Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caught "Red Handed"

Typical scene in downtown Leningrad, with the largest tram system in the world.
Car in foreground contained surveillance operatives (Goons).
Caught Red Handed.   One day, just a few months before it was time to leave the USSR, I was assigned to find out about this huge ship that was under construction in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg).  It was a large ship, and as the superstructure got put together, it was a mystery to our intelligence community what this was going to be.  The Naval Intelligence command ordered me to find out what I could.  This was in 1983.
On this day, because there was so much interest in this ship, we thought we would take a drive.  I was traveling with Terry, the Canadian naval attaché, a commander, and he was driving our consulate’s Niva all-wheel drive vehicle. 
Terry was a sturdy, husky ship driver from Ontario.
Leningrad was a magnet for naval attachés, because our job was to collect all the intelligence we possibly could about the Soviet Navy.   Attachés had been traveling up there for decades, since before World War II, in hopes of catching a glimpse of new warships the Soviets were building in the many shipyards in this city. 
We traveled together with Canadians, or Brits, and sometimes with French, Italian or West German attachés.  The British consulate had a red Niva reserved for their attachés, and the American consulate had a green Niva for our attachés. All American  diplomatic cars had red license plates that started with “D 04”, while regular Soviet plates were white. It wasn’t too hard for the KGB to keep track of us. 
The Soviet Union has always been very secretive about most things.  You couldn’t take pictures of bridges in downtown Moscow; maps of Moscow were purposefully inaccurate, so they couldn’t be used by an invading army.  Their experience with Napoleon and then with Hitler had made them more than a little skittish.  One can imagine that the Soviets considered taking photographs of ships under construction at any of their shipyards absolutely forbidden.
I hear that even today, all these years after the Soviet Union collapsed, Russians still have a built-in distrust of foreigners talking photos. All diplomats in Russia are pretty much considered spies.
There’s one thing good about traveling with an officer of another nation.  Occasionally the KGB would decide to rough up one of our attachés, either because one of their people had been roughed up in New York or Washington, or just for the heck of it.  These things were carefully planned in advance, and they had to be cleared by the KGB desk officer.  If you were going to be traveling with an attaché from another country, the incident would have to be cleared with that desk officer, too.  Generally, unless it was a top level incident that was going to happen, that level of bureaucracy was just too hard, so it was usually safer to travel with someone from another country. 

We were all ready for our first run of the day, to observe this strange large ship on the building ways.  Terry the Canadian was driving, and I was in the passenger seat, all ready to observe as we crossed the bridge over this canal. From this canal we could look right into the shipyard.
Leningrad is called “The Venice of the North” because it has many, many canals all through the city.  As we crossed this canal I noticed a strange-looking guy standing by a dump truck, parked on the canal bridge.  I had already started observing when I spotted this guy.  At the same time, he spotted me, and yelled.  Then he jumped into his dump truck and took off after us.  Out of nowhere appeared a small Zhiguli, the little Russian Fiats the KGB used to follow us around.  It was loaded with the usual number of four goons. 
Then another Zhiguli appeared, also loaded with goons.  They were following behind, to either side of the dump truck, dodging in and out of traffic, dodging the streetcars, etc.  I told Terry to get the hell out of here, meaning the area around the shipyard, and he headed right down town.  We were going pretty fast, with the dump truck and the two Zhigulis.  Another Zhiguli appeared, and they started to box us in—one in front, one on either side, and the truck astern.  And alongside us was one of Leningrad’s many trolley cars. 
Just as we got into Leningrad’s center, one of the busiest shopping streets, they forced us to stop. 
We immediately displayed our diplomatic papers against the closed windows as they demanded we get out.  Our standing instructions were, in such cases, to show our papers and stay put—never willingly open the door or window of the car.  Of course, if they wanted to, they could get in the car in a second, but this was always one of those tricky diplomatic incidents, and if the Soviets were in plain view of regular citizens, they avoided that… usually.

Leningrad Tram near Finlandskaya Station (famous for being the station to which Lenin returned after exile, to lead the October Revolution of 1917).

The lead KGB guy got out of his car, and was pointing at me, and telling the others that I was using a big camera, with a long lens, and he used his hands to show how long.  They walked around our car, wrote down our license plate number, which they knew very well anyway, and then they all got in their cars and truck, and disappeared. 
            We were pretty shaken, even though they had apparently left, and we quietly, at speed limit, drove back to the American Consulate, and spent the rest of the day touring Leningrad as the innocent tourists we were. 
            The story of this incident later appeared in Red Star, the national Red Army newspaper, and was picked up by Canadian and American newspapers:  “American naval officer caught Red Handed in Leningrad, Canadian involved.” 
            I’m glad the Cold War is over.

This is what we were after: Marshal Nedelin Class Soviet Range Support Ship
The Soviets used these ships to track our missiles as well as their own.

The Personal Navigator offers these books and papers:

Caylor System Baseball Score Book, in Accordance with National League Requirements, No. 3--44 Games ca. 1925 Boston, MA: James W. Brine Company, 286 Devonshire Street. Very nice rare Boston baseball memento. James W. Brine Athletic Goods Baseball Score Book with instructions for scoring by O.P. Caylor's System.  Scorecards filled in, dated 1928 to 1941. Teams Mishe Mokwa (summer camp?), Milton, Middlesex, Ayer, Groton, Concord, St. Mark's, Belmont, Belmont Hill, Dartmouth at Harvard (1939), West Concord. Advertising for James W. Brine Official League Baseballs (Guaranteed for 18 innings), sweaters, all kinds of highest quality athletic goods. . 92 pp.        20.5 x 14 cm. Maroon cloth on board, "Whitney Cook" written on cover and on title page. Inside front hinge repaired with binding tape.  Inside rear hinge cracked. Cover shows wear, inside also. Fair. (7358) $60.00. Advertising/American Originals

Edward G. Robinson (L) shown with James Cagney

Edward G. Robinson in Thunder in the City--Advance Advertising Package 1937 New York, NY: Astor Pictures Corp. Eight-page, large format booklet contains advertising cuts, publicity pieces, biographies for promoting film, "Thunder in the City" starring Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973), with Luli Deste, Nigel Bruce, Constance Collier; Screen play by Robert Sherwood and Aben Kandel; Directed by Marion Gering, this was an Astor Pictures Corp. film.  Headline: "'Little Caesar' Crashes Society to Smash All Thrill Records."  8 pp. 27 x 42 cm. Paper booklet, large format, moderate wear, good. (7087) $41.00. Advertising/Cinema

Rawleigh’s 1917 Almanac

Rawleigh's 1917 Almanac, Cookbook and Medical Guide, 28th Year: A Valuable Hand Book  1916 Freeport, IL: The W.T. Rawleigh Co. Marvelous book, loaded with advice and information. 140 products for 1917, including toilet articles, spices, medicines, cleaning products, poultry and stock products. Design for an iceless refrigerator using Canton flannel. Recipes for candies. Canning. Rawleigh's Dip for Cattle, Horses, Sheep and Hogs.   Louse powder. How soap is made at Rawleigh's. Photos show gathering of raw drugs in faraway India and other spots. 104 pp. 14.7 x 22.4 cm. Paper booklet, full color, very good condition. (6561) $29.00. Advertising
Practical Housekeeping, A careful compilation of tried and approved recipes; One hundred and tenth thousand. 1881 Minneapolis, MN: Buckey Publishing Company. Starts with 371 pages of recipes; includes excellent section on kitchen "luxuries" showing small pictures of waffle irons, umbrella folding rack, spiral egg beater, steaming kettle, cake board and rolling pin, oyster broiler, revolving grater, and much more. 670 pp. 15 x 21 cm. Cloth on board, owner pasted paper over cover, thus cover poor. Text block very good. Binding tight.  Overall good. (5336) $60.00. Cookbooks/Women's

American Reader, The, containing a selection of Narration, Harrangues, Addresses, Orations, Dialogues, Odes, Hymns, Poems & c. Designed for use of schools. By John Hubbard, John 1820 Bellows Falls, Vermont: Bill Blake & Co. Loads of words of advice to young readers. Patriotic Address of Rolla, the Peruvian General, when attacked by the Spaniards; repeated in 1803 by R.B. Sheridan to the British while Bonaparte was preparing to attack that Kingdom.  Observations on the Indians of Virginia: "Poor Indians!  Where are they now? The people here now may say what they please, but on the principal of eternal truth and justice they have no rights to this country.…”  "never... will the Indians be brought to love the whiteman, and to imitate his sufferings." 215 pp. 10 x 16 cm. Paper on board, most of paper worn off, exposing bare wooden boards. Good. On front free endpaper is handwritten name "Adeline". (3553) $47.00. Educational

Atlas SSSR [Atlas of the USSR, in Russian] for 7th and 8th classes of Middle School, third edition 1956 Moscow, USSR: Glavnoye Upravlyeniye Geodesy I Kartografii MVD SSSR. Full-color Atlas of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) showing physical maps, climatological, resources, political-administrative, topographical, population, nationalities, industrial, main centers of machine construction, electrical power stations, metallurgical plants, railroad, transportation, river and watershed, detailed maps of parts of USSR, tables of rivers, lakes, mountains, etc. 76 pp. 23 x 29.5 cm. Paper board cover with cloth spine, edges worn, inside hinges cracked, staples rusted, good. (7338) $42.00. Educational/Atlas

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