Cold War espionage

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Klaus Fuchs is considered to have been the most valuable of the Atomic Spies during the Manhattan Project.

Cold War espionage describes the intelligence gathering activities during the Cold War between the United States (CIA, NSA, FBI, and DIA) and the Soviet Union (KGB and GRU).[1] Because each side was preparing to fight the other, intelligence on the opposing side's intentions, military, and technology was of paramount importance. To gather this information, the two relied on a wide variety of military and civilian agencies. While several such as the CIA and KGB became synonymous with Cold War espionage, many other organizations played key roles in the collection and protection of the section concerning detection of spying, and analysis of a wide host of intelligence disciplines.


Soviet espionage in the United States during the Cold War was an outgrowth in World War II nuclear espionage, and Cold War espionage was depicted in works such as the James Bond and Matt Helm books and movies.


Date Topic Event    This list is incomplete; you can help by editing it.
1941-08-10 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg The Soviet GRU reestablished contact with Klaus Fuchs, a German emigre scientist, who transferred from the British Tube Alloys nuclear research program to the US-led Manhattan Project in 1943.[2]
1942 Nuclear espionage Flag of the Soviet Union.svg US communist Jacob Golos put Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (and their associated communist cell) in direct contact with Soviet intelligence operatives in New York.[3] The Rosenberg cell provided information on newest developments in electrical and radio engineering to the XY Line of the NKGB foreign intelligence.
1944 Nuclear espionage Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Yuri Modin became the KGB controller of the "Cambridge Five" ring of atomic spies.
1946-12-20 US flag 48 stars.svg The Venona counter-intelligence program is first able to decode Soviet intelligence messages thereby discovering the Soviet spying activities within the Manhattan Project.[4] During the program's four decades, approximately 3,000 messages were at least partially decrypted and translated.[5]
1949 Nuclear espionage Flag of the Soviet Union.svg A Mossad agent assumed, seeing CIA agent James Jesus Angleton dining with Cambridge Five mole Kim Philby, that the former had turned the latter into a triple agent.[6]
1950 Klaus Fuchs voluntarily confesses to MI5 that he has been spying for the USSR. Fuchs identifies Harry Gold who identifies David Greenglass which in turn leads to the arrest and trial of the Rosenbergs.[7]
1955 Joint CIA/SIS Operation Gold puts a tunnel under the frontier in occupied Berlin to tap into Soviet army communications. Already aware of the plan through George Blake, the Soviets let the operation run rather than compromise their agent.
1959-06 Corona (satellite) US flag 48 stars.svg Under the covername Discoverer the camera-carrying Corona satellite missions start.
1959-10-15 Active measures Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Ukrainian politician Stepan Bandera was assassinated on KGB orders.
1960 1960 U-2 incident US flag 48 stars.svg Pilot Francis Gary Powers' Lockheed U-2 spy plane was shot down by a Soviet surface-to-air missile. The US is forced to publicly admit that they were operating surveillance missions over the USSR.
August 1960 Discoverer 14 is the first Corona mission to successfully take reconnaissance pictures from orbit and return them to earth.[8]
1962 Oleg Penkovsky provides information to SIS and CIA about Soviet missile capabilities and deployment to Cuba. The Soviets are aware of his activities through their own agent within the NSA.
1962-10-26 Cuban Missile Crisis Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Under the pseudonym of Aleksandr Fomin, the KGB Station Chief in Washington proposed the crisis' diplomatic solution.
1964 Operation Neptune Flag of the Soviet Union.svg A ruse was used to indicate West Germany's spies remaining from World War II had been exposed.
1985-03-23 Military Liaison Missions US flag 48 stars.svg On a mission to photograph a Soviet tank storage building, US intelligence officer Major Arthur D. Nicholson was killed by a Soviet soldier.


  1. ^ "Cold War espionage". Alpha History. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Rhodes 1995, pp. 51, 57, 63.
  3. ^ Radosh 1997, pp. 22.
  4. ^ Benson 1996, pp. 5.
  5. ^ Benson 1996, pp. 7.
  6. ^ Littell, Robert. "A Cold War Mystery: Was the Soviet Mole Kim Philby a Double Agent...or a Triple Agent?". Indiebound. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Radosh 1997, pp. 16-19.
  8. ^ Williams, David R. "Discoverer 14". NASA. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 


Further Reading[edit]

  • Haynes, John Earl; Klehr, Harvey (2006). Early cold war spies: the espionage trials that shaped American politics. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 9780521674072. 
  • Sibley, Katherine A. (2007). Red spies in america : stolen secrets and the dawn of the cold war. Lawrence: University Press Of Kansas. ISBN 0700615555. 
  • Trahair, Richard C.S.; Miller, Robert L. (2009). Encyclopedia of Cold War espionage, spies, and secret operations (1st pbk. ed.). New York: Enigma Books. ISBN 1936274264. 
  • Wise, David; Ross, Thomas (1968). The Espionage Establishment. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0224613987. 

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