The Cold War is probably the most bizarre of all wars in history. During this period, everyone was spying on everyone, everyone was afraid of what the adversary could know, could say, could do. Paranoia had reached new heights, and propaganda was flying in all directions. In this context, anyone with a little power could quickly spiral, could fear espionage or be suspected of acting for the enemy. This big nonsense has obviously given rise to absurd and stupid situations, and now we can be happy to talk about it.
1. The head of Britain’s anti-Soviet spy unit was none other than a Soviet spy
Kim Philby is often considered the greatest traitor of all time by the English. He was a journalist, son of a great diplomat/spy. In 1940, he was hired by MI6, the British intelligence service, then he began to act on behalf of the Soviets, for example by causing the death of a Polish general whom he was supposed to protect. When MI6 wanted to find the moles that had infiltrated it, Kim Philby offered to open an anti-Soviet unit, and he was named head of that section: Section IX. Throughout the rest of his career, he did not stop sabotaging the actions of his unit by warning Moscow as soon as a mission against the Soviets was in progress. His little trick was only discovered in 1954 when a Soviet spy decided to switch sides and denounced him to the Western bloc. Still, Philby denied it outright and got away with it, even though he lost his job as Section IX chief. Afterwards, he resumed his job as a journalist, writing articles against the Soviets while continuing to give them whatever information he had. In 1962, knowing that he was threatened, he ended up taking refuge in Moscow and he obtained a position to train Soviet agents to fit into English society. He will have betrayed until the end, and again, we spent a lot of details of his life.
2. The leader of the anti-communist struggle in the United States was supplied with heroin by the chief of the fight against drugs
You have probably already heard of Joseph McCarthy, the politician who, between 1950 and 1954, launched the “witch hunt” in the United States. Basically, his goal was to flush out all communists and sympathizers within the government. Only, McCarthy was an alcoholic and heroin addict, and that, the Soviets must not know it, otherwise they would be able to use this information to make propaganda against the United States. As a result, Harry J. Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the American federal agency for the fight against drugs, preferred to supply McCarthy directly with heroin so that he would not make waves. The irony of it all is that Anslinger had a deep hatred for drugs, users and traffickers, yet he himself had the role of dealer in an attempt to save face for his country.
3. Americans recruited a thousand ex-Nazis as spies
In documents declassified by the CIA in 2014, it was discovered that during the Cold War, the Americans used the Nazis they had welcomed after the Second World War to spy on the Communists. The deal was simple: either you use your knowledge in Germany and all over Europe to help us spy on the Soviets, or we no longer help you escape your Nazi trials. And among those Nazi spies, many were top officials under Hitler, like Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing, one of the guys who worked directly on crafting the Final Solution. We can say that the United States has very, very dirty hands.
4. Britain got rid of 105 Soviet spies thanks to spy arrested for drunk driving
In the 1960s, Oleg Lyalin was sent as a spy to the UK by the KGB. In 1971, no luck, Lialine was arrested by a policeman because he was drunk driving. Soon enough, he is unmasked and taken to MI5 for questioning. There, to avoid prison, and because he wanted to start a new life with his secretary in the United Kingdom, he throws everything he knows. His information allows the British to cleanse their administrations of 105 Soviet spies. It was the biggest blow ever to spies in the USSR during the war, and it all happened thanks to a drunk guy driving his car.
5. The Soviets wanted to blackmail a gay American journalist and totally failed.
In 1957, American journalist Joseph Alsop was in Moscow. During a party, he is seduced by a handsome man who invites him to his room. After having sex with him, KGB men tell Alsop that he has just been set up and that they have photos of him having sex. They won’t release them if he agrees to spy for them. Alsop refuses and writes this story in a document he gives to the CIA to inform them of the situation. The CIA protects him and does not divulge anything. The KGB, on the other hand, carries out its threats years later by sending the photos to a whole bunch of journalists who… decide not to publish them. Eventually, Alsop pulled through and never needed to come out publicly, which at the time could have disastrous consequences. This is how the methods of the KGB found their limits.
6. The Americans wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on the Moon.
Project A119 was the name of this stupid idea. The Americans had decided in 1950 to develop a project to explode an atomic bomb on the Moon, just to cheer up their compatriots who were tired of seeing the Soviets succeed in sending their ships into space. It was also a way to show enemies that even if they got to the Moon before them, well they could still reach them. The explosion wouldn’t have damaged the Moon and wouldn’t even have been visible from Earth, but they wanted to do it anyway, just to show who had the biggest one. Eventually they scrapped the project in 1959 and focused on the goal of landing a man on the moon, which was a little less silly, though not entirely useful either.
7. The CIA trained a cat to eavesdrop on the Soviets
This is one of the most mind-blowing stories about the CIA. The code name for this project was “Acoustic Kitty”. The goal was to use the cats to which one would have implanted microphones in order to spy on the enemy. The transmitting antenna was located in the tail of the felines so spies could listen live. A cat served as a guinea pig for the operation, and its transformation into a living transmitter cost several million dollars. For his first mission, he was dropped near the Russian Embassy in Washington. Barely out of the van that had brought him there, the cat was run over by a taxi. End of the operation, and end of the project abandoned by the CIA. Millions of dollars spent for nothing. Finally, yes, it gives us a good anecdote to tell.