Stig Wennerström (colonel)

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Stig Wennerström
Stig Wennerström, c. 1960
Birth nameStig Erik Constans Wennerström
Nickname(s)"The Eagle"[1]
Born(1906-08-22)22 August 1906
Stockholm, Sweden
Died21 March 2006(2006-03-21) (aged 99)
Danderyd, Sweden
Allegiance Sweden
 Soviet Union (Spy)
Service/branchSwedish Air Force
Years of service1929–1963
1948–1963 (Spy)
Other workADC to Duke of Västerbotten (1938–47)[2]

Colonel Stig Erik Constans Wennerström (22 August 1906 – 21 March 2006)[1] was a Swedish Air Force officer who was convicted of treason for espionage activities on behalf of the Soviet Union in 1964.


Early life[edit]

Wennerström was born on 22 August 1906 in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of major Gustaf Wennerström and his wife Ester Berggren.[2] He passed studentexamen in 1926[3] and became fänrik in the Swedish Navy in 1929 and conducted flight training from 1931 to 1932. Wennerström was promoted to löjtnant in the Swedish Air Force in 1936 and completed the Royal Swedish Naval Staff College's staff school from 1936 to 1937.[2] He was aide-de-camp to Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten from 1938 to 1947 and was promoted to captain in 1939 and served as air attaché in Moscow from 1940 to 1941. Wennerström was promoted to major in 1944 and to lieutenant colonel in 1946. He was a teacher at the Royal Swedish Air Force Staff College from 1946 to 1948 and was again air attaché in Moscow from 1949 to 1952. Wennerström was promoted to colonel in 1951 and served as air attaché in Washington, D.C. from 1952 to 1957. He was section chief at the Military Office of the Minister of Defence from 1957 to 1961.[4]

During the 1950s, Wennerström leaked Swedish air defence plans and the entire Saab Draken fighter jet project to the Soviet Union. When working as an air attaché in Washington, D.C., he was very useful to the Soviet military intelligence agency, the GRU. As early as 1943, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO), suspected that Wennerström was working for Germany and in 1947 there were indications that he had connections with the Soviet Union, but the suspicions couldn't be proven.[5] The counterintelligence operation centred on him was intensified towards the end of the 1950s and his household maid was recruited by SÄPO. In June 1963, the maid reported that she had found some film rolls hidden in his attic. The films contained photographs of secret documents.

Arrest and conviction[edit]

In the morning of 30 June 1963, Wennerström was on his way to his work at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in central Stockholm. Just as he passed the Riksbron Bridge, three people from SÄPO came up behind Wennerström and arrested him.[6] After his arrest, Wennerström was brought to SÄPO's premises on Bergsgatan in Kungsholmen, where the hearings began immediately. At the same time, Wennerström's house on Skirnervägen 20 in Djursholm was locked for a search warrant that would take almost a week. Initially, Wennerström denied the charges. At the same time, SÄPO failed to develop the film rolls containing Wennerström's photographs of secret documents. An expert was called in, and after three and a half days, found the right method. When the photographed documents were displayed to Wennerström, he confessed, but at the same time denied that his spying had been directed against Sweden.[6] Soon, however, he was convicted. During the six years prior to his arrest, Wennerström is believed to have handed over 20,000 pages of secret documents about the Swedish defences. The documents contained information about the Swedish Air Force's strategy, secret military bases, and radar defense and mobilization plans.[6]

Wennerström was initially sentenced to life in prison, the most severe peacetime sentence (although under a military tribunal in wartime, treason could have been punishable by execution by firing squad). In 1972 the Swedish government commuted the sentence to 20 years, despite the Supreme Commander, General Stig Synnergren, still considering him to be a high security risk.[7] He was paroled in 1974 after serving a total of 10 years; the norm in Sweden at the time was to release prisoners after they had served half their sentences.

Personal life[edit]

In 1939 he married Ulla-Greta Carlsson (born 1919), the daughter of consul Eric Carlsson and Helga Andersson.[2] He had two daughters.[8] Wennerström died on 21 March 2006 at the retirement home Tallgården in Enebyberg, north of Stockholm. The funeral took place on 28 March 2006 at Altorp's Cemetery Chapel in Djursholm[9] and he was buried on 3 May 2006 at Djursholm's Cemetery.[10]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Wennerström's awards:[2]




  • Wennerström, Stig (1972). Från början till slutet: en spions memoarer (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonnier. ISBN 91-0-037890-9. SELIBR 7143825.
  • Wennerström, Stig (1946). Morgondagens flyg: sett mot bakgrunden av teknikens utveckling och andra världskriget (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonnier. SELIBR 1422397.
  • Wennerström, Stig (1946). Flygstrategien i belysning av det andra världskriget: Tävlingsskrift år 1945... Kungl. Krigsvetenskapsakademiens handlingar och tidskrift. Bihäfte ; 1946:3 (in Swedish). Stockholm: Akad. SELIBR 1417971.
  • Wennerström, Stig (1946). Röda vingar: det ryska flyget från tsartid till nutid. Allhems flygböcker, 99-1852751-X ; 3 (in Swedish). Malmö: Allhem. SELIBR 1387091.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom, 99". The Washington Post. AP. 31 March 2006. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Harnesk, Paul, ed. (1962). Vem är vem? 1, Stor-Stockholm [Who is who? 1, Greater Stockholm] (in Swedish) (2nd ed.). Stockholm: Vem är vem. p. 1369.
  3. ^ Åhlén, Bengt, ed. (1953). Svenskt författarlexikon: biobibliografisk handbok till Sveriges moderna litteratur. [2], 1941-1950 (in Swedish). Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren. p. 640. SELIBR 113134.
  4. ^ Burling, Ingeborg, ed. (1962). Vem är det: svensk biografisk handbok. 1963 [Who is it: Swedish biographical handbook. 1963] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedt. p. 1135. SELIBR 9649168.
  5. ^ See a full account of the Wennerström affair in An Agent in Place by Thomas Whiteside (1966, republished in 1983 in Ballantine Intelligence Library, ISBN 0-345-30326-1)
  6. ^ a b c Lans, Karl (2013). "Storspionen Stig Wennerström". Populär Historia (in Swedish). Lund: Historiska media (6). SELIBR 8264634. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  7. ^ Aktuellt 1973. K G Bertmarks förlag. 1973. ISSN 0343-6993.
  8. ^ Tagesson, Eric; Aschberg, Richard; Hjertén, Linda (28 March 2006). "Spionen blev 99 år". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  9. ^ Aschberg, Richard (29 March 2006). "Här begravs storspionen". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Stig Erik Konstans Wennerström" (in Swedish). Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b Phaleristica

Further reading[edit]

  • Bergmark, Birgitta (1993). Stig Wennerström: spionen som teg [Stig Wennerström: the spy who was silent] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonnier Alba. ISBN 91-34-51357-4. SELIBR 7247413.
  • Bernhardsson, Carl Olof; Falkengård, Christina; Thunvik, Sten (1967). Överste W förrädare: Wennerströms spionage : en samlad redogörelse byggd på källforskning och bilddokument [Colonel W traitor: Wennerström's espionage: a comprehensive report based on the source research and image documents] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Medén. SELIBR 1243537.
  • Rönblom, Hans-Krister (1964). Wennerström, spionen [Wennerström, The Spy] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonnier. SELIBR 732063.
  • Sundelin, Anders (1999). Fallet Wennerström [The Wennerström Case] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedt. ISBN 91-1-300740-8. SELIBR 7151201.
  • Whiteside, Thomas (1966). An agent in place: the Wennerström affair. New York: Viking Press. SELIBR 8178136.

External links[edit]