American spies get a bad rap. Whereas England has cool guys like James Bond and John Steed, US secret agents are mostly goofy bumblers like Maxwell Smart and, uh, Bill Cosby. We can't take the idea of a good American spy seriously -- but that's only because they've done their job too well. If you don't believe us, here are six real US espionage operations so ballsy and insane that they make 007 look like a fucking amateur.
6 The FBI Trained Alaskan Men To Go Red Dawn On Soviet Invasion Forces
Alaska has been fighting it's own Cold War since the Ice Age ended and forgot to thaw it out. This knowledge of icy warfare, as well as the territory's close proximity to the Soviets, made it an important strategic location for the US during the longest-running game of nuclear chicken on record. The territory gave the country a serious headache. It was too vast a swath of land to fortify, but it could not be left undefended. If the Russians crossed the Bering Strait into Alaska, what would be there to stop them? Simultaneously solving the problem and developing what could've been a groundbreaking reality television show, the US decided it would train a crack team of bear-hunting, bush-living locals.
Michael Multari via Fort Greely
If the Russians wanted to fry their balls during interrogation, they'd have to unfreeze them first.
Between 1951 and 1959, the US government assembled men from all walks of life and informed them that they were to become a counterinsurgency force to operate in the unforgiving wilderness should a Soviet invasion take place. Expecting to come up against bears or moose, any invaders would be facing Alaskan guerrillas instead. The most alarming part of this whole Arctic A-Team was the document which outlined the ideal profile of recruits. The imaginative descriptions read like a Federal Mad-lib: They want a [one-armed photographer] who is also a [pilot] and hunts [Kodiak bears] with a [bow and arrow].
US Air Force
"He's well-versed in [eats boogers] and studied in [poopy butt]."
Whether the FBI found their one-armed bear tracker is unknown, but the declassified documents do tell us that there were at least 89 men trained to run operations against the Soviets in the Alaskan wilderness. They were picked for their experience in the wild, and then run through training in the urban jungle that is Seattle. And if you're wondering if any of the selected badasses were natives, the answer is: It was the '50s. It was extremely the '50s.
US Air Force
"Weird how these people we're treating as useless drunks don't want to be loyal to us."
The final step was to divide the men into groups with a head civilian leader, code-named "principal" (as in, "and Gene Hackman as The Principal"), who'd give them missions and hopefully wear an eye patch. Obviously, the commie invasion never happened, but the government did go as far as hiding caches with survival and combat gear throughout the territory. It's unknown how many such caches were established, but they're presumably still buried out there, waiting to convince an Alaskan logger that he's living in an RPG game.
5 The CIA Steals (And Returns) A Soviet Satellite Without Anyone Noticing
Alexander Mokletsov via Wikimedia Commons
Before the US shoved a giant middle finger with a flag on top into the Moon, there was a heated race to be there first ... and the Soviets were winning. In fact, the Ruskies were so proud of their early accomplishments that they sent one of their Lunik/Luna modules on an exhibition tour of a number of nations. When Ms. Soviet Space Glory 1958 reached the United States, the CIA was naturally curious about her, so they broke into the exhibit for a private show. It was at this point that they realized that, holy shit, the Soviets sent the real thing, and not a papier mache model or something.
CIA via The Space Review
"It looks like someone carved 'FUCK STALIN' in here ... with a dog claw?"
But the CIA wasn't content with one show; they needed photographs. They chased the module across the country like desperate groupies, only to find it under 24-hour Soviet surveillance. However, they did discover that the Luna would be transported via truck to a train, then taken to the next city. Seeing this as their last chance to get what they wanted, the CIA crafted a plan that was half Breaking Bad, half Austin Powers.
The CIA set up their scheme by ensuring the module would be in the last truck leaving the exhibition. When the coast was clear, "the truck was stopped at the last possible turn-off, a canvas was thrown over the crate, and a new driver took over." All we know about the original driver is that he was kept in a hotel room for the night; whether it was a Bates Motel situation or a room filled with enough hookers to put a Red to bed, we know that he didn't leave until the next day.
Meanwhile, the CIA technicians began their work. They busted open the 14-foot-high crate to take apart and then rebuild pieces of the Luna, all the while snapping a generous amount of images. They kicked it all off at 7:30 p.m., and by 5:00 a.m., they had the Luna delivered by the original driver to the rail yard, with two hours to spare.
Alexander Mokletsov via Wikimedia Commons
They even had time to hang the satellite from the ceiling and have the world's first disco party.
The Russians never even knew their little girl was out all night with strangers (unless they're reading this article, in which case we're in big trouble). The ballsy operation provided invaluable information about the Soviet space program to NASA, which used the details to construct their ultra-accurate props for the Moon landing film set.