It became about pulling Ray and the other Area 51 workers—like Barnes—out of anonymity and back into existence. “A bunch of these guys, they were ghosts,” he says. “They didn’t exist for that portion of their lives.” A little metal memorial could change that.

On a September day, I attempted to find it. Outside the small town of Caliente in southeast Nevada, the road turned to well-graded dirt, curving around the rocky mountains whose strata mark the tectonics and erosions that led them to their current state.

The much-worse road that winds up to Cherokee Mine doesn’t have a name. At the intersection, Google Maps says only “Turn left.” Deep gravel threatened to strand the tires cacti aimed to pierce them. At Cherokee Mine, a wild horse watched from the ridge above, still as a monument.

It was hot outside—115 degrees, much different than the morning Ray took off.

In the valley, I stopped following the wash and hiked toward the approximate place where I thought Ray went down, based on a scouring of topographic maps—matched with a picture of the saddle where the recovery helicopter had landed 53 years ago, and a close reading of descriptions from Mahood’s and Krans’s adventures. I scampered up another hill, around its side, back down, up another, and then back to the wash to survey again.

Finally, from the elevation where I started, I saw above me a stick-like object poking up out of a rock just one ridge over. No, I thought. That’s a dead tree. But next to the wood, there it was: a matte black pole poking from the rock, a sculpture at its top. I had been right next to it, just like Krans was when he found the debris field, the remnants of humans past blending within the landscape.

Where Walter Ray crashed, makeshift memorials mark the long-unknown site. Sarah Scoles

When I reached the spot, a low buzzing came from the scaled-down plane. The wind was sliding across the open ends of its engine housings. Krans didn’t intend for that to happen it’s just how moving air and open pipes work. “It almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?” Krans asks me later.

It did. I started thinking of Ray, falling to Earth. Here. Of a secret death to go with his secret life.

Drilled into the rock next to the memorial is a metal sign: Walter L. Ray, it says, the words welded into the plaque. In service of his country, 5 Jan 1967.

Past the Oxcart, there were no other signs of humans. No evidence of their aerospace achievements, wars cold or hot, lives, or deaths. Only this miniaturized A-12, whose silhouette sits stark against scrubby plants—its nose pointed toward Home Plate.

An Army-green ammo box sits nearby, bolted down and hosting notes from those few who’ve visited. Along with a laminated printout of Ray’s story, there’s a handwritten page from Krans, addressed to Ray. “I will always have a beer for you and the boys,” it says. “You guys earned it. And after the Roadrunners organization is gone, know that the memory will live on.”

The Roadrunners are getting older. The last reunion, which Krans attended, happened in 2015. After that, there weren’t enough of them left. One year at the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame annual banquet, which has become something of a makeshift reunion for Roadrunners and their associates, Frank Murray, an A-12 pilot himself, came up to Krans and shook his hand. “You make us remember,” Murray told him.

Memories of their time inside Area 51 are, in fact, all the Roadrunners have of that ghost-like period of their lives. “None of us has ever got to go back out there,” says Barnes. “Once you leave, you’re gone.”

Cold War: What Was It And How Did It Start?

It was a major part of the second half of the 20th century, ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Cold War was a major part of the second half of the 20th century, as tensions arose between two of the world's biggest superpowers over differences in both ideology and philosophy.

Given the name because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two, the USA and USSR, they instead supported major regional conflicts in various proxy wars.

The struggle for geopolitical dominance between the USA and USSR would instead often flare up indirectly, famously doing so as propaganda campaigns, espionage, rivalry at sports events and in technological competitions such as the Space Race.

The Cold War came to an end until 1991 with the collapse of the USSR, forever changing the world order and ushering in the next era of world politics.

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Origins of the Cold War

Following the end of the Second World War and the surrender of the Nazis in 1945, the uneasy alliance of the United States, the UK and USSR began to unravel.

By 1948 the Soviets had installed governments in all the Eastern European states liberated by the Red Army.

Fearing permanent Soviet dominance in the region, the Americans and British began to take action to prevent the spread of communism to western European countries.

The Cold War had fully formed by 1947 when US aid provided under the Marshall Plan to western Europe had brought those helped in line with American influence and the Soviets had fully installed openly communist regimes in eastern Europe.

The two sides of the conflict had drawn lines in the sand and the power struggle had properly begun.

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Struggle between superpowers

The Cold War would reach its peak in 1948-53. During this period the Soviets blockaded the Western-held sectors of West Berlin unsuccessfully and the US and its European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In that same window, the USSR exploded its first nuclear warhead, ending the American monopoly on the weapons and the Chinese Communist Government came into power, ramping up the geopolitical pressure.

Although never culminating in all-out war, these dominating superpowers instead won influence through a series of smaller proxy wars.

One of the earliest and most famous is when both sides exerted influence over the civil war in Korea after the Soviet-supported communist government of North Korea invaded the US-supported South Korea, ending in a tense stalemate three years later.

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The death of long-time Russian dictator Stalin would temporarily ease tensions between the two, although the standoff remained.

The next period of high tension came in between 1958 and 1962, a span of time involving a crisis so severe it almost led to major conflict.

Both the US and the Soviets began developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and in 1962, the secret installation of them in Cuba brought US cities very obviously in range of devastation.

This led to one of the most famous diplomatic crises in US history, the Cuban Missile Crisis, which only ended when both sides reached an agreement to withdraw the missiles.

Although soon afterward, both sides would sign a ban on nuclear weapons testing, the event would reinforce the determination of both sides and see the beginning of a 25-year build-up of both conventional and strategic forces.

A new era

During the 1960s and 1970s the Cold War would become more complicated, as it became more difficult to define the allegiance of countries by simple blocs of influence.

Instead, the world was more obviously defined by sets of complex patterns of international relationships.

China split with the Soviet Union in 1960 and the divide was growing, while economic growth in the West reduced any reliance on the United States.

Traditionally less powerful countries were gaining independence and becoming much harder for either side to coerce.

Spycraft between the nations remained rife as a mutual distrust and constant fear of nuclear war led to paranoia and suspicion.

A British mission of spies, known as BRIXMIS, was able to send 31 members of personnel into East Germany to keep an eye on the USSR.

Special Report: Meet The Real Cold War Spies Of BRIXMIS

The 1970s saw another temporary bout of easing tensions as demonstrated by the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) that led to the SALT I and II agreements of 1972 and 1979.

These agreements saw the two superpowers set limits on their anti-ballistic missiles and on their strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

What followed was the last period of real tension between the two superpowers, expressing itself during the 1980s through a massive arms buildup and a competition for influence in the Third World.

But the rivalry began to break down in the later years of the decade as under Mikhail Gorbachev the Soviets began weakening the country's more totalitarian aspects.

His efforts to change the system this way also came as communist regimes in the Eastern European bloc began to collapse.

The rise of democratic governments in East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were quickly followed by the reunification of Germany under NATO with Soviet approval.

In late 1991 the Soviet Union finally collapsed and 15 new independent nations were born from its territory, Russia soon elected a leader democratically to office, and the Cold War was over.

Key moments of the Cold War


4-11 February: Yalta Conference meeting of FDR, Churchill, Stalin – the 'Big Three'. The Cold War Begins.


9 February: Stalin hostile speech – communism and capitalism were incompatible.

5 March: Iron Curtain Speech by Winston Churchill – "an 'iron curtain' has descended on Europe".

10 March: Truman demands Russia leaves Iran.

1 July: Operation Crossroads with Test Able was the first public demonstration of America's atomic arsenal.

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2 September: Rio Pact – The US meets Latin American countries and creates a security zone around the hemisphere.


25 February: Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia.

2 March: Truman's Loyalty Program created to catch Cold War spies.

17 March: Brussels Pact organised to protect Europe from communism.

24 June: Berlin Blockade begins, lasting 11 months.


4 April: NATO ratified.

29 August: Russia tested its first atomic bomb.

1 October: Communists take control of China and establish the People's Republic of China.

Watch: Our documentary on BRIXMIS - the Cold War British spies who kept an eye on the Soviet Union.


24 June: Korean War begins. Stalin supports North Korea which invades South Korea equipped with Soviet weapons.


A-bombs developed by Britain.


March: CIA helps overthrow regimes in Iran and Guatemala.


May: Warsaw Pact formed.


29 June: USSR sends tanks into Poznan, Poland, to suppress demonstrations by workers.

October-November: Rebellion put down in Communist Hungary.

Berlin Wall: Then And Now


4 October: Sputnik launched into orbit.

3 November: Sputnik II launched – space dog Laika died in space.


31 January: Explorer I launched.

November: Khrushchev demands withdrawal of troops from Berlin.


January: Cuba taken over by Fidel Castro.


May: Soviet Union reveals that US spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory.

November: John F. Kennedy elected President of USA.

19 December: Cuba openly aligns itself with the Soviet Union and its policies.


17 August: Construction of Berlin Wall begins.


October: Cuban Missile Crisis.


22 November: President Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas.


August: Soviet Red Army crushes Czechoslovakian revolt.

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20 July: Apollo 11 lands on the moon.


July: SALT I treaty signed.


January: Ceasefire in Vietnam between North Vietnam and United States.

September: US-supported coup overthrows Chilean government.

October: Egypt and Syria attack Israel. Egypt requests Soviet aid.


17 April: North Vietnam defeats South Vietnam, which falls to Communist forces.


January: US and China establish diplomatic relations.

July: SALT II treaty signed.

November: Shah of Iran overthrown. Iranian Hostage Crisis.

December: Soviet forces invade Afghanistan.


October: US troops invade and overthrow regime in Grenada.


Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of the Soviet Union initiating a campaign of openness and restructuring.


October: President Reagan and Gorbachev resolve to remove all intermediate nuclear missiles from Europe.


December: Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty, agreeing to remove their "intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles". The agreement would continue for more than 30 years, until the withdrawal of both the United States and Russia.

What Was It Like Living In Cold War East Germany?


January: Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

June: Poland becomes independent.

September: Hungary becomes independent.

November: Berlin Wall is demolished and East Germany allows unrestricted migration to West Germany.

December: Communist governments fall in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Watch the video: Spying Game tales from the cold war (January 2022).