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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Role of Soviet Intelligence - ENORMOZ

Soviet intelligence went to considerable lengths to to learn about US nuclear programs, and detailed information was provided to Igor Kurchatov, scientific director of the Soviet atomic project, in 1944 and early 1945. Klaus Fuchs confessed to British authorities in 1950 that he had passed significant information to the Soviet Union, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed in 1953 for espionage.

The role of the intelligence in accelerating the Soviet nuclear project should not be underestimated. Just as it cannot be attributed the decisive role. The information received from the intelligence was thoroughly analyzed by Kurchatov and his colleagues and, no doubt, was very useful in adjusting the course of research, in some cases even helping to avoid errors. On some estimates, it saved about a year of research time in creating the Soviet atomic bomb. In the situation back then, any delay could be fatal (the Pentagon had developed plans to launch a nuclear strike against the USSR).

The sudden drop in fission-related publications emerging from Britain and the United States caught the attention of Georgii Flerov, a young Soviet physicist, who in April 1942 wrote directly to Josef Stalin to warn him of the danger. Soviet intelligence soon recognized the importance of the subject and gave it the appropriate codename: ENORMOZ ("enormous"). Soviet intelligence headquarters in Moscow pressured their various American residencies to develop sources within the Manhattan Project. In October 1942, Igor Kurchatov was called to Moscow and was introduced to the intelligence. Not just Germany, but even the USSR's war allies — England and the USA — had completely stopped publishing any works on uranium since mid-1939 and made them classified. In his first note on the “uranium issue as a state program” (dated November 27, 1942), addressed to the USSR SDC chairman V.M. Molotov, the scientist talked about Soviet retardation compared to England and the USA and, consequently, about the necessity to “widely evolve in USSR the research of the uranium problem.”

Since 1939, the nuclear issue were engaged in gathering information as the GRU, the Red Army, and the 1st NKVD. The first report on the plans for the atomic bomb came from D.Kernkrossa in October 1940. This issue was discussed in the British Committee for Science, where he worked Cairncross. In summer 1941, the project "Tube Alloys" for the creation of the atomic bomb was approved. By the beginning of the war, England was one of the leaders in nuclear research largely due to the German scientists who fled e with the coming to power of Hitler.

One of them was a member of the German Communisy Party [KPD] Klaus Fuchs. In the fall of 1941, he went to the Soviet Embassy and said that has important information about the new powerful weapons. To communicate with them was isolated S.Kramer and radio operator "Sonia" - R.Kuchinskaya. The first radio message to Moscow contained information about the gaseous diffusion method of uranium isotope separation, and a factory in Wales, being built for this purpose. After six assists contact with Fuchs was interrupted.

In April 1942, the People's Commissar of the chemical industry M.Pervuhina, on the orders of Stalin, was familiarized with the materials of the work on the atomic bomb abroad. Pervukhin offered to pick up a group of experts to evaluate the information contained in this report. On the recommendation of Ioffe, the group included young scientists Kurchatov, Alikhanov and I.Kikoin.

In late 1943, a Soviet spy Semenov ( "Twain") in the United States said that in Chicago Enrico Fermi conducted the first nuclear chain reaction. The information came from the physicist Pontecorvo. At the same time, through the Foreign Intelligence received from the England closed scientific works Western scholars Atomic Energy for 1940-1942 gg. They confirmed that great progress has been made in the creation of the atomic bomb. On the exploration and wife worked Konenkov famous sculptor, who become acquainted with the major physicists Oppenheimer and Einstein has long exerted influence on them.

Another resident in the US found a way to L.Zarubina L.Stsilarda and has been well received in the circle of people Oppenheimer. With their help, we managed to introduce a reliable agent in Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Chicago Laboratory - Center for American nuclear issedovany. In 1944, information on the US atomic bomb to Soviet intelligence passed: K.Fuks, T.Holl, S.Sake, Pontecorvo, D.Greenglass and the Rosenbergs.

In early February 1944 the People's Commissar of the NKVD Beria held an enlarged meeting of the heads of the NKVD intelligence. During the meeting it was decided to coordinate the collection of information on the nuclear issue. NKVD and Red Army GRU coming down the line. and its generalizations to create a department of "C". September 27, 1945 was organized by the department, the management was entrusted to the Commissioner GB P.Sudoplatova.

In January 1945, Fuchs gave a description of the construction of the first atomic bomb. Among other things, intelligence materials on electromagnetic separation of uranium isotopes have been received, the data on the operation of the first reactor, the specifications for the production of uranium and plutonium bomb data system design, focusing explosive lenses and size critical mass of uranium and plutonium for plutonium-240, about the time and sequence operations for the production and assembly of the bomb, the process of bringing into effect the bomb initiator; on the construction of plants for the separation of isotopes, as well as diaries of the first test explosion of American bombs in July 1945.

Oscar Seborer was the child of Polish Jewish immigrants, born in New York in 1921. He studied electrical engineering at Ohio State University, was drafted in 1942, and went to work on the Manhattan Project, the US’ top secret program to develop an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany - or the Soviet Union. He witnessed the 1945 Trinity test, the first artificial nuclear detonation, proving the viability of the atom bomb.

He was also a Soviet spy by the codename “Godsend,” and for the Soviet Union’s nuclear program he was just that, feeding the communist bloc more information on how to build the advanced, highly destructive weapon than any other person. Historians Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes revealed the extent of Seborer’s espionage in a January 2020 paper on the spy’s life and actions. They draw on newly declassified reports from the US Central Intelligence Agency detailing the myriad secrets available to Seborer, who fled to the USSR in 1951.

While working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Klehr helped craft some of the most essential features of the first nuclear weapons, including those hardest to replicate, such as the firing circuits for their detonators, according to the documents. His insights helped the Manhattan Project engineers rapidly miniaturize the warhead, enabling it to be used in a transportable weapon dropped from an airplane and, eventually, placed on top of a missile.

In March 1945, Major General S.Egorov was appointed the head of the 2nd department (mining and metallurgy) 9th NKVD [he previously held the post of deputy Chief Dalstroi management].

During the battle for Berlin, May 5, 1945 the property of the Physical Institute of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was discovered. May 9 in Germany was sent to the commission, headed by A. Zavenyagin to find scientists who worked there over the uranium project and receiving materials on the uranium problem. In the Soviet Union, a large group of German scientists together with their families had been taken. Among them were Nobel laureates and G.Gerts N.Ril Professor R.Deppel, M.Folmer, G.Poze, P.Tissen, M. von Ardenne, etc (around two hundred professionals including 33 doctors of sciences).

From March 1945, following receipt of the channels of the NKGB of the US information on the scheme of the atomic bomb on the principle of implosion (compression of fissile material explosion conventional explosives), work began on a new scheme which had obvious advantages over the gun. V.Mahaneva Beria in April 1945 wrote that the timing of the creation of the atomic bomb was said that the diffusion plant at the Laboratory number 2 for the preparation of uranium-235, which was expected to start up in 1947. The output was to be 25 kg. uranium per year, which should be enough for two bombs (actually for the US uranium bomb took 65 kg of U-235).

Approaching the goal, Kurchatov used some theoretical calculations and engineering ideas “borrowed” from the Americans. Through the channels of NKVD scientific intelligence, documents were sent directly to Igor Kurchatov. He even had his own room on Lubyanka where he studied the received materials and formulated the important questions for the future.

Twelve days after the assembly of the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, the Soviets received a description of its device from Washington and New York. The first telegram arrived in the Center on June 13, the second on July 4, 1945. On July 16, 1945 at 5:30 am Moscow time in the desert of New Mexico, the first ever nuclear weapon test was carried out.

After President Harry S. Truman received word of the success of the Trinity test, his need for the help of the Soviet Union in the war against Japan was greatly diminished. During the second week of Allied deliberations at Potsdam, on the evening of July 24, 1945, Truman approached Stalin without an interpreter and, as casually as he could, told him that the United States had a "new weapon of unusual destructive force." Stalin showed little interest, replying only that he hoped the United States would make "good use of it against the Japanese." Later Truman wrote that "the Russian prime minister showed no particular interest," and Churchill: "I was sure that he had no idea of the meaning of what was said to him." The reason for Stalin's composure became clear later: Soviet intelligence had been receiving information about the atomic bomb program since fall 1941.

Information received by intelligence channels accelerated the work of Soviet scientists. Western experts believed that the Soviet atomic bomb could not be created not earlier than in 1954-1955. But the first test came in August 1949.

Soviet intelligence officers in the United States regularly communicated with their superiors in Moscow via telegraphic cables. These messages were encrypted of course, but in 1946 the United States, with the assistance of Great Britain, began to decrypt a good number of these messages. This program led to the eventual capture of several Soviet spies within the Manhattan Project. The VENONA intercepts, as they were codenamed, remained a closely-guarded secret, known only to a handful of government officials, until the program was declassified in 1995.

The Army's Signal Intelligence Service began working on the problem in 1943, and they gradually discovered a Soviet procedural error that allowed many of the messages to be painstakingly decrypted. Portions of messages began to become clear in 1946, and by 1948 numerous messages were being recovered by the team led by Meredith Gardner. In 1948, Robert Lampherethe Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also brought into the investigation, its efforts led by Robert Lamphere. Although only messages up to 1945 were vulnerable to decryption, and these messages were several years old by that point, they still contained references to spies who had never been detected, including many who presumably continued to work for Soviet intelligence.

From 1948 to 1951, numerous Soviet spies were uncovered and prosecuted this way, including the atomic spies Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, Greenglass's handler Julius Rosenberg, and Rosenberg's wife Ethel. Other sources, such as Theodore Hall, were detected, but without sufficient corroborating evidence other than VENONA, the government was unable to prosecute them. (The VENONA secret was considered too valuable to reveal as evidence in an open court proceeding.)

Once messages were decrypted and translated into English, however, the identity of the individuals mentioned in them was still often not apparent. Soviet intelligence assigned every person a unique codename and sometimes changed it. (For example, Julius Rosenberg was ANTENNA, later changed to LIBERAL, and Theodore Hall was MLAD.) Nonetheless, it was often possible to determine who each codename referred to based on clues within the messages. Sometimes the message where the individual is first given a codename happens to be one of those decrypted, in which case the individual's identity is known with certainty. In other cases, rather obvious clues make identification simple, such as when the name of ANTENNA's wife was openly given as "Ethel."

Most people were identified through follow-up investigation by the FBI based on the descriptions of their work, their lives, their appearance, and even their codename itself. (MLAD means "youngster" in Russian; Hall was only 19 when he began his work as a spy.) In some cases, especially when dealing with sources who were Venona intercept regarding Julius Rosenberg only mentioned in a handful of decrypted messages, a Soviet spy's identity remains unknown to this day.

Under the operational name "Perseus" was hidden engineer Russell McNutt of Kellog in New York, which worked on the construction of a plant in Oak Ridge. His father Ernest was a leftist journalist from Kansas, who was friends with Communist Party chairman Earl Browder. Having discovered this, Vasiliev returned a good name to the well-known theoretical physicist Philip Morrison, whom even his closest friends suspected of espionage in favor of the USSR.

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Page last modified: 04-02-2020 13:45:26 ZULU