King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Espionage during the Cold War

Types of Intelligence Gathering

Map of East Germany with zones highlighting the positioning of troops`East Germany, showing fortified areasIntelligence work was more than simply photographing classified documents and reporting overheard conversations back to their respective handlers, as the conventional narrative makes out. In many cases espionage workers had to come up with ingenious ways to gather important intelligence that could not be retrieved from classified documents.

In the field, apples were used to be pushed into gun turrets to gauge the width of the barrels and determine what size of bullet a weapon took; wires were tapped in order to intercept communications and train lines were monitored to detect troop movements.

Picture of a stone fence circling a pillar which has been hollowed out to hide documents in it‘Dead Drop,’ Wiesbaden, GermanyAs well as spying on equipment and troop movements, it was important for intelligence workers to keep up to date with the evolving landscape of the Eastern territories. Cartographers were introduced to intelligence work and commissioned with the task of formulating maps of territory.

From these maps, officials could identify which military bases would be the most effective to target to cripple the opposing state following an outbreak of war. Agents who had successfully infiltrated opposing forces’ military circles and political groups were unable to return to relay evidence to their superiors, so as to maintain their own cover.

Two pictures of two Communist agents removing a map and film from a hollow spot in a stone fenceCommunist agents extracting material from the ‘Dead Drop’In order to pass down the intelligence gathered, ‘dead drop’ zones were created where spies were able to hide classified information, to be later picked up by their carriers or alternative espionage workers.

Once intelligence had been gathered it was up to analysts to put the data to good use. One practical way to do this was to construct physical interpretations of equipment through the creation of models.

Models would provide insight into the equipment, how it was fueled, and how it operated, demonstrating its strengths and weaknesses to military officials and engineers. They could subsequently base the next generation of tactics or military equipment on these facts, aiming to exploit these weaknesses.

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