The U.S. Military Traded Sears Clothing For Secrets In Vietnam
You might think being a spymaster is all ultra-sexy, dangerous work -- hushed tones, codenames, commie-killing contraptions, constantly fighting STDs on account of all the spy sex, etc. The reality, however, is that you're more of a clandestine human resources liaison than James Bond. This was something that an intelligence officer in Vietnam named Jon Wiant knew all too well.
He is one of these five people, probably.
Back in the 1960s, Wiant had the job of getting information from locals about the Viet Cong. But there was one problem: How do you pay jungle villagers for information? They didn't need or want money. He couldn't give them luxury goods, because that would have tipped off the enemy. He couldn't use food, because the local chiefs would've demanded a cut, and fuck that noise. Paying them in bitcoin was definitely off the list of options, because that hadn't been invented yet and is also stupid.
Then, like a miracle from heaven, Wiant's wife sent him his lifeline to the Western world -- a Sears catalog. Suddenly, it hit him: What if he paid his informants in sweet-ass corduroy jumpers?
Mekong grenades bounce right off them!
Laugh all you want, but picture yourself in the jungle and suddenly having access to a thousand pages' worth of stuff. And he wasn't wrong. After working out a scale whereby prices were tied to missions of a certain length/danger, Wiant had a catalog sent to his agents and sat by the phone, all the while hoping that they didn't think they were now being paid in a new and exciting form of pornography.