Canal in downtown St. Petersburg, near the Hermitage
The Day we took the head photographer to
. There were many Africans in Leningrad Moscow,
nearly all from Soviet client states in Africa. In the days we were there, many were at Lumumba University,
learning ways to stir up the populace back home in the Congo, or Zaïre, or . Or Angola Uganda, Kenya
Or Nigeria Sudan or . Burkina Faso
We had an African-American Air Force Sergeant in our embassy. He was a senior non-commissioned officer who handled our photo lab. He had processed thousands of rolls of film for us back at our Embassy, and we thought he would enjoy visiting
(now St. Petersburg), this very
interesting city in the north, particularly since we had brought back so many
rolls of film from here. He never
routinely would travel with us attachés, but our General thought it would be
good for him to see what it was that we were shooting. Leningrad
But when the KGB saw us with a black man in our car, they went nuts. They acted as if we had brought a secret weapon to
They normally would follow our car with a car full of stolid, sullen, very husky young men. We called them goons. But this day, they had four cars, switching off amongst one another. Loaded with goons. These cars were all Soviet Zhigulis, the Russian version of the Fiat, made in a huge factory built with the help of the Italian Fiat company in a city named Tolyatti (after Italian Communist Togliatti) several hundred miles southeast of Moscow.
Often I would make notes about what I wanted to observe on our drive that day, and I would write these on water-soluble rice paper, which I could easily pop in my mouth if we should be apprehended. This special paper would dissolve at once.
When, with the four cars of goons following us I thought we would get hauled out, I decided it was time to swallow my notes. However, when you are scared, which I was, your mouth dries up so much that you can’t even dissolve the paper.
We were driving next to one of the many canals that run through
, and since our
surveillance was not in sight at the moment, I thought it would be a good time
to stop and throw the mouthful of rice paper in the canal. I think it was the Leningrad . Griboyedova Canal
Wrong! As I should have suspected in icy, frozen
, there was just ice in the
canal. Foiled! My mouthful
of paper just rested on the ice. Leningrad
I was lucky that the KGB didn’t find the rice paper. At any rate, we never got apprehended. The Sergeant had a good ride around town.
I would make a lousy spy.
Peter and Paul Fortress, from across the
Women’s Day in
—Fats took the day off! Leningrad
We took the Midnight Red Arrow from
Moscow to , arriving on
schedule at 8:25 a.m. A driver met us at the train station and drove us to the
American Consulate, where we stowed our bags and jumped into our car, all set
for a day of work. Leningrad
One of the things we did a lot was "Order-of-Battle". We had to report ships in port, including boats and ships that just moved around the canals and rivers of the
information we provided was correlated with information from agents, from
satellite imagery, and electronic intelligence intercept to maintain a picture
of the Naval Order of Battle of the USSR . This meant taking a lot of long, long
walks in some pretty crappy, snowy places. USSR
One of our favorite walks was along the
Neva River at Schmidt’s Bank, in . Here hundreds of boats and often
warships and submarines tied up. Many
of the smaller, lighter draft boats were awaiting a schedule to move up the
canals that cut across Leningrad . Here we
could see these boats and ships, and Red Fleet ships, and also ships under
construction in the many shipyards of Russia . Leningrad
Whenever we would take these walks, we tried to take along our cameras and collect photos of interesting things. Photography in this area was forbidden, however.
The KGB assigned an elderly “goon” that attachés over the years had named “Fats.” He and some of his associates generally were around to follow us wherever we walked, or drove, and to make our job harder, or impossible. They wore the red armbands of “Druzhniki,” or “concerned citizens.” Sort of like elderly volunteers who operate as school crossing guards, except these were assigned to look after the foreign “spies.” The Soviets considered all foreign diplomats spies—they hadn’t changed their attitude toward foreigners in centuries.
One day, March the 8th, 1983 to be exact, it was International Women’s Day. Now, in fact, the Soviets didn’t give much of a hoot about women’s rights, except the right of old women to stand in the street all day long in the winter, smashing ice with a heavy iron rod.
But this day, as we arrived to do our job of collecting intelligence in
, there was NO
KGB. They had the day off! Leningrad
I was traveling with my assistant, Pierce Crabtree, a big, burly former Navy football player. With no KGB to bother us, we went wild photographing shipyards and ships and everything we could see. We were driving a Soviet version of a Land Rover, called a “Niva.” We thought this would be a great day to check out some radar installations near the Czars’ summer palace at Petrodvorets. However, somewhere between Kipen’ and Ropsha, we got stuck in the snow.
If the KGB had been around, we would not have been able to get that far. Now, free to travel, we had gone and gotten ourselves in trouble. The snow was pretty deep.
Fortunately, along came a bus full of Russians. The driver and some of the passengers got out and helped push us out of the snowbank.
It was just another example of how friendly the Russians were, except for those whose job was to keep an eye on us.
[An earlier version of this was published August 16, 2011.]
Now for some books and papers from The Personal Navigator:
The Locks – Charles River Dam, from
Its Byways & Highways Boston
Boston, Its Byways & Highways, Being Twenty-five Drawings Reproduced in Photogravure by John Albert Seaford ca. 1916
MA Le Roy Phillips, Publisher. 24 plates.
13 x 20 cm. Elegant drawings of Boston sights on 7.8 x 10.4 cm. plates tipped
in with descriptions. Includes Cover, with drawing of State House, Bulfinch
Front; Pemberton Square; Trinity Church; From Adams Square to Faneuil Hall;
Towers of Cambridge Bridge; Temple Street and the Bulfinch Dome; Roll Lift
Bridge at Fort Point Channel; Market District; The Locks--Charles River Dam;
more. Heavy cardboard with paper wraps, cover moderately worn. Individual
plates and text block very good. Fair. (4784) $14.00. Travel Boston
Roosevelt: State of
New York in Memoriam
Theodore Roosevelt Born:
October 27, 1858 Died:
January 6, 1919 1919 Albany, NY: Legislature of the State of . 131
pp. 18 x 25.5
tribute to a towering figure of New York
in the last years of the 19th and the first years of the 20th century. Includes
much biographical detail, excerpts from TR's speeches, including last public
words about promoting Americanism, and speech in which he publicly accused the
Legislature, of which he was member, of corruption in Manhattan Elevated
Railroad affair. Includes Address by Sen.Henry Cabot Lodge of America , his
lifelong friend, before Congress on Sunday, February 9, 1919. Black cloth on
board with gilt printing on cover and spine. Small biopredation holes in cover.
On ffep stamped "Compliments
of William Duggan, Senator 19th District" Very good. (2350)
Soviet Theatre ca. 1950
Collection of photos of Soviet theatre performances of 1950s, including actors
Y. Tolubeyev, Z. Kirienko, A. Shatov, G. Stepanova, G. Menglet, V. Lepko, A.
Kruglov, V. Orlova, T. Samoilova, R. Nifontova, V. Pashennaya and A. Katsynsky;
Ballerina Galina Ulanova as Juliet, Yuri Zhdanov as Romeo. 26 pp. 27 x 18 cm.
(5695) $15.00. Travel/Educational Moscow, USSR
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org