Soviet Espionage in America

Figure 1.--The best known of the Soviet spies in America were the Rossenbergs. The American left and the Soviet propaganda machine turned the Rosenbergs into innocent marters and the Rosembergs themselves to the end claimed that they were innocent. Their two boys were turned into props for Soviet propaganda. We now know that the Rosenbergs, primarily Julius were guilty of espionage and that the material they passed on materially aided the Soviet atomic bomb program. It is no accident that less than a year after the Soviets exploded their bomb (August 1949). It is no accident that less than a year later, North Korean troops heavily armed with Soviet tanks and equipment crossed the 38th parallel, launching the Korean War (June 1950). Over 40,000 Americans, 5 million Koreans, and at least 0.5 million Chinese would die in the next 3 years of fighting. The irony of the Rosenberg case is that the Rosenbergs probably were true believers who did believe that their actions would promote world peace. The Soviet Union pepetrated the myth fervently held by the Amnerican and international left that the Rosenbergs were innocent and did not receive a fair trial. The skill of Soviet propaganda and the appeal of socialist ideology is demonstrated by the fact that this could be perpetrated by country responsible for the killing of millions and and the sentencing of even more millions to long terms in the Gulag without trials of any kind. The caption of this June 1953 wire photo read, "The two sons of condemned atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Julius' mother join marchers during a demonstration in front bof the White House. Michael, 10, walks between his grandmother, Mrs. Sophie Rosenberg, and an unidentified girl. Robert 6, looks away at right as his hand is held by Emily Alman, a leader of his demonstration." Emily Arnow Alman was a sociologist and attorney who was especially concerned witth basttered women and other social causes. Well intentioned people like Alman who exercized their constintutional rights to demonstrate never seem to have expressed concern about the absence of protest demonstrations on Red Square.

Widely publicized spy cases during the 1950s added to the public concern about an internal Communist threat. A myth developed during the 1960s that the American Government eroneously pepetrated a myth that Soviet agents penetrated the U.S. Government. One can argue about the seriousness of Soviet operations, but the historical record is clear. Soviet spies did obtain valuable information, especially on nuclear weapons. And Soviet agents or individuals sympathetic to the Soviets did rise to important positions, especially in the State Department. Information was developed by the FBI at the time. Subsequent information revealed by the Verona Papers and the brief opening of KGB files after the fall of the Soviet Union tell us much more. Two of the most important involved involving Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. At the time the degree to which the Soviets had penetrated the Manhattan Project was not known. Only later were the Verona Intercepts lead to a fuller understanding of the Soviet spy network. Later Robert Oppenheimer himself came unders suspision. The Rosenbergs were probably not the most harmrful spys. There were others, including Klaus Fuchs who provided much more useful information. There is no doubt, however, Julius Rossenberg was a Soviet spy and was guilty of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. While the Rosenbergs provided information of only limited value, they proved to be enormously effective in Soviet propaganda to condemn the United States. Rudolf Abel was the Soviet master spy in America during the Cold War. He operated under the name of William Fischer. He entered the United States in 1948 and set up an effective ring of agents. His primary assignment was nuclear weapons. He worked with both the Cohens and the Rosenbergs.

NKVD Washington Station Chief

Marshall Stalin individually picked NKVD Major Zaruban to serve as the NKNV station chief at the Soviet Embassy in Washington (October 1940). Major Zarubin earned this plum assignment because if his performance in interviewing Polish POWs taken after invading Poland as a NAZI ally (September 1939). Major Zaruban oversaw the interviews conducted at the Kozelsk prison camp. Kozelsk was a former Orthodox Monestary that the NKVD had converted to arison camp. It was here thst most of the Polish officers were sent. The interviews were not conducted in a brutal way. In fact, Major Zarubin conducted himself in a correct, even sympathetic manner. He was seen as an honorable, cultured Soviet official. Many of the POWs opened up to him, not aware that their lives were in danger. Many of the officers interviewed by Major Zaruban and his staff were subsequently shot by the NKVD in the Katyn Forest. Major Zaruban's orders were to cultivate agents of influence in the U.S. Government. His wife Elizabeth, who was a NKVD captain, accompanied him. When the Soviets learbned of the American effort to build an atmomic bomb, this became a priority in Soviet espionage. It would be Major Zarubin and his wife who would launch NKVD efforts to penetrate the Manhattan Project. They remained in Washington until recalled (1944).

Individual Soviet Spies

The Soviets mounted a massive espionage iperation in the United States. This was begun before World War II, continued during the War and into the Cold War that followed the War. The NKVD/KGB planted agents, but for the most part the spying was done by American citizens. The motives of the individuals varied. Some were attracted by the money. Most were left-wing oriented idealists. During the War period, some believed that the Soviet Union had to be assisted because they were fighting the NAZIs. After the War the underlying motivation emerged, namely the belief that liberal democracy and free market capitalism was a flawed, explotive system. And they believed that Communism with its Socialist economic system was a more just system that would lead to a just, utopian future. The terrible atrocities of the Soviet state were either unknown or dismissed as a unpleasant necesity to achieve the ultimate goal of a just society. The agents are notable for their varied backgronds. Some were low-income individuals from immigrant Jewish families. Others were bluebloods from notble american families fating back to the colonia era. Liberal Americans would decry the hunt for these Soviet agents and there is no doubt people's rights were abused and some politicans exploited the situation. One fact, however, can not be denied, that there was an extensive network of Soviet spies. The least here should not be considered inclusive. Actually several hundred Americans were involved in the Soviet spy networks. Here we list only the most notable.

Rudolf Abel (Soviet Union)

Rudolf Abel was the Soviet master spy in America during the Cold War. He operated under the name of William Fischer. He entered the United States in 1948 and set up an effective ring of agents. His primary assignment was nuclear weapons. He worked with both the Cohens and the Rosenbergs. His agents had infiltrated Los Alamos where the Manhattan Project had developed the atomic bombs. Most analysts believe that the information gathered by Abel had a major impact on the Soviet nuclear program. He also set up sabotage operations in the United States and Latin America. The FBI did not arrest him until June 1957, primarily using information provided Reino Hayhanen, a Soviet defector. Abel was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was released in 1960, in exchange for the the American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, which the Soviets had shot down.

Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant

Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant are forgotten members of the Rosenberg spy ring. They were never caught and arrested. They managed to elude the FBI and find refuge in the Soviet Union. They played an important role in the development of modern Soviet technology. Nikita Khrushchev even built a new city--Zelenograd. This became the Soviet Union's Silicon Valley. They in effect helped found the Soviet microelectronics industry.

Elizabeth Bentley (United States, 1908-63)

Elizabeth Terrill Bentley (1908–63) was an American Communist like many during the Depression moved by the utopian vision depicted in Soviet propaganda about prosperous workers and happy dancing peasants. She became an important Soviet spy in the United States before and during World War II. She decided to defect after becoming more aware of the true nature of Soviet Communism (1945). Bentley proved to be critical to unraveling an important part of the vast Soviet spy network in America. She successfully exposed two spy networks, identifying over 80 Americans working for Soviet inteligence agencies. She worked undercover for 3 years. Her testimony was released to the public (1948). The result was a media sensation and had lent real weight to the anti-Communism of the McCarthy era. Interestingly today the media tends to emphasize the dishonesty of Senator McCarthy and not the very real and extensove Soviet inteligence operations at the time and the very real damage it did. As a result, only serious historians today will recognize Elizabdth Bentley's name and activites.

Whittaker Chambers (United States, 1901-61)

Whittaker Chambers was born Jay Vivian Chambers (1901). He was also known as David Whittaker Chambers. He was a writer and editor. He joined the Communist Party and was recruited for espionage work. He later renounced Communism and became a fervent anti-Communist during the McCarthy Era. Chambers while an editor at Time identified Alger Hiss, a respected member of the liberal establishment, as a fellow member of his underground Communist cell during the 1930s (August 1948). This lent currency to the right-wing charges that Communist had penetrated the Truman Administration. He then testifying in the perjury and espionage trial of Alger Hiss. He was thus vilified by the Americam Left who elevated Hiss to martyred saintdom status. We now know that Hiss like the Rosenbergs were guilty as sin. There were two protracted trials. Hiss sued Chambers for slander. In the end, Hiss was finally convicted of perjury for denying his espionage activities and sentenced to five years in jail. This was done without the proof ofered by the still secret Venona Papers. Chambers described both his espionage work and his subsequent conversion to anti-Comminism in a 1952 book. [Chambers] William F. Buckley Jr. described him as 'the most important American defector from Communism'.

Judith Coplon (United States, 1921-2011)

Judith Coplon was born in Brooklyn into a prosperous German Jewish family (1921). She was a brilliant scholarship student and active in cmus Communist groups. She graduated cum laude from Barnard College (1943). Her quiet life style then changed dramatically. The diminuative, fashionably groomed and dressed Coplon in short order found herself one of the NKVD's most valuable agents, in love with a Soviet agent, and at the center of a sensational trial. She immediately got a job in the Justice Department after graduation . She transferred to the Foreign Agents Registration section (1944). There she has access to the FBIs counter-intelligence operations. Her Communist ideologicl sympathies meant that she brought to attntion of the NKGB which recruited her (late-1944/late-1945). She met with Vladimir Pravdin, the NKVD station chief in New York City (January 4, 1945). Her code name was Sima. Although a low-level clericl employee she became one of the NKVD's most valuable agents. She was ordered to focus on the Justice Department counter-intelligence archive that contained nformation from the various government agencies (FBI, OSS, and Naval and Army intelligence perations). She provided here NKVD handler documents from this top secret archive. This included FBI investigations of Soviet organizations in the United States as well as information on leaders of the Communist Party of the United States. Coplon ws apparently bothered by FBI investigations of these organizationsand people. She came to the attention of the FBI as U.S. codebreakers began to crack the Venona messages (late-1948). She was referred to as only SIMA, but the FBI also noticed a request for information on Judy Coplon who works in the Justice Department. They soon made the connection with SIMA. She became the was the first person actually tried as a result of the Venona Project. FBI Special Agent Robert Lamphere lied at her trial that Coplpn had come to the FBI attention because of information from a reliable 'confidential informant'. The Venona Project was not mentioned in her trial because of the need to keep counter-intelligence operations secret. There were also unuthorized wire taps. The FBI planted a susposed secret document for her to pass to the Soviets. FBI agents arrested Coplon in Manhattan as she was meeting with Valentin Gubitchev, a KGB official employed by the United Nations (March 4, 1949). She was carrying what she believed were the secret U.S. government documents . She was coinvicted of espionage, but the conviction was quashed because of FBI misconduct. The Government decided not to retry her becuse nother trial would unveil information about FBI counter-intelligence and code-breaking opertations. Notably despite her Communist sympthies, she had no interest in moving to the Soviet Union. She married one of her attorneys.

Klaus Fuchs (Germany 1911–88)

Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs was a German theoretical physicist and refugee from the NAZIs who the British offered refuge. Fuchs was a brilliant physicist who made an important contribution to the Manhattan Project and convyed important secrets to the Soviets. He was the son of a Lutheran pastor and attended the University of Leipzig, where his father was a professor of theology. In addition to being a brilliant student, he became involved in student politics, joining the the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) student group and the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, the SPD's paramilitary organisation. He was expelled from the SPD for his radical views (1932). It is at this time he joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). After thevNAZIs seized power and began arresting Communists in the aftermth of the Reichstag fire and Enabling Act he went into hiding (1933). He eventually fled to Britain where he continued his studies. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Bristol under the supervision of Nevill Mott, and his DSc from the University of Edinburgh, where he worked as an assistant to Max Born. After the outbreak of World War II, the British interned him and other German nationals on the Isle of Man (939). He was moved to Canada with other German nationls. After he was cleared of NAZI connections, he returned to Britain (1941). He was granted British citizenship. He worked as an assistant to Rudolf Peierls, working on "Tube Alloys"—the British atomic bomb project. It is at this time he began passing information on the project to the Soviet Union through Ruth Kuczynski, codenamed Sonia, another German Communist and a major in Soviet Military Intelligence who also connected with Richard Sorge's spy ring in the Far East. Fuchs and Peierls went to Columbia University, in New York City as part of the British mission to the Manhattan Project (1943). Fuchs joined the Theoretical Physics Division at the Los Alamos Laboratory (August 1944). Manhattan director Groves became suspicious of his from an early point, but thevBritish vouched for him and refused to conduct a through investigation. It is widely beieved that he wa protected by someone in MI-6, but this has also not been thorighly investigated. At Los Alamos He worked under Hans Bethe. His chief area of expertise was the problem of implosion, a key problem in the development of the plutonium bomb. He was a key source of information fpr the Soviets on the mnhattan Project. He was credited with many significant theoretical calculations leading to the first nuclear weapons. After the war he returned to Britain and worked at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, heading the Theoretical Physics Division. He made important contributions to the Britih hydrogen bomb development. After an investigation, Fuchs confessed that he was a Soviet atomic spy (January 1950). He was fond guilty and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment and stripped of his British citizenship. The British released him after serving 9 years of his sentence (1959). He returned to Germany, of course the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). He was elected to the Academy of Sciences and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) central committee. He was later appointed deputy director of the Institute for Nuclear Research in Rossendorf, where he served until he retired (1979).

David Greenglass (United States, 1922-2014)

David Greenglass was a Soviet atomic spy who worked on the Manhattan Project. He was briefly asigned to Clinton Engineer Works uranium enrichment facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was tghen moved to , the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico (August 1944). He was a devout Communist and made no secret about it, at keast among associates. At this continued even at Los Alamos. How he fell through the security precautioins active as part of the Manhattan Project. After the War he was arrested by the FBI and unlike what one would expect from a committed Cimmunist, 'sang like a canary'. He provided testimony that helped convict his sister and brother-in-law Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Because unlike Greenglas they refused to cooperate in the investiftion, were executed for their espionage activity. Greenglass served 9 1/2 years in prison. He later stated that, at the urging of prosecutors, he lied at the Rosenbergs' trial, falsely implicating his sister Ethel Rosenberg, to protect himself and his wife. This may be true, the FBI certainly wanted the Risenbergs ti confess and provide detaols on what they did and who their associates were. It is also true that Greenglass bcause he did just that had disgraced himself within his community--the left wing Jewish community who cling to the fiction that the Rosenergs were innocent. Attacking the FBI may well have been an effort to redeam himself.

Ted Hall

Ted Hall worked at Los Alamos. He passed research information to the Soviets, but was not caught at the time. The Verona Papers eventually led the FBI to Hall. By all accounts the information on the Manhattan Project that he provided the Soviets was more valuable than that provided by the Rosenbergs. Once the Soviet's tested their first atomic bomb, he refused to continue cooperating with Soviets further. He turned down Rudolf Abel's request for further information on American atomic research. Fearing arrest, he moved to England and was never prosecuted.

Alger Hiss (United states, 1904-96)

One of the most prominent Communist espionage investigations was that of Alger Hiss. For years the American Left insisted that Hiss was innocent, a victim of McCartyism. We now know that he was indeed a Soviet spy. A montain of evidence exists, including the Venona Papers. Alger was born in Baltimore (1904). His father committed suiside when Alger was only 2-years old (1906). Hess attended John Hopkins University and Harvard Law School (1926-29). He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He then worked in the Departments of Agriculture under liberal ikon Henry Wallace.. Further appointments took him to the Justice and State Department during the New Deal. Hiss as a State Department official aided President Roosevelt at the World war II Yalta Conference (1945). He worked briefly as secretary-general of the the United Nations. He began working as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1949). During Congressional investigation of Soviet espionage, Hiss' name came up. Whittaker Chambers was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (August 1948). He claimed during his testimony that Hiss was a member of his Soviet spy cell. The charge was referred to a Federal grand jury. Hiss denied Chambers's charge. Hiss was charged with perjury which was easier to prove than a treason or espionage charge. The first trial ended in a hung jury (1949). Federal procecutiors tried him a second time and obtained a conviction. He was sentencedf to 5 years inprisonment. He was released (1954). After release he was active in left-wing circles and worked to clear his name. He became a poster boy for Government abuse of civil liberties. He unsuccessfully sued the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act, attempting to gain access to FBI and State Department files (1970s). This might be interprted as an innocent man trying to clear his name or a committed Soviet agent trying to gain the release of information about FBI sources which would be useful to the Soviets. The United States after World war II succeeded in decoding large numbers of secret Soviet cables. This work became known as the Venona Papers. One of the cables refers to an American with the code name Ales. [Venona decrypt, March 30, 1945.] The cable idebntified Ales as a Soviet agent working in the State Department, who accompanied President Roosevelt to the 1945 Yalta Conference and then flew to Moscow. This description only fit Hiss. Whileit is clear that Hiss was a Soviet spy, it is unclear just what useful informtion he delivered to Moscow. Hiss died (1996).

Margarita Konenkova (Russia, 1895–1980)

Soviet intellience not only recruited spies, but tried to insert agents close to important targets that could not be tuned. As the atomic bomb became a key intellience target, famed nuclear pysicist Albert Einstein became a target of interest. Although Einstein is seen as a genius, but addeled minded, in fact he had aeal taste for the ladies. He was married twice and had several liasins with women, including married women. Clearly physics was not all that was on his mind. Sexual entrapment was a Soviet inteligence special. It is now believed, but proved that the NKVD had recruited Margarita Konenkova and ordered her to develop a relationship with the aging Einstein at the end of World war II (1945-46). She was married to Russian sculptor Sergei Konenkov, but sometimes referred to as 'Einstein's last love'. The two met when her husband began working on Einstein's bust. It is unclear if the affair began before the death of Einstein's second wife, Elsa (1936). Einstein wrote love letters that show that he was smitten by Margarita. Einstein had a string sense of morals, but this does not seem to have included the affect that affairs with married women had on others. Part of Konenkov's mission was to introduce Einstein to Soviet diplomats in New York. She was apparently run by Soviet spymaster Pavel Sudoplatov. [Sudoplatov] Konenkova was ordered to 'influence Oppenheimer and other prominent American scientists who she met at Princeton'. Princeton University took in Einstein after he fled from Germany (1931). Because of his presence, most of the important pysicists who would become involved in the Mahattan Project came to Princeton at one time or another to visit and exchange ideas with Einstein. Konenkovais known to have introduced Einstein to the Soviet consul in New York. Einstein helped set the Mnhattan Projct in motion. He was not directly involved in the project, but as he had many conversations with key scientists involved with th Project. He could have been a valuble source of informtion. And given Einstein's reputation, it is likely that Soviet intelligence may have considered him a more important figure than he actually was.

George Koval (United States, 1913-2006)

George Koval was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the son of immigrant Russian immigrant parents. They had come to America to escape anti-Semetic percution in Tsarist Russia. America was of course not perfect and the family experience anti-Semitism. Thus like many American Jews, there was great entusism when the Tsar was ovrthrown. And this continued with the Bolsheciks seized power. Many American Jews believed that the Communists would abolish anti-Semitism. George grew up in merica. As a young man he returned to Russia, now the Soviet Union. The Soviets had announced that they were creating a Jewish Homeland. The Kovls were enthusiastic. George went with his parents to the Soviet Union to the new Jewish Autonomous Region near the Chinese border. What Stalin;s motivation was in establishing this Jewish Homeland, but its placement suggests that security was a factor. Any any rate, the Kovals were true believers. Thy settled on a collective farm in rather harsh conditions. Even so they were profiled in American Communist publications were following the Soviet line of happy workers and peasants and the highly effective collectivization effort. George because of his American uprising and accnt was Koval was recruited by the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate. He was trained, and assigned the code name DELMAR. He returned to the United States (1940) and was was drafted (early-1943). The Soviets thought that they had lost a potenially valuable agent. The Army selected him, however, for the Specialized Training Program (STP). This was a program to provide talented draftees specialized training so theu could be of more use to the war effort than an ordinary soldier. As a matter of pure serendipity, he would up at Los Alamos. There he operated in complete anonymity. Even his bunk mates had no idea as to his politics. He managed to provide the Soviets details on the production processes and volumes of the polonium, plutonium, and uranium used in American atomic weaponry, and descriptions of the weapon production sites. No one knows howhe managed to send this information. After the War, Koval left on a European vacation but never returned to the United States (1948). No one knew he returned to the soviet Union or hat he had ben involved in espionage. He died unnoticed in Moscow (2006). It was none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin posthumously outed him (2007). Putin awarded Koval the Hero of the Russian Federation decoration for "his courage and heroism while carrying out special missions". The Russians announced that he was the only Soviet intellignce officer to iniltate thevManhattan Project and played an important role play an important role in developing the'atomic fuse' use in the first Soviet atomic bomb. It is likely that his contribution was the secrets he stole rather than real technical competence of his own.

Victor Andreevich Kravchenko (Soviet Union, 1905-66)

One high-profile Soviet defector was a Ukranian, Victor Andreevich Kravchenko (1905-66). Kravchenko became became an engineer before the war. As a young man he was an enthusiastic Party member (1920s). He became alienated by Stalin's brutal Collectivization program and the famine created to destroy the Uktanin peasantry. He was abused during the Great Terror, but managed to avoid arrest. He served in the Red army during the War as a captain before being posted to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. as part of the Soviet Purchasing Commission which was part of the war-time Lend Lease efort. Once in America he saw real freedom a decided to defect. He wrote about his activities as a Soviet officals and his asjustment to freedom and capitalism. [Kravchenko]

Duncan Chaplin Lee (United States)

Duncan Chaplin Lee considered himself a patriot. He was a brilliant student and Rhodes Scholar. He came from a distinguished family. He also has been described as one of the most effecytive moles to infiltrate U.S. intelligence operations. He grew up during the Depression and was exposed to leftist politics at Oxford. He became a fervent communist, but did so under cover. He followed William “Wild Bill” Donovan to the new Office of Strategic Services (OSS), America's first spy agency. Lee was a quick study and advnced in the U.S. intelligence service. This made him an increasinly important Soviet spy. He became on of Donovan's chief aides. He was able to privide the NKVD important information like timeframe of the Normandy invasion and the identityn of OSS personnel suspected of communist sympathies. A former handlers was arrested bybthe FBI and confessed, naming Lee as a Soviet agent (1945). J. Edgar Hoover soent 13 years trying to prove that. Lee was accused of treason by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Lee somehow managed to fend off the charges.He was never charged for treason. Lee apparently reconsideredung his treason, became a Cold Warrior in China, fighting the Communists. [Bradley]

Isaiah Oggins (United States, 1898-1947)

Isaiah Oggins (Ysai or Cy) was an American communist who spied for the Soviet Union, but unlike most Americans, not in the United States. Simon M. Oggins and his wife Rena were part of the Jewish emigration from Tsarist oppression. they came from from the David 'Reuben' Abolnik shtetl near Kovno (Kaunas), at the time in Lithuania, part of the Tsarist Empire. They reached New York (1888). Isaih was the third of four children, born in Willimantic, Connecticut (1898). He was an excellent student and entered Columbia University (1917). Anti-Semtism was prevalent in America at the time, although not the horific Tsarist pogroms. Colombia had a quota,limiting Jewish admissions. He earned a B.A. in History and began working on his doctorate while working as a history reader at Colombia and then teaching in the New York Public School system. I am not sure about his motivation, probably anti-Semitism he experienced and ideological commitment to socialism. He ws no doubt impressed with Bolshevik propaganda about creating an ideal state. He joinied the Workers Party of America (1923). He began working as aesearcher at the Yale University Press. he married Nerma Berman (1898-1995) with similar left wing views (1924). She was a Rand School student and Communist activist. She was born in the Skapiskis shtetl (also near Kovno). She began working as secretary of the New York division of the National Defense Committee of the Rand School for Red Scare victims such as Scott Nearing and left-wing other professors. Oggins agreed to work for Sovie espionage. His U.S. citizenship provided access without suspision to other countries. He applied for a U.S. passport (1926). Nerma applied for aassport (1928). They departed New York and set up a safe house in the Zellendorf district of Berlin (1928). German at the time had a large, vocal Communist Party. The Ogginses moved on to Paris (1930). They lived in Neuilly-sur-Seine and spied on both the White Russian emigres and Trotskyites. When French counter-intelligence uncovered a Soviet GRU spy net work (exposure l'affaire Switz (referring to Robert Gordon Switz) (1933-1934). the Ogginses left Paris (1934). They returned to the United States with their young son Robin (1931- ) who was born in Paris. Oggins was given a new assignment in China (1935). He left his wife and child behind. His assignment was in Shanghai, the business center of China which the Japanese were trying to seize. He filed reports on northern China and Manchuris which the Japanese had seized. Japanese seizure of Manchuria was aajor concern for the Soviets, threatening Siberia and Vladisvostock. When the Japanese invaded China proper, Oggins fled. He reunited with his wife and Robin in Paris (1938). They parted again (May 1938). Oggins went to the Soviet Union. Nerman returned to New York with the outbreak of war (September 1939). The NKVD arrested Oggins at the Hotel Moskva (February 1939). Neither him or Nerma appear to have had the slighest idea that the Soviets of all people would arrest him. We are not sure why he was arrested, but being a Jew and American, was probably sufficent ground. He was taken to the Lubyanka. Aing was held (January 5, 1940). He received a sentence of 8 years. He was incarcerated at Norillag where he became known there as 'The Professor'. Nerma Berman Oggins asked the U.S. State Department to investigate her husband's disappearance. As a result U.S. diplomats were able to meet with Oggins at the Butyrka prison in Moscow (December 8, 1942). Stalin refused, however, to release Oggins. Even after his sentence was served, Oggins was not released. He was taken to Laboratory Number One (the 'Kamera'), where Grigory Mairanovsky injected him with the poison curare (1947).[Meier] It is not clear why Stalin ordered his execultion, but probably because Oggins knew a great deal about Soviet espionage. His wife Nerma who was critical with how Jews were treated in America, ironically worked with the FBI to help her husband. As far as we know, she never spoke out publically about what the Soviets did to her husband.

Michael Staright (Britain, 1916-2004)

One KGB plant began his career at age 9 years in of all places an English private preparatory school. Many private schools were bastions of conservative thought. This was not the case of Dartington Hall. The school was founded by Leonard Elmhirst, an idealistic individual who dreamed of creating a utopian community with radical ideas about rural development and education. His marriage to the American railroad heiress and widow Dorothy Whitney gave him the money to actually experiment with his ideas. He bought the Dartngton Hall estate in South Devon after World War I. One author explains that the school provided 'a heady atmosphere of sexual freedom and liberal thought'. [Perry] W hitney's son Michael Straight arrived at the school at age 9 from America (1925). When Michael left school, seven of the 10 students are reported to have joined the Communist Party. This was at the time of first disilunionist following World War I, then the Depression and the rise of Hitler. Michael went on to Cambridge. Connections made there led him to become a KGB plant in America. He was recruited by art historian Anthony Blunt. Notorious British spys like Kim Philby also came outof this inter-war environment. Straight went on to become a patron of none other than Elenor and Franklin Roosevelt. He worked in the State Departmeht and edited The New Republic. He employed former Vice Presidnt Wallace, who criticised the Trumn Administration'spolicy of opposing Soviet aggression. Straight describes his Communist activities in a memoir (1983). {Straigt] His accomplishments for the KGB are, however, not readily apparent. His confession of Communist connectionsled to the exposure of Blunt as the recruiter of the Cambridge Five spy ring. One Australian author believes that he played a role in China's intervention in Korea. [Perry] This is, however, speculative.

(The) Rosenbergs (United States)

The most famous spy trial was that of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. At the time the degree to which the Soviets had penetrated the Manhattan Project was not known. Only later were the Verona Intercepts lead to a fuller understanding of the Soviet spy network. Later evem Robert Oppenheimer came under suspision. The Rosenbergs were not the most hamrful spys. There were others, including Klaus Fuchs who provided much more useful information to the Soviets. There is no doubt, however, Julius Rossenberg was a Soviet spy and was guilty of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. The Rosenbergs and Greenglasses grew up in New York City's Lower Easr Side. Conditions there turned many to radical politics. Both Julius and Ethel became committed Communists. The Rossenbergs like many American Jews had also become despondent in the 1930s over the rise of the NAZIs and persecution of Jews. Many American Communists in the 1950s still viewed the Soviet Union as an utopian state. The Soviet role in World War II had gained them great prestige. The chilling horrors of the Gulag were not yet well known. Most Communists ignored the extent to which the Soviets cooperated with Hitler after the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact and the Soviet aggressions in 1939-41. Ethel had little to do with the spying, but she almost certainly knew about it. The Government hoped to force Julus to talk by threatening to execute her as well. The trial was held in 1951. Concerned that they had no real evidence on Ethel, the Government induced of all people her brother, David Greenglass, to testify falsely against her in exchange for lenient treatment for him and his wife. Greenglass had actually stole the material that Julius passed on to the Soviets. The Government believed incorrectly that Julius headed a major spy ring. [Roberts] While this was not true, he could have led the FBI to Rudolf Abel who did run a major spy ring. In the end, neither Julius or Ethel talked and they were executed, leaving their two boys orphans. Years after the trial, Greenglass resurfaced for a television interview. There was not an ounce of remorse for what he had done to his sister. While the Rosenbergs provided information of only limited value, they proved to be enormously effective in Soviet propaganda to condemn the United States. Many on the left were convinced that the Rosenbergs were innocent. One leftist activist, Ronald Radosh, a Red Diapper baby, wrote a book making a case for Julius' guilt. [Radosh] He was vilified by the Left because of the lingering sympathy for them as martyrs for the cause. Radosh subsequently became a right-wing supporter for the Contras in Nicaragua and apologist for Franco. After the fall of the Soviet Union, information from KGB archieves left little doubt that Julius was guilty. There is still no indication that Ethel was an active conspirator.

Morton Sorbell (United Sttes, 1917- )

Morton Sobell was born into a Jewish family in New York City (1917). Hemet Julius Rosenberg while studying at City College of New York. He earned an engineering degree. Sobell and a friend, Max Elitcher, moved to Washington where they shared an apartment. They worked with the Navy Bureau of Ordnance. Sobell attempted to recruit Elitcher to assist in espionage activities. After the FBI arrested the Rosenbergs, Sobell managed to reach Mexico City with his wife Helen, infant son Mark, and Helen's daughter Sydney (June 22, 1950). He attempted to book passage to Europe, but did not have the needed passports was unable to do so. Armed men in plain clothes abducted him and his family (August 16). He was taken to the U.S. birder and turned over to the FBI. He was arrested for espionage, conspiring with Julius Rosenberg. He was a co-defendant at the Rosenberg trial. Sobell invoked his 5th Amendment rights and did not testify at the trial. He was found guilty and given a 30-year sentence. He was released from prison (1969). Sorbel wrote his autobiography, denying that he was a spy. [Sorbel] He claimed he fled becaused he had lied about being a member of the Communist Party. Sorbel finally admitted at the age of 91 years that he had lied and was involved in turning over nuclear secrets to the Soviets. [Roberts]

John Carter Vincent (United States, 1900-72)

John Carter Vincent long-serving American diplomat, one of a group who became known as the China Hands. Hr was born in Seneca, Kansas. He graduated from Mercer University and was accepted into the Foreifn Service. He served at many posts in China (Changsha, Hankow, Swatow, Peking, Mukden, Nanking, and Dairen). During the War he was appointed Counsellor to the American Embassy in Chongqing (1942). At the end of the War he became Director of the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (1945). He then received several minor postings before being forced to resign from the Foreign Service (1952). He and the other China Hands were accused of brong responsible for 'losing China'. This seems to be a unfair assessment as Chang and the corrupt KMT seem to be primarily responsible and could not have been saved without a massive military commitment in China. On the other hand it seem Vincent took positions that either suggest that he was not very well informed or was as charged, a Soviet agent. He insisted that the the Soviets had little influence with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and that the United States could develop a working relationship with them. We know that Nixon did just that in 1972, but that is not saying it was possible after World War II. Opinions on Vincent vary and are largely determined by the author's ideological bent. We have noted claims that the Verona Papers and KGB files briefly opened after the fall of Communism showed that Vincent was indeed a Soviet agent. Here we have not yet seen the actual definitive evidence.

Sumner Wells (United States, 1892–1961)

Benjamin Sumner Welles was an importnt U.S. government official and diplomat during World War II. Benjamin Sumner Welles was born to prominent New York City family. His parents were Benjamin J. Welles (1857–1935) and Frances Wyeth Swan (1863–1911). He desired to be called Sumner after his famous relative Charles Sumner, a leading Republican Senator from Massachusetts during the Civil War and Reconstruction period. His family was wealthy and well connected to the most prominent families of te era. He was a grand-nephew of Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, known as 'the Mrs. Astor'". The Astors wre among ameruc's wealthiest families. Other ancestors were Thomas Welles, a colonial Governor of Connecticut. After the Revolution, Increase Sumner was elected Governor of Massachusetts (1797-99). Among the family connections was the Roosevelts. A cousin married James "Rosy" Roosevelt, Jr., Franklin Roosevelt's half brother. Sumer was educated at home until the age of 10 yers when he entered in Miss Kearny's Day School for Boys in New York City. He tgen moved on to Groton School in Massachusetts -- America's most prestigious prep school (1904). He roomed with Eleanor Roosevelt's brother. Sumner served as a page at Franklin and Elenor's wedding showing the close family connection (1905). Upon his election, President Roosevelt appointed Welles Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs (1933) and then Under Secretary (1937). He became the President's major foreign policy adviser. The President preferred to work with Welles than Secretary Hull and a serious rivlry devloped beteen Welles and Hull. Welles had to resign when he was arrested for soliciting a man (1943). Aafter the War, the Venona Papers strongly suggest that he was a Soviet agent, but in fairness it was never proved.

Harry Dexter White (United States)

Harry Dexter White was one of the higest placed Soviet agents in the American Government. White was Treasury Secretary Morgenthau's deputy. His identity came to light in the Verona transcripts. White's 1938 assessment of U.S. policy toward Japan was among the documents found in the pumkin on Whittiker Chamber's farm. Nathan Silvermaster's ring of spys presented documents from White to Red Spy Queen Elizabeth Bentley. White is known to have used his position to advance Soviet interests. He helped to delay American assistance to Chaing Kai-shek during World War in violation of Morgenthau's instructions. He had a major role in drafting the Morgenthau Plan to essentually pastroalize Germany after the War. After the defeat of Germany, he helped get the Soviets plates of the occupation currency from which they printed $380 million in marks. White was, however, never procecuted. He died of a hear attack 3 days after testifying before the House Un-American Affairs Committee (August 16, 1948). [Craig]


American journalists in the aftermath of 9-11 have decided that America needs more human intelligence rather than technology. Most ignore or more likely fail to understand than there are rare instances in history in which beligerants have penetrated the opponents inner circle. The Allies fought both World Wars without doing so and most of the Cold war as well. (The 1980s as the Soviet Union egan to unravel is a little different.) The Germans in both World Wars also failed to do so. The one exception was the Soviet Union's success in running spy rings in America, Britain, Germany, and Japan. They were very effective, but the reason for their success lies in the peculiar circumstances of the World War II era. Liberal thinkers were apauled by World War I. The Depression brought the capitalist sociities and governing class in further disrepute. At the time the attrocities of the Soviet state were not well understood in the West. The failure of the democracies to confront Hitler in the 1930s convinced many that they had to help the Soviet Union who at the time seemed to be the only state confronting Hitler. Many of these people raionalized Salin's Pact with Hitler (1939). During the War they felt it important to get Americam military secrets to Soviets who were bearing the brunt of the fighting against Hitler. The nexus of circumstances that led to the Americans spying for the Soviets was very unusual and rarely repeated in the history of espionage. The Soviets did score some successes later in the Cold War, but it was not the ideologically motivated spies of the World war II era. Rather the Soviets turned to the more common method of finding isolated individuals willing to sell secrets.


Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, saw political capital in the growing anti-Communist sentiment. He charged that the Communists had penetrated the U.S. Government and traitors within were why the Communists had been so successful. McCarthy on delivered a speech in which he claimed to have a list of 205 people in the State Department known to be Communist Party members (February 9, 1950). McCarthy was grandstanding, his list was hardly a secret. It had actually been published earlier by the State Department (1946). The people on the list were hardly all Soviet spies. Some were Communists (which does not mean necessarily spies), but others were Fascists, alcoholics, and homsexuals. (McCarthy himself if not a Congressman might have been put on the list because of his drinking and homosexuality.) FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover played a major role in the rise of McCarythy, although it was unknown at the time. Hoover secretly provided McCarthy confidential FBI information. The Republican ledership in the Senate made McCarthy chairman of Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, giving him the opportunity to investigate communist subversion. McCarthy seized the opportunity and for 2 years conducted investigations often termed a witch hunt targeting the State Department and other Federal agencies. Federal employees brought before the Committee had few legal protections. McCarthy set out to ruin them unless they named Communist Party members. Favored targets were New Deal Democrats, many of who had left-wing political views. President Truman was portrayed as a bumbling incompetent with dangerous political views. Some of the finest civil servants were accused of being Communists, men like George Marshall and Dean Acheson. Critics of McCarthy had been defeated in the 1950 Congessional elections. as a result, few Senators dared object to his high-handed tactics. McCarthy McCarthy appointed Roy Cohn as the chief counsel to the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate (1952). Hoover had recommrened Cohn on the basis of his role in prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. McCarthy also targeted what he called anti-American books in libraries. His researchers prepared a list of 30,000 books by "communists, pro-communists, former communists and anti anti-communists."

Venona Papers

The United States along with Finland and the Axis countries cracked some of the simpler Soviet World War II codes. The U.S. Army's top-secret Signal Intelligence Service (SIS), the forerunner of the National Security Agency (NSA), began working on the top level Soviet secret messages (February 1943) hoping to crack the dioplomatic code. SIS code named the effort JADE, BRIDE and DRUG, but it eventually became known as VENONA. Venona is just a code name and has no geographic connotation. The project was ininiated by Ms. Gene Grabeel, but military personnel soon took over the program. The Venona work was conducted at Arlington Hall. As the effort progressed the SIS obtained a range of Soviet messages. Many were fromm the Soviet Trade Office working with Lend Lease, but there were messages from any other agencies as well, including the military and intelligemce services. From an early stage, the SIS staff determined that the messages came from five different agencies with separate encryption systems. Although the effort began during the War, the SIS dis not suceed in reading many of the messages until after the War. . Many of the messages the United States had to work with were messages associated with the Soviet Trade Office involved with Lend Lease. The first success came fairly quickly. Richard Hallock, an Army Signal Corps lieutenant and trained an archaeologist (who worked with ancient writing systems) suceeded in developing insights into the system being used by Soviet trade officials who were relatively lax in their security measures (October 1943). This provided clues to other cryptologists working on messages from other Soviet agencies. Cecil Phillips managed to develop a beginning understanding of NKVD messages (1944). This was a more difficult undertaking because the NKVD more carefully protected their messages, using double encryption. As a result, it would take 2 years of work to actually read any of the NKVD messages. The Venona was assisted after the Germans surrendered (May 1945). Army security officers were able to obtain access to the German work on Soviet codes. Meredith Garner decrypted the first portions of the NKVD messages (Summer 1946). The results were starteling. It was clear by 1947 that Soviet agents had penetrated a variety of U.S. Government agencies. The British joined the effort and sent two of their cryptologists to Arlington Hall (1948). As information on Soviet espionage emerged, the Venona group contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). FBI Agent Robert J. Lamphere who was given access to the Venona decrypts. [Goebel] The American decrypts are today known as the Verona papers and provided insights into Soviet espionage operations in the United States.


The full imapact of Soviet intelligence operations in America is difficult to assess. We have never seen a definitive assessment. One obvious impact is the assistance they obtained for the Soviet atomic bomb. There is no doubtthart the Sovets could have built a bomb on their own. It is also clear that the information obtained from the Manhattan Project was helful, both for the technical data and the assistance in avoiding wasting resources n technical dead ends. Just how much this advamved the Soviet effort is unknown. There are various estimtes, but for the most part the consensus is at the nost 3 year and mist of the estimates are foreven shrter periods. It is notable that only 1-year after the Soviets detned their first atomic device (1949), Stalin gave the OK to North Korean Communist cliant state to launch the Korean War in which over 40,000 Americans died.


Bradley, Mark A. A Very Principled Boy.

Chambers, Whittaker. Witness (1952).

Coulter, Ann. Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (Crown Forum, 2003), 355p.

Craig, R. Bruce. Treasonable Dought: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case (University of Kansas Press, 2004), 2004), 436p. Craig's account is generally fact-based. One glaring error is the assertion that White did not hire other Communists and help others get sensitive Government posts. We differ on his assessments of what White did. Craig asserts that White was an horable man, convinced of the superority of the Soviet system. The emensity of Soviet crimes against humanity were not as well known in the 1940s, but there was enough known to question the attributes of the Soviet system.

Goebel, Greg. "Venona" 7.5. This is a chapter in a larger work, but it is unclear how to site the overall work.

Horowitz, David. Radical Son.

Kilgore, Paul. Dupes.

Kravchenko, Victor Andreevich. I Chose Freedom (1946).

Meier, Andrew. The Lost Spy.

Perry, Roland. Last of the Cold War Spies: The Life of Michael Straight, the Only American in Britain's Cambridge Spy Ring (Da Capo, 2005), 395p.

Radosh, Ronald. The Rosenberg File (1983). Radosh, a committed Communist at the time, began his reserach in the 1970s thinking he could make a case for the Rosenberg's innosence. He found that Julius was in fact guilty.

Roberts, Sam The Brother: The Untold story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair (Random House, 2001), 543p.

Roberts, Sam. "Figure in Rosenberg case admits to Soviet spying," New York Times (September 11, 2008).

Sorbel, Morton. On Doing Time.

Straight, Michael. After Long Silence (1983).

Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks (1994). There is some confirmation of this in the Venona Papers, but many involved in the Manhattan Project report that there are inaccuracies in the book. When Stalin died, Beria was arrested with Sudoplatov. Beria was shot. Sudoplatov spent 15 years in the Gulag.

Venona decrypt, March 30, 1945.


Navigate the CIH World War II Pages:
[Return to Main Soviet World War II spying: Country trends]
[Return to Main anti-Communist hysteria page]
[Return to Main Cold War page]
[Return to Main Communism page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology] [Totalitarian powers]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]

Created: August 9, 2003
Last updated: 9:56 PM 6/21/2017