Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mission Accomplished: The International Spy Museum - Spies in Action

My visit to the International Spy Museum was not only lots of fun, it was also a bit of a history lesson.  In addition to the exhibits mentioned in my earlier posts, there were a number of films that you could watch covering subjects like Aldridge Ames, the CIA analyst who was convicted in 1994 of spying for the Soviets, and Albert Einstein's involvement in the creation of the Manhattan Project.  I wish I'd had more time to take it all in, although after three hours at the museum, I had so much information floating around in my head that I couldn't process it all.    Here are a couple of other tidbits that I found particularly interesting:

--In 1777, George Washington hired Nathan Sackett to search out British sympathizers.  Sackett was paid a whopping $50 a month for his services plus an additional $500 to set up his spy network.  The museum has the original letter from Washington to Sackett requesting his services on display.

Iva Toguri D'Aquino Mug Shot
--"Tokyo Rose" was not a person but a generic name given to female English-speaking broadcasters during WWII who were used to broadcast propaganda to Allied Forces over the air waves.  Iva Toguri D'Aquino is the individual most often identified as "Tokyo Rose" as she was found guilty of treason and imprisoned for her broadcasts of propaganda from Japan, where she was stranded during WWII.  Iva maintained her innocence throughout her imprisonment and beyond, saying that she was compelled to make the broadcasts and that she did what she could to make them sound ridiculous.  She was pardoned by President Gerald Ford in 1977.

--Elizabeth Van Lew, Union spy extraordinaire, is another female operative whose story caught my attention.  (A portion of the museum is dedicated to the "Sisterhood of Spies" and was quite fascinating.)  During the Civil War, Van Lew operated a spy ring out of Richmond, Virginia, passing information concerning Confederate troop levels and movements to Union commanders.   She often passed this information using hollowed out eggs.  (Wouldn't Martha Stewart be proud of this unusual use of a household item???)    

--Academy Award winning director John Ford put his film making skills to use during WWII creating both documentaries of the war and training films.  Two of his Academy Awards were actually for films created during this period: one for the documentary The Battle of Midway (1942) and another for the propaganda film December 7 (1943).

As I headed towards the exit of the museum, I was tested once again as to my cover and asked some security questions to determine if I would be permitted to leave. By this time, my brain was on overload but I was able to answer the questions in a satisfactory manner and leave the premises with the microdot safely hidden away.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take your own tour of the International Spy Museum.  Trust me, you'll be glad that you did.

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