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Soviet Espionage in Southern California

Hollywood and Defense Industry

Soviet Espionage in Southern California

excerpt from Enemy Amongst Trojans. A Soviet Spy at USC, 2010, pp. 22, 23

Soviet Espionage in Southern California

During the World War II, the Soviet Union embarked on building aggressive espionage and subversive operations against its war time allies. This line of action was in stark contrast to the policies of the United States and Great Britain. A Soviet spy and high-ranking officer in the British intelligence Kim Philby described many years later in a lecture to the KGB that "SIS [British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6] were so stretched by the war effort against the Axis that from 1939 onwards, there was no activity directed against the Soviet Union. Only in 1944, when the defeat of the Axis was assured, did they begin to look forward to the next enemy ..." [45]

Specialists on Soviet intelligence noted an exceptional magnitude of the Soviet effort,

... from 1942 to 1945 the Soviet Union launched an unrestrained espionage offensive against the United States. This offensive reached its zenith during the period when the United States, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, adopted a policy of friendship and accommodation toward the USSR. The Soviet assault was of the type a nation directs at an enemy state that is temporarily an ally and with which it anticipated future hostility, rather than the much more restrained intelligence gathering it would direct toward an ally that is expected to remain a friendly power. [46]

At this time Southern California had emerged among top targets of Soviet espionage. As early as in 1939, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced manager of Intourist, a Soviet travel bureau in Los Angeles, Mikhail Gorin to six years in penitentiary for espionage. [47] Gorin approached an investigator "of the United States Naval Intelligence [in San Pedro] and sought, obtained, and transmitted certain information from the files of value to the Russian government." [48]

In 1940s, the Soviet intelligence had three main residencies, or stations, in the United States — in New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, — from where the Soviet Union directed its espionage and subversive operations. Los Angeles was the home for spy sub-residencies, enjoying the convenience of the cover and support provided by the Soviet Vice-Consulate [49] in the city.

Soviet agents focused on Hollywood [50] with many Communist sympathizers and on the growing defense industry. Southern California built thousands of advanced aircraft during and after the war. Its industry and research institutions led many development and testing programs in supersonic aircraft, missiles, and electronics. A number of important military installations spread across the region.

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About the book

Enemy Amongst Trojans by Mike Gruntman

USC VSOE News Story:

Viterbi Astronautics Professor Writes Cold War Historical Study

Book review  (Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf) studies in intelligence

"Mike Gruntman, an astronautics professor at USC, has written an interesting and succinct account of this [espionage] case that heretofore escaped the attention of other espionage academics. A nice contribution to the literature."

Studies in Intelligence (unclassified extracts), CIA, Vol. 59, No. 4, p. 74, December 2015.

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