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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Espionage and the Start of the Korean War

For John, BLUFI always wonder why we focus on Hitler and the Nazis, when Stalin is more recent and killed more people.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Blog site We Are The Mighty we have "This US Army sergeant started the Korean War by selling out to the Soviets".  The author is Mr Blake Stilwell and the dateline is 24 May 2016.

Here is how it starts out:

For more than 60 years, only seven people on Earth knew that the Soviets broke U.S. military and diplomatic ciphers.  One of those people was former KGB Berlin bureau chief and master Soviet spy Sergei Kondrashev.  Kondrashev and his peers searched desperately for American code clerks as they came and went from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.  The KGB knew next to nothing about American ciphers, the code room in the embassy, or even the personnel who worked there. That changed in the early days of the Cold War.

Tennent Bagley was a CIA agent working around Eastern Europe, including Berlin.  In the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, he was to be featured on a German television show to discuss Cold War intelligence with former KGB agents.  In preparation for the show, he met Kondrashev, his direct KGB counterpart . Kondrashev told Bagley things that the CIA never knew, including the story of “Jack,” a U.S. Army Sergeant who single-handedly sparked off the Korean War.

In 1949, the memory of World War II and the existential threat to Russia was still fresh in the mind of Soviet Premiere Joseph Stalin.  Tensions with the U.S. were higher than at any time in recent memory.  The Soviet Union needed a way to predict American behavior.

They thought they lucked out when Sgt. James “Mac” MacMillan, a U.S. Army code clerk in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, began dating a Soviet national, nicknamed “Valya.”  Kondrashev was the intelligence agent assigned to Mac.  He persuaded Mac to give him any details of the code room and of anything else he knew.  In exchange, the KGB offered to set him and Valya up with an apartment in Moscow and money to start their lives.

It was only a few weeks after their first meeting that Mac defected to the Soviet Union.  Kondrashev soon learned Mac’s knowledge of the American codes was limited and the Russians were no closer to breaking the codes.

The Russians watched the U.S. embassy intently.  Based on the information provided by Mac, they knew what the code clerks looked like, but after Mac’s defection, the Americans were on alert.  The KGB’s got lucky again when agents reported an Army clerk visiting a local apartment, staying long into the night, and then returning to the embassy a few nights a week.

This is a sad situation.  But, the "honey pot" is a typical part of spy craft.  On the other hand, the Army Specialist formerly known as Bradley Manning gave up our secrets without such inducements.  We do provide young men and women with a lot of important information and expect them to take good care of it.  Almost all of them do an excellent job.  They are very careful of our nation's secrets.

However, there is another lesson to be learned here.  You think you have a conduit to what the other side is thinking, but that doesn't mean the other side might not turn on a dime.  In this case Uncle Joe (Stalin) was being cautious, but then learned that the US didn't much care about Korea, so he sanctioned the Kim Il-sung invasion of South Korea in 1950.  Then that terrible Harry Truman decided South Korea was important.  The rest is history.

Regards  —  Cliff

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