Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."
Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker
. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast
about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends
. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat
and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth
You may have heard how sounds travel farther during a temperature inversion
, when air near the ground is cooler than the air above. But do you know how this phenomenon is related to the 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico? [more inside]
Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives A collection of images from the book, including more disguises, images of house searches, hand-to-hand combat techniques, hidden cameras, and even fake beards, is available free of charge at Simon Menner’s website. [more inside]
"All of their lives they had been taught and told--hypnotized, really--that no one played better hockey than Canadians. And in a span of the first few weeks, when they lost two games and tied another on Canadian soil, they had to confront the fact that this was just plain wrong. And then they had to immediately adapt and overcome and figure out a way to win anyway."
Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic
makes the case that 40 years ago today, the final game of the "Summit Series", between Canada and the Soviet Union, was the greatest day in Canadian history
. [more inside]
"Only July 10, 1971, America's newest photo reconnaissance satellite, the KH-9 Hexagon
, dropped a capsule loaded with film towards the Earth. The reentry vehicle was supposed to open its parachute; an American aircraft would snatch it out of the sky in mid-descent. But the chute was never unfurled. The reentry vehicle hit the Pacific Ocean with a force of approximately 2600 Gs. And then it sunk down into the deep, before settling at 16,000 feet."
"Just last week you read about the H-bomb being dropped. Now two great English writers, two very imaginative writers — I’m gonna tell you if you have youngsters in the living room tell them not to be alarmed at this ‘cause it’s a fantasy, the whole thing is animated — but two English writers, Joan and Peter Foldes, wrote a thing which they called ‘A Short Vision’ in which they wondered what might happen to the animal population of the world if an H-bomb were dropped. It’s produced by George K. Arthur and I’d like you to see it. It is grim, but I think we can all stand it to realize that in war there is no winner.
The division of post-WWII Berlin reached everywhere in the city, even underground, sealing stations throughout the long decades of the Cold War. They were the first “ghost stations”, which can now be found everywhere: the Paris Metro (previously)
, Los Angeles
, the London Underground
, New York City
, and the aforementioned Berlin
, remaining as entombed time capsules that are passed by millions every day.
Americans and Science Fiction in the Early Cold War Era [via Futurismic
Lookout Mountain Laboratories (Hollywood, CA) was originally built in 1941 as an air defense station. But after WWII, the US Air Force repurposed it into a secret film studio which operated for 22 years during the Cold War. The studio produced classified movies for all branches of the US Armed Forces, as well as the Atomic Energy Commission, until it was deactivated in 1969. During this time, cameramen, who referred to themselves as "atomic" cinematographers, were hired to shoot footage of atomic bomb tests in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and the South Pacific.
Some of their films have been declassified and can be seen here. [more inside]
"With the renewed interest in nuclear weapons I have been struck by how few people there still are who have seen one explode." Jeremy Bernstein looks back
on the two above-ground tests he witnessed in 1957. "Smoky"
were part of Operation Plumbbob
, a series of 29 tests.
Interested in Soviet era spying by the KGB in the United States? Bummed that you cant get into the KGB archives? Well it turns out that someone copied all the good stuff already
, and you can take a peek. [more inside]
This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with
nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of
casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you
further information as soon as possible.
- The BBC releases
for use in the event of nuclear war
It stands as one of the more unusual turning points of the Cold War, thanks mostly to the surprise appearance of several naked middle-aged women. Taking The Cure
: How a group of British Columbian anarchists inspired democracy in Russia. [more inside]
:: Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security
The Mystery of Ales
:: a new take on the Alger Hiss problem
Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security
"By far the most ambitious and integral project in the burgeoning field of cold war history"
Diary of a Collapsing Superpower
- "Seventeen years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, and two years later the Soviet Union broke apart. More than 1,400 minutes published earlier this month in Russia from meetings that took place behind the closed doors of the Politburo in Moscow read like a thriller from the highest levels of the Kremlin. They reveal Mikhail Gorbachev as a party chief who had to fight bitterly for his reforms and ultimately lost his battle. But in doing so, he changed the course of history and helped bring an end to the Cold War."
(more recent ones
are PDF only) from the Cold War International History Project. During the 40-odd years of the Cold War, diplomatic historians in the West only had access to documents--papers, memos, cables, and so on--from one side of the conflict. Since the end of the Cold War, the Cold War International History Project
has been going through diplomatic archives from the Soviet Union, China, and other countries, translating documents and illuminating the other sides of the conflict. Examples: discussions between Stalin and Kim Il Sung
prior to the Korean War. Chinese documents
from 1964-1965 on the Vietnam War. Letter to Brezhnev
from Czech hardliners requesting Soviet intervention in 1968.
Modern history is replete with assassinations that have a dramatic impact on national and international politics: the killing of Alexander II by anarchists in 1881 unleashed repression and anti-semitism in the Russian empire; the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914 in Sarajevo sparked the "great war" that drowned Europe in blood and inaugurated what Eric Hobsbawm calls "the short 20th century"; the assassination of the liberal Colombian politician Jorge Gaitan in 1948 (a day after he had met a Latin American youth delegation that included the 21-year-old Fidel Castro) helped spark a civil war – the violencia – that continues to this day and the shooting down on 6 April 1994 of the plane carrying Rwanda's and Burundi's presidents, Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira precipitated the Rwandan genocide. Political killing in the cold war [& thereafter]
provides an outline of the aftereffects of assassinations, covert killings, state and judicial executions.
A Walk in the Woods. Farewell
to the original Cold War warrior
: Paul Nitze
, the college professor's son who went to Hotchkiss and Harvard and worked as investment banker before going to Washington in 1940, where he quickly became one of the chief architects of American policy towards the Soviet Union
. His doctrine of "strategic stability
" became its cornerstone for half a century (Nitze held key government posts in Washington, from the era of Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan's
, when he was the White House
on arms control
By the end of 1949, Nitze had become director of the State Department's policy planning staff, helping to devise the role of Nato, deciding to press ahead with the manufacture of the H-bomb, and producing National Security Council document 68
, the document at the heart of the Cold War
: in it, Nitze called for a drastic expansion of the U.S. military budget. The paper also expanded containment’s scope beyond the defense of major centers of industrial power to encompass the entire world. (NSC-68 was a top secret paper, written in April 1950 and declassified in the 70's, called "United States Objectives and Programs for National Security").
Was Stalin assassinated to prevent him from launching a nuclear attack on the United States?
"'The circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of non-fortuitous death,' said Jonathan Brent, a professor of Russian history at Yale University. 'And to support this further, we now have solid evidence, non-circumstantial evidence, of a cover-up at the highest level.'"
In the house where I grew up, we had a 1950's-era Bomb Shelter
in the backyard (a cold war relic
inherited from the previous owner). We used our shelter
as a playground, but many are now forgotten, repurposed
, or restored as museum exhibits
Although such shelters are still for sale
(often marketed as Tornado
or Storm Shelters
), many people today regard these shelters as relics from an earlier time
. For some, however, the current terror alerts are reviving cold war shelter memories
. As demonstrated by sites like the excellent civildefensemuseum.com
, we are clearly
with this important and revealing part of our history
Students for Suicide Pills?
On October 12th, 1984, 1900+ students turned out to vote on a referendum asking that their university's Health Services be allowed to offer cyanide pills in the event of nuclear war.
57% of students said they wanted it.
Bob Kolody vs. Coca-Cola
"Throughout the late 1950’s and early 60’s the CIA began expanding its operations. In order to effectively fight the Cold War on a global scale, it needed to establish bases in every major country. This meant that agents would need a plausible cover in order to penetrate the borders of international frontiers. They couldn’t just show up with CIA stamped on their passport ... As a solution to the problem the CIA was able to convince Coca-Cola, one of the first truly globalized companies with product distribution operations in virtually every corner of the world, to be used as a cover for the U.S. intelligence agency."