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
posted by Kattullus
on Jul 28, 2014 -
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]
posted by mbrubeck
on Jun 8, 2014 -
"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]
posted by dry white toast
on Sep 28, 2012 -
"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.
posted by brundlefly
on Jun 27, 2011 -
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]
posted by zarq
on Sep 14, 2010 -
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
posted by Artw
on Oct 2, 2008 -
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]
posted by amyms
on May 13, 2008 -
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."
posted by Gyan
on Nov 28, 2006 -
(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.
posted by russilwvong
on Jun 2, 2006 -
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.
posted by y2karl
on Aug 24, 2005 -
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").
posted by matteo
on Oct 22, 2004 -
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.
posted by Fat Elvis
on Sep 4, 2001 -
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."
posted by bytecode
on Jun 21, 2001 -