Real stories from the world of espionage and special operations

Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
edited April 2020 in Off Topic Chat
Since this forum is about celebrating and discussing a fictional secret agent, it's surprising to me that no such thread hasn't started years ago. This thread is for sharing stories from real covert operations, espionage and special operations, past and present. You can share videos, links to articles, podcasts etc. I have from time to time written stories in seperate threads about covert operations involving Norway and Norwegians that might not be known outside the country. I hope more members will share stories like that in this thread because there are many incredible stories out there.

I'll start with a Youtube link of the TV documentary "Operation Mincemeat" with the author Ben Macintyre. This is a true story about a bizarre covert operation in WWII first sugested by one Ian Fleming. :007)



  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited May 2020
    Please join in, people :)
    Here is a more ambitious post from me, but please don't feel you have to put this much work into it if you want to post something.

    Selmer Nilsen and the U2 spy plane


    Before spy satellites became available it was very difficult to get photos taken from the air of the USSR. The American solution was the U2 plane, an unarmed plane that was able to fly above any enemy fighter jets and ground-to-air misslies. The plane was not a part of the US Air Force because flying a military airplane over USSR air space could be considered an act of war. Instead the U2 operated for the CIA. Most of you know a U2 plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, causing a major crisis between NATO and the USSR.

    Some of you know the final mission was ment to be from Pashawar in Pakistan to Bodø in Norway. Bodø is a town placed only slightly north of the Arctic Circle and had been used many times before by U2 planes. It's been discussed how many in Norway knew this, but it's unlikely the Prime Minister was briefed. U2 landed at night and was hidden in a designated hangar as quickly as possible. Locals who got a glimpse of the plane called it "the black lady". The hangar was guarded and operated by American CIA personel who were armed with sidearms in shoulder holsters. Norwegian Air Force personell weren't allowed near the hangar even though it was on a Norwegian base.


    Now we intruduce Selmer Nilsen to the story. He was born in 1931 in Bakfjorden, pretty much as far north you can get in Norway or Europe as a whole. About as far north as northern Alaska. During WWII his family worked for the Soviet Secret service against the Germans, probably mainly because the USSR was by far the nearest ally. Two of his older brothers got training in the Soviet Union. Selmer was just a boy, but he remembered being punched in the face by a Gestapo officer. This area was an important part of the world during the war. It's worth mentioning that the German battleship Tirpitz was hiding in a narrow fjord close to their home.



    In the fall of 1944 the Soviet army started moving into Northern Norway and Hitler ordered the region to be burnt completely to the ground, the so-called "scorched earth" strategy. An area the size of Denmark was torched, 200,000 German soldiers were evacuated along with 50 000 civilians who were moved against their will. 25,000 civilians decided to stay against the German orders. They hid for months in caves, under upturned rowboats and other hiding places for months while German units hunted them.

    Civilians finally leaving the cave after being liberated by Soviet forces

    The Nilsen family fled across the border to the USSR. After the war they returned and rebuilt their farm. In 1947 a Soviet intelligence officer knocked on their door. Sources sometimes say this was a GRU operation, other say it was the KGB. The intelligence officer said the Nilsen family had to give them one of the sons or they "would return", an obvious threat. The sixteen year old Selmer was chosen and taken back to the USSR. There he was given radio and Morse training and "ideological instruction".
    He returned to Norway under orders to get a military career or marry into an officer family. He joined the army for National Service, but due to severe asthma he did not finish his training. He hoped he was off the hook, but around 1956 the Soviet secret service returned and ordered him to continue spying for them. Selmer traveled in Northern Norway as a fisherman and he even started his own little traveling amusement park as cover. He mainly looked out for ships, especially NATO naval ships. He visited the USSR several times in the following years. Usually by sea using his fishing boat (not unusual back during the war), but once he simply walked across the border on foot. There he got additional training, payment for his services and sometimes new equipment.

    Selmer Nilsen

    His radio set issued by the Soviets:

    In 1960 he was ordered to do surveillance of Bodø Main Air Station to look if he could see the U2 plane. He hid in one of the bunkers near the air force base made by the Germans during WWII. He observed the plane and reported back to the Soviets. Francis Gary Powers was shot down not very long after Selmer Nilsen had made his reports. The next time he visited the USSR he was told two agents had placed a bomb with a timer on the plane while it was on the ground in Pakistan, but it's more likely the Soviet ground-to-air missiles Technology had finally caught up with the plane and they got their chance when they knew the approximate route.

    The control tower of Bodø air station is now a museum

    The wreck of the U2


    The (very optimistic) survival equipment Francis Gary Powers was issued with

    Selmer Nilsen was finally caught in 1967, after being an agent for twenty years. He felt relieved. He only served seven and a half years in prison because of his health problems, then he returned to his family farm. In 1971 a long TV interview was made of him, but it wasn't aired until 2007. Selmer Nilsen died in 1991.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2018
    An interview with a KGB "illegal" - a deep undercover agent who lived as an American for the last ten years of the cold war.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,880Chief of Staff
    Interesting stuff, N24.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited October 2018
    A documentary about the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the WWII predecessor of CIA and Army Special Forces:
    (Ian Fleming visited, and perhaps trained, at Camp X in Canada)

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 1,061MI6 Agent
    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2018
    New information was just made public about Joachim Rønneberg, the leader of the legendary Vemork sabotage mission in WWII. Rønneberg recently died aged 99. An historian got hold of Joachim Rønneberg's file in the British National Archives and found a previously unknown document. Six months after the sabotage misson in February 1943 Rønneberg suggested a second sabotage on the heavy water plant in Vemork to colonel Skinner, the head of the Norwegian section of Special Operations Executive (SOE). While the first sabotage had damaged the factory severely the Germans were able to restart a limited production of heavy water. "I know my friends will be obligated to play another trick on the guards at Vemork." wrote Rønneberg. What the SOE leadership knew that Rønneberg didn't know was that the German security in Vemork had been strengthened since the sabotage in February. The windows into the cellar where the production took place had been closed with masonry, minefields had been laid and the guards now had guard dogs.

    His suggestion was rejected. Instead the area was bombed by the US Air Force using 175 B-17 and B-24 bombers dropping 711 bombs. 600 bombs missed their target and twenty civilians were killed. Some damamge was done to the factory and production stopped for a while. The Germans decided to move the remaining heavy water to Germany, but the SOE and memebers of the local resistance managed to place a bomb in the ferry that transported the valuable cargo accross a lake. The fery sank along with all the remaining heavy water and eighteen people, fourteen of them civilian. We will never know what would have happened if there had been a second sabotage mission.

    The Vemork factory and Joachim Rønneberg after the war
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    A short video about the Teufelberg (Devil's Mountain) SIGINT listening station in cold war West Berlin.


  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    A 1969 US Army training film about Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and espionage. You half espect George Smiley walk by in the background or the music from The Third Man to kick in :D


  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited December 2019
    To round up the cold war Berlin trilogy, here is a facinating podcast about the US Army Special Forces detachment in West Berlin with an interview with a former member. The unit's mission was closer to espionage and "stay behind" than other Green Beret units.



    A Green Beret with a WWII era Welrod silenced pistol.


  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent
    edited January 2021
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2018
    Incredibly, the U2 "Dragon Lady" surveilance plane is still in use after sixty years in service. Last winter an U2 pilot flying over the Arctic experienced flying through the northern lights and took photos of it, including this selfie:


    Spying can be beautiful


    These photos were taken while flying 800 km/h and up to 70 000 feet above the ground


  • JTMJTM Posts: 3,027MI6 Agent
    Wow, those are incredible photos!
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent
    edited January 2021
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2018
    Christ! 200 members of the KSK is about a fifth of the entire unit. And extremists trained to that level is very scary :o
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited January 2019
    The Gatekeepers

    This is an award-winning documentary were the former chiefs of Shin Bet (Israeli counter-inteligence) discuss their work and Israel. They are in many ways more thoughtful and objective than politicians discussing this problem. Very intersting!

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 1,061MI6 Agent
    Plot by 200 neo-nazi German SAS soldiers to kill politicians and
    Immigrants exposed !

    Here is the Focus article on the matter: Not quite 200 ksk troopers involved if my rusty "deutsch" serves me properly....
    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2018
    This is Google Translate's version of the article. I have made a couple of minor changes in spite of the fact that Translate is (as we all know) perfect and never makes mistakes :v

    Planten stop case Franco A .: BKA has evidence of network within the Bundeswehr (The German military)

    In the investigation in the case of Franco A. the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has apparently evidence of a larger conspiratorial network of radical preppers, ie people preparing for a possible end of the world, within the Bundeswehr. This reports FOCUS and refers to investigation files of the BKA.
    Thereafter, there should be numerous connections to an association for elite soldiers and members of the special forces command (KSK). According to eyewitnesses, in chat groups and at real meetings of preppers there were concrete plans for a so-called "Day X", "to spend unpopular politicians to a place of killing".
    In addition, secret weapons depots and fuel storage have been created, writes FOCUS on. On a death list not found until today, the leader of the Left Party in the Bundestag, Dietmar Bartsch, should have been at the top. As part of the investigation last year, the house of a Rostock local politician and lawyer was searched.

    Lieutenant colonel obstructed investigation
    As FOCUS continues to write, the investigation of the BKA were apparently massively obstructed by a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel of the Military Counter-intelligence Service (MAD), against which the public prosecutor's office in Cologne under the file number 539 Ds 297/18 at the District Court of Cologne has indicted. The man is said to have warned members of the KSK, who served as leaders of the survival scene, among other things, from searches.
    Furthermore, there are apparently close links between the survival fans and members of an association for elite soldiers named "Uniter e.V.", which gather mainly members of the special forces of the military and police. Thus, the chat groups were headed by several of the then main sergeants of the KSK. One of them is the current chairman of the association. At the same time, the man acted as interrogators as an "informant" of the MAD to the Uniter e.V. and represented "the only credible source of information on internal processes of the KSK" for military intelligence.
    The specialized committees of the Bundestag had not been informed, said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, defense spokeswoman for the FDP, the FOCUS. "This matter must be fully informed in Parliament," the politician de
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited January 2019
    I was uncertain if I should post this in the military thread or here. Read on to find out what my conclusion was :v
    I'm reading a biography about SOE agent and historian Ragnar Ulstein. I found an interesting detail. The Norwegian SOE units (Company Linge & the naval "Shetland gang") were dismantled after the war. The surviving members kept meeting every year in the Linge Club. The members never turned in their weapons and Ragnar Ulstein still has his pistol, a Stengun and a M1 Carbine locked up in his home. Until a few years ago the Linge Club held shooting competitions. Imagine the former agents in their 80's and 90's blasting away with their guns :007)

    When the Soviet union grabbed power in Czechoslovakia in 1948 the Linge agents asked for a refresher course. 70 agents met in a military base and trained for a week. Are there any other examples of a SOE unit trainng or operating in any way years after the war?
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    The GPS signal in the northernmost region of Norway has been jammed three times this year. Today the police confirmed the jamming signals came from Russian military bases. Are they testing their capabilities in case of a future conflict? Or perhaps it's a warning? Don't test us or you know what we can do …..
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent
    edited January 2021
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    It does matter if you're flying a passenger airplane. Most Things can be done With a map and Compass, but it takes more time.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent
    edited January 2021
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2018
    A podcast about Maxwell Knight. Spy, spymaster and likely model for James Bond's M :007)

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    Playing dirty - MI6 documentary.

    This documentary is about black ops, for example assassinations. This is pretty controversial stuff i belive, so make of it what you want.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited November 2019
    Project COLDFEET

    In May 1961 an US Navy airplane discovered an abandoned Soviet drifting ice station on the North Pole ice cap. Drifting ice stations were Soviet research bases buildt on the ice in the Arctic, the stations were called NP for North Pole and numbered in order. Because the ice moves around they only last a couple of years. The Arctic was important during the cold war because both sides had nuclear submarines patroling under the ice where they were very hard to find. In case of war they could briefly go outside the ice cap, fire ballistic missiles and duck back under the ice again. This was a constant cat and mouse game. The NP 9 station had to evacuate because the ice had drifted and destroyed their airfield. The navy hoped important equipment had been left behind. They suspected the Soviets used acoustics to monitor US submarines under the ice just like they did, and getting their hands on the Soviet equipment would be very useful.

    From "Ice station Zebra", an obvious movie reference for this story


    Drift station NP 9 was far out of helicopter range, landing airplanes was no longer possible and the ice was far too thick for the station to be reached by icebreakers. They had to get inventive. During WWII the US and UK had developed a system called "skyhook" to retrieve agents behind enemy lines without landing. The agent wore a parachute harness and inflated a baloon on a line. A plane fitted with a special V-shaped yoke on the nose catches the line, yanks the agent from the ground and he is reeled in just in a few minutes. This is the method used by Bond and Domino to be picked up from the liferaft at the end of Thunderball.



    The CIA called the operation COLDFEET and saw it as "a wonderful opportunity" to make use of the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system. They picked Major James Smith, USAF, was an experienced paratrooper and Russian linguist who had served on U.S. Drift Stations Alpha and Charlie and Lieutenant Leonard A. LeSchack, USNR, a former Antarctic geophysicist, had set up the surveillance systems before. Over summer they trained parchuting and using the Fulton retrival system. Unfortunately the NP 9 drift station had drifted too far away by that time, but the NP 8 station was discovered abondoned in March 1962, close enough to Canadian airfields. Smith and LeShack were dropped by parachute on May 28 over drift station NP 8, now located on a floating ice island.

    The map used by the pilots in Operation COLDFEET:


    The two men found Soviet Union's Arctic research activities, including evidence of advanced research on acoustical systems to detect under-ice U.S. submarines and efforts to develop Arctic anti-submarine warfare techniques. The equipment, Smith and LeShack were picked up on June the 2nd by skyhook in three seperate lifts and returned to the US.

  • JTMJTM Posts: 3,027MI6 Agent
    Great read! Thanks for sharing N24 -{
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited December 2020
    Asbjørn Sunde - the most dangerous man in the resistance


    Many believe the most active resistence groups were pro-British and pro-US. That wasn't the case in Norway and I suspect the same can be said about a number of countries. One of the most active was Asbjørn Sunde (1909-1985). He joined the merchant navy aged fifteen and later tried to join the navy as an NCO, but his unwillingness to obey the officers and his far left politics ended in him getting blacklisted. He became a communist and joined the communist party in 1932. He also became a good boxer and bought a Packard Cabriolet 1936 from lottery winnings, a very un-Norwegian and "capitalist" car.

    Like many other communists back then he volunteered to fight i the Spanish civil war (1936-39). At first he was an ambulance driver, but later became a saboteur working behind enemy lines. His commander was Alexander Orlov, the NKVD rezident (station chief) in Spain. Most of us know the NKVD better under the cold war name KGB. Orlov was probably the model for the character "Felbing" in Ernest Hemingway's novel "For whom the bells tolls". Sunde's job was the same as the main character Robert Jordan, blowing up bridges and trains and other important targets. Orlov orchetrated the smugling of the Spanish national bank's gold to the Soviet Union when it the republicans lost the war with Franco, something Orlov was awarded the Order of Lenin for. But when he was ordered to return to the USSR the purges of NKVD were in full force. Orlov knew that people who had been abroad and met foreigners were highly suspect in Stalin's Soviet Union, making himself a likely target for the purge. He decided to defect to the US and became an anti-communist.

    From the movie "For whom the bells tolls"

    Asbjørn Sunde returned to Norway, but remained in contact with the NKVD. He became the leader of the Oslo branch of the Wollweber Group, a NKVD organisation that sabotaged ships from fascist countries that visited harbours in Northern Europe. It was named after their leader, Ernst Wollweber, who later became the chief of the feared East German secret police Stasi. The Foreign inteligence branch (HVA) was headed in the same time period by Markus Wolf, who probably was the model for John le Carre's mysterious spymaster "Karla". The Wolweber organisation was dormant while nazi Germany and the USSR were "allies" 1939-41, but when Germany attacked the Soviet union in 41 they were re-activated and Sunde became the leader of the whole Norwegian branch.

    The communists had a ready-made resistance organisation with several men with exeprience from Spain and the Wollweber Group.
    That's why they could start an effective resistance before MILORG, the resistance organisation loyal to the Norwegian exile government in London. MILORG was also much more carefull, even hesitant in ordering sabotage attacks because nazis killed civilian hostages as reprisals for sabotage attacks. Sunde's group had the typical communist disregard for human life and carried out attacks regardless.

    Asbjørn Sunde used the cover name "Osvald" and his unit became known as the Osvald Group. He trained new members in their bases in cabins in the forrests and mountains. Sunde himself later mentioned 39 sabotage missions his organisation was responsible for, and he took part personally in many of them. An SOE agent who worked in Norway assessed the total number to be around 200, making the Ovald Group the most active and successful sabotage unit by far in Norway during the war.


    The group worked with MILORG, SOE and other resitance organisations.
    Unlike the UK-backed MILORG, the Osvald Group hardly got any support from the USSR. It was hard to supply guns, explosives and other help from Soviet-held territory. Asbjørn Sunde's solutions were unconventional. They started robbing banks to get cash, always leaving behind reciepts with promises to return the money after the war. The group also assassinated key nazis for MILORG, in effect becoming assassins for money. After the war Sunde described one assassination where he and a commerade broke in to a nazi's apartment while the record player was playing show tunes. He describes how his friend puked while Sunde stabbed the traitor.

    "Osvald" became known as a very brave, but emotionally cold person. Once he took his wife and his little boy to a mountain lake to teach him to swim. To familiarize the child with being under water he held him under until he almost drowned time after time while his mother stood on the shore, screaming and pleading Asbjørn to stop. On another occation a group member returned to them after a a period in German captivity. Sunde felt the man looked too healthy, since the few group members who had returned alive from prison had been far more barely alive. He simply wasn't "tortured enough". Sunde decided the Gestapo must have managed to turned the man early in the "questioning" and he was now a double agent. Sunde's wife remembers her husband, the suspect and a third group member walking into the forrest. Later a shot was heard and Asbjørn and the other man returned without the torture victim. He had been executed.

    In spite of the strict security measures their bases were discovered by German forces several times. The resistance fighters and their families had to shoot themselves free in small battles with dozens of fighters and machine guns on both sides. The Osvald Group suffered horrible losses during the war and many were tortured to death after being captured. In 1944 a deal was made between Britain and the UK on one side and the Soviets on the other that Soviet controlled resistance groups in what became western Europe had to demobilise since the Western powers feared with good reason that these groups could be used by the USSR after the war against democratically elected governments. Asbjørn Sunde followed the orders from Moscow as usual.

    After the war Asbjørn Sunde wrote the book "Men in darkness". It's a good read, obviously written by a cold, brave and violent man. He didn't use the real names of anyone other than himself. The SOE agent Gunnar "Number 24" Sønsteby got him a job and he got a medal that everyone who contributed in the war effort got, but as the cold war became colder life got hard for Sunde and his fellow communist resistance fighters. They got little recognition for their sacrifises and bravery during the war. Jobs were hard to find and they felt they were under surveilance by the security sevice. They probably were under police surveilance. Aabjørn Sunde certainly was, and he knew it. He was far too exoerienced not to notice his "shadows" and he amused himself by shaking them off. Norwegian police was not much of a challenge for a man used to dodging Gestapo for years. This was a bad move, since he acted suspiciously and the police susupected him of still working for the Soviets. He was the most obvious person in the country to be a Soviet spy, so many belived he couldn't be a spy for that very reason.

    Asbjørn sitting nearest to the camera at the 1954 espionage trial.

    Sunde was arrested and charged with being a Soviet spy in 1954. The chief of the secret sevice was a former friend from the war. Asbjørn Bryhn had been a member of the organisation called A2, the police group to be exact. Sunde once borrowed uniforms from Bryhn and the police group to break a Osvald Group member from prison. The testemony of a KGB defector and other facts proves Sunde really spied for the Soviets , but not on a high level. It wasn't like he could get any Security clearances with his background. He stayed in prison for five years and then he was released for medical reasons. Asbjørn Sunde lived a quiet life until he died in 1985. He never came out of the darkeness.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,963MI6 Agent
    edited January 2019
    Russia's oldest secret agent turns 101, and he can still handle a Walther PPK!
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