The ENORMOZ VENONA Intercepts, Secret Agents, and the “peacefully atomic” postwar years.

Posted by on April 2, 2008



It’s easy to look back at the fifties and see a time of big-finned cars, teenagers, and that “evil” Elvis Presley. It’s also quite fashionable to satirize and poke fun at the tone of McCarthyism and Communist spy hysteria that swept the country during those years.


However, no matter how we feel today, the simple facts remain:

There WAS espionage going on by the Soviet Union in America.




With the advent of the Manhattan Project, the atomic age was on, and the Soviet Union was struggling to catch up. Employing agents in ever increasing numbers inside the United States, they were desperate to obtain the needed information for their weapons programs. They were successful in obtaining this information to some extent as noted by the DOE and the success of what has come to be known as Project Enormoz:

“…Soviet espionage directed at the Manhattan Project probably hastened by at least 12-18 months the Soviet acquisition of an atomic bomb. When the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test on August 29, 1949 (right), the device they used was virtually identical in design to the one that had been tested at Trinity four years previously….”

(Source: United States DOE)





In an incident just released to the public a few years ago and known by the the code name VENONA, where the actual transmissions by Soviet agents back to their intelligence agencies were decrypted. The telegram above is a great example. Eventually this information helped to catch spies such as the Rosenbergs, and Allan Nunn May among others.

There is a wealth of material here, so much in fact, there have been books written. Consider this a starting point and try the links below. The PBS link is especially useful. There also remains much material I didn’t even begin to mention.

But it makes me wonder…what else don’t we know?????


Have a great day, see you tomorrow!



PBS: Project Enormous

US Department of Energy (History)

The Manhattan Project (DOE site)



(1)On The Run

(2)United States DOE

(3)National Archives

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