15 Jun Cold War Spies and Espionage: A historical timeline
During the cold war, information was the key commodity. It was vital to know what the enemy was up to, and we did not have the option of using hi-tech surveillance camera systems. Instead of relying on technology, we relied on spies: brave people who invaded enemy territory and tried to discover information while flying under the radar.
Espionage activities persisted from the beginning of the cold war in the early forties, all the way through the late 1950’s and perhaps even the early 1960’s. Generations before we were even able to dream of surveillance cameras, these brave spies were decoding encrypted information, and using the technology of the future to gain an advantage over dangerous enemies. The following timeline provides a brief overview of key espionage activities that occurred during the cold war:
1943 – Stalin ended the Communist International (Comintern). Soviet Army Intelligence groups called the KGB and the GRU began espionage activities.
1/2/1943: The United States Army Signal Intelligence Service pioneered a secret program, nicknamed VENONA. The purpose the program was to decode and exploit encrypted Soviet diplomatic communications dating back to 1939.
1944: Viktor Kravchenko defected from his role in the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission, AMTORG.
2/1944: Stalin enlisted American scientists, including Oppenhemier, Borh, Fermi, and Szillard, to serve as Russian Spies. The Scientists became part of a newly created department called Department S.
1/1945: John Rankin was appointed head of HUAC, and it was declared that HUAC would remain a permanent house committee until October 1946.
6/6/1945: The FBI raided Amerasia, arresting Phil Jaffe (an editor) as well as several State Department employees including Emmanuel Larsen and John Stewart Service. A naval intelligence officer named Andrew Roth was also arrested . Service was ultimately the only department employee to be dismissed, by Dean Acheson.
8/25/1945: Elizabeth Bentley, who would later become known as “The Blond Spy Queen” was interviewed for the first time by the FBI. It was just a routine interview at the time, because it was not known that she was a high level controller of a network of KGB spies operating in the United States.
9/1945: A GRU cipher clerk named Igor Gouzenko defected to Canada and began disclosing the identities of Russian agents.
11/7/1945: Bentley, the Blond Spy Queen, was interviewed for a second time. At this interview, she made a confession which ran to 90 pages and implicated several others, including Jacob Golos and Greg Silvermaser, who were also high level KGB controllers.
2/1946: The FBI determined that Harry Dexter White, the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, was potentially acting as a spy. The FBI released a report, with the results of the Gouzenko and Bentley cases, that also disclosed this information to Truman. Truman did not withdraw his nomination of Harry Dexter White to lead the IMF.
2/15/1946: Acting on information from Gouzenko, Canada indicted 22 communist agencies. Allen Nunn May, a British physicist, was among those indicted. May was given a 10 year prison sentence for giving Russians information on the Manhattan Project.
2/22/1946: The new containment policy began to take shape, based in part on Kennan’s Long Telegram.
6/7/1946: The McCarran Rider was passed as an addendum to the Smith Act, and the State Department was given the power of dismissal.
7/31/1946: An Arlington Hall Analyst and member of the Verona project named Meredith Gardner used clues provided by the Gouzenko and Bentley cases to begin to decode portions of KGB messages.
2/17/1947: Regular radio broadcasts began from the VOA in Honolulu, Manila, and Munich to Russia
2/24/1947: Nixon spoke out against Gerhart Eisler, a detainee at Ellis Island who had been working as a German Communist spy in the United states since 1933. Eisler was being detained for passport fraud, and he refused to speak before the HUAC. The House concurred with Nixon’s speech and voted to hold Eisler in contempt, but Gerhart was able to fleet to East Germany as a stowaway on a ship.
8/1947: The Three Part Containment Policy was compiled. The Truman Doctrine had been passed in March, the Marshall Plan in June, and the National Security Act in July. The 3 Part Containment Policy was also supported by the DOD, the CIA, the SAC, and foreign bases in both Libya and Turkey.
9/1947: Stalin attended a meeting of the Soviet, French, East European and Italian Communist parties, where he created the Information Bureau of the Communist Parties (aka the Cominform)
9/1947: The Freedom Train began to travel throughout the United States.
9/1947: 41 witnesses were subpoenaed by HUAC in an investigation of communism in Hollywood films. Many writers, and Hollywood personalities were jailed or held in contempt, and many more who signed an amicus curiae brief were blacklisted.
1/27/1948: The States Information and Education Exchange Act (The Smith Mundt Act) passed. The act created the Office of International Information to coordinate State Department propaganda.
1/2/1948: Russia began jamming VOA broadcasts
3/2/1948: Truman established the Federal Employee Loyalty Program to require name checks and background checks on new and existing federal employees. Employees could be fired if reasonable of their loyalty was discovered using these name checks or background checks.
6/1948: The FBI indicted 11 leaders of the Communist Party alleging that they advocated revolution and the violent overthrow of the government. This was the first indictment handed down under the Smith Act and the first hint that the Communist Party itself was an illegal organization.
6/18/1948: The Officer of Policy Coordination was created to run covert CIA operations. Wisner was appointed to the office, and promptly recruited Reinhard Gehien to carry out espionage in Eastern Europe against Russia. Gehlen attempted to alert the VIA about the planned blockade of Berlin, but the CIA did not heed his warnings.
6/24/1948: Stalin began the blockade of Berlin that Gehlen had predicted.
4/8/1948: Chambers accused Hiss of being a Communist during his term in the Agriculture Department in the ’30’s and during his term in the State Department in ’44.
5/8/1948: Hiss denied the accusations and the HUAC, except Nixon, believed Hiss.
8/16/1948: Nixon attempted to expedite Hiss’ prosecution, fearing that Harry Dexter White was killed by the Russians.
8/28/1948: HUAC investigated claims that Hiss made regarding Chambers and determined that Hiss’ accusations were true and that Chamber’s used to call himself George Crosley.
4/11/1948: Truman won the presidency, defeating Dewey
2/12/1948: Nixon discovered pumpkin papers including 5 rolls of microfilm, 2 of which contained photographs of confidential government information, in Chamber’s home.
12/15/1948: Hiss was indicted for perjury
1/1949: Communist Mao Tse-tung took Peking
3/4/1949: Judith Coplon was the first U.S. citizen convicted as a spy. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the conviction was later overturned because it was based on illegal wiretaps.
5/12/1949: Stalin ended the Berlin Blockade
4/20/1949: The Armed Forces Security Agency was created by secret order of the Secretary of Defense. The Armed Forces Security Agency was established to oversee the other military intelligence agencies.
9/23/1949: Russia publicly announced tests of its first A-bomb.
2/1950: McCarthy gave a series of speeches in which he proclaimed that he had the names of communist supporters within the state department.
3/1/1950: Kiaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May, both nuclear physicists, were arrested in Britain for passing documents.
3/7/1950: Judith Coplon was retried.
4/20/1950: Truman announced a psychological offensive called the Campaign of Truth. The Campaign involved a plan to surround Russia with megawatt transmitters that could not be jammed.
6/24/1950: North Korea invaded South Korea.
6/25/195: Truman ordered the Navy and Air Force to defend South Korea.
7/17/1950: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested for espionage. In 1953, they became the first civilians to be executed for spying during wartime.
7/20/1950; The Tydings Committee denounced McCarthy in a report to the Senate. The Senate split on the report and McCarthy publicly attacked the Committee.
9/15/1950: The liberation of South Korea begins when MacArthur lands at Inchon.
1950/09/15 – MacArthur lands at Inchon – begins to liberate South Korea
9/23/1950: The McCarran International Security Act was passed, requiring all communist organization to register with the Attorney General and prohibiting communists from entering the U.S. or working in national defense.
10/8/1950: MacArthur began to liberate North Korea when he crossed the 38th Parallel.
12/1950: The Senate International Security Subcommittee was created.
6/30/1952: The McCarran Walter Act is passed, revising immigration quotas to permit the entry of more non subversive agents.
3/16/1954: The Army-McCarthy hearings began and lasted 36 days.
12/2/1950: The Senate condemned McCarthy.