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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

CIA superspy in Golden BC?

I had a Fundraiser for the Amputee Coalition of Canada  in Golden BC last week that included two speeches in the local Legion.

Great food and great people make for an enjoyable evening but to my surprise Historian Susan Lucas introduced Captain Leonard A. LeSchack, USNR an Arctic/ Antarctic geologist and notable CIA superspy.

His actions in 1962 would lead to an intelligence haul and a cloudy career...... several trips to the Soviet Union and to the Arctic and Antarctic regions.  

Some have even called him the American James Bond and the end result is a retrieval system like no other and a mission unsurpassed in its daring.

Seven Days in The Arctic' B-17 on Operation Cold Feet. 
(Lt LeSchack being Lifted with the Fulton Skyhook off the Icestation by a CIA B17)
Keith Woodcock
The Fulton Skyhook was an idea dreamt up by an inventor like no other.  With this invention Lt.  LeSchack knew it would be the way to solve a dilemma.... how to steal the Soviet data from under their feet.
For many years the Soviets had ice stations located on the Arctic sheet that would drift for months and then eventually break up and disappear beneath the waves. Talking the remaining science and data to the ocean floor.  IN a time without computers carbon copies, the data in raw form and even the instruments would be invaluable to understand what the Soviets knew of the ice and of acoustics beneath that ice.

He wanted to know what the Soviets knew and in the days before effective long range communication, satellites and even long range helicopters the challenges were great.  He knew that to parachute would be easy the question was always how do you recover the people you dropped on the site and recover the intel found.

The Fulton Skyhook was the answer.  Operation Coldfeet would be underway.

Once the Soviets abandoned an Ice Station the clock would be ticking...........

For more on the operation you can read a quick synopsis here....

Project COLDFEET: Seven Days in the Arctic

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union battled for every advantage, including studying the Arctic for its strategic value. For seven days in May 1962, under Project COLDFEET, the US intelligence community pursued a rare opportunity to collect intelligence firsthand from an abandoned Soviet research station high in the Arctic.
The Soviet drift station – located on a floating ice island – had been hastily evacuated when shifting ice made the base runway unusable. Since the ice was breaking apart – and normal air transport to the island was now impossible – the Soviets felt the remote base and its equipment and research materials would be crushed and thoroughly destroyed in the Arctic Sea. Unfortunately for the Soviets, they were wrong.
Project COLDFEET was truly a joint venture bringing together the resources and expertise of the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency. On May 28, using pilots and a B-17 from CIA proprietary Intermountain Aviation – accompanied by a polar navigator borrowed from Pan American Airlines – two intelligence collectors were successfully dropped by parachute onto the ice.
The B-17 – now rigged with Robert Fulton’s Skyhook – returned on June 2 to recover the team and their take. The Skyhook was a unique airborne pickup device that included a nose yolk and a special winch system. The key measure of COLDFEET’s success was the unprecedented safe removal of the investigative team and many critical items.  (For a video of the test of the Skyhook please click here:)
The mission yielded valuable information to the US intelligence community on the Soviet Union’s drift station research activities. The team found evidence of advanced acoustical systems research to detect under-ice US submarines and efforts to develop Arctic anti-submarine warfare techniques.

This small team — incredibly courageous and resourceful — planned and executed a remarkable feat, capitalizing on a rare intelligence opportunity.
One of the more amazing things about this story is that it does not end in 1962 in fact the skyhook was used in the James Bond movie Thunderball.  Of note the plane used in this movie is the same one used in Operation Coldfeet.
James Bond with the girl... alas LeSchack would leave the arctic ice flows with no Bond Girl
And even the more recent Batman franchise.
Batman contemplating Lt. LeSchack
The Skyhook has even made it into the Bioshock Video game series.
Bioshock version of the Fulton Skyhook

Project Coldfeet and Captain Leschack (then Lt) has also been featured this month in Eyespy magazine:
 More on Captain Leschack (then Lt):

Episode 6, ‘ Weapons of the Superspies’ will air on Discovery Military channel:
(available in the US only) on the 9/18 @ 10 pm EST which will also talk of Operation Coldfeet


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