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Evgeny Georgievich Golubev: The CIA’s Frustrated Frogman in the Early Cold War

On July 24, 1951, the CIA’s Project Approval Board approved Project WSBAKERY and notified the Far Eastern Branch:  

The object of this project is the establishment of two reception and training centers, one within the continental limits of the United States and a second in a more forward area (possibly Alaska or the Aleutians) for the reception training and forward movement of selected Russian agents to be employed in Far Eastern operations presumably Eastern and Northern Siberia.

The Board has been impressed with the thoroughness and careful thought embodied in WSBAKERY. The Board is also most strongly of the opinion that no effort should be spared in developing early penetration of Communist Russian territory and that Siberia provides a hitherto little developed but potentially fruitful field for such operations. [1]

WSBAKERY was then integrated into Basic Plan AEACRE in February 1952. Basic Plan AEACRE was to “provide for the establishment of a Domestic Operations Base in or near Washington for the interrogation, assessment, training, briefing, and preparation for dispatch of agents for infiltration into the USSR.”

One agent selected for agent penetration training was Evgeny Georgievich Golubev, a Russian national born in 1923 in Kizlyar, Grozny region, USSR.

In June 1947, Golubev deserted the Soviet Army in the Azerbaijan SSR and illegally crossed the Soviet border into Iran. He was immediately arrested by the military authorities and imprisoned. He contacted the British intelligence service in August 1948 and offered information. He told an employee of the British Embassy about the airfields, weapons, and command personnel of those military units in which he served in the Soviet Union.

At the beginning of 1949, having arrived from Isfahan to Tehran, he contacted a British intelligence officer named Jarvis, who was working under the legal cover of a representative of a British company in Tehran. Golubev supplied him with information for money: the deployment, formation, and command personnel of the 103rd rifle cadet brigade, 84th naval brigade, 414th Georgian division, and 513th separate auto battalion, in which he served.

During one of the meetings with Jarvis in 1949, the British intelligence officer suggested that Golubev undergo special training in an English intelligence school for a later drop him into the Soviet Union. Golubev agreed to undergo intelligence training at an English school and then carry out intelligence missions on behalf of the British.

Shortly after this conversation with Jarvis, however, Golubev was arrested by the Iranian police for theft and sentenced to six months in prison. For this reason, his espionage relationship with Jarvis ended, and after leaving prison, he did not cooperate with British intelligence.

Through a translator at the American embassy, ​​Golubev met American “diplomat” Ronald Otto Bollenbach. During 1946 and 1947, Bollenbach was the Assistant Air and Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Golubev passed on information he knew about the location of military-industrial facilities on the territory of the Soviet Union, Soviet military units, their numerical strength, weapons, and the material situation of the population in the USSR.

Bollenbach offered him the chance to undergo espionage training at an American intelligence school. In August 1951, Golubev and three other agent trainees flew from Iran to West Germany.

After arriving in Munich, he was placed in a safe house on the city's outskirts. In the first half of September, he was taken to the intelligence school in Bad Woerishofen, Bavaria. On the instructions of Bollenbach and another American intelligence officer in Munich using the name "Vasily," Golubev was photographed and subjected to a medical examination. He then received a CIA preliminary clearance.

At the intelligence school, Golubev studied reconnaissance methods, radio communications, parachuting, firearms training, topography, the structure of various branches of the Soviet Army, photography, document forgery, and sabotage. The head of this school was Harold Fiedler, listed as a major in the U.S. Army. The teaching staff were all Americans except for one instructor.

In February 1951, Golubev went to the area of Landsberg, where he received practical exercises on the explosion of rails, pipes, telephone poles, and other objects.

Golubev was sent to the United States for further reconnaissance training at the CIA's Domestic Operation Branch (DOB). While at a CIA safe house near Washington, D.C., under the guidance of CIA officer Mike Ogden, he studied topography, radio, and photography and trained in shooting using various types of weapons. He also studied the Soviet Primorsky Territory for the future operation.

Under the guidance of Americans who called themselves "Rad," "Tony," and "Georges," Golubev went skiing, hunting, and mountaineering. At the same time, he was trained in making huts in the forest and maintaining fires in the snow.

Golubev was given the CIA cryptonym CACIOSO and was trained for nearly three months (from March 3, 1952, to May 23, 1952). He and Mike Ogden flew to Tokyo, Japan, for more training. There he met another American intelligence officer named “Bill,” who took Golubev by car to a safe house near Yokohama. During this time, Golubev daily went to the seashore, accompanied by the American trainers, and swam for three to four hours.

In the same safe house, he began to study the legend developed for him by American intelligence, connected with the upcoming transfer to Sakhalin. According to the legend, he was Alexander Mikhailovich Vorobyov. He had demobilized from the Soviet Army in 1948, after which he lived in Lviv, Dnepropetrovsk, Voroshilovgrad, Kizlyar, and Khabarovsk, from where he then arrived in the village of Pravda on Sakhalin.

In mid-June 1952, Golubev was taken from Yokohama to an island 25 kilometers away. He and Ogden lived in tents on the island for about two months. All this time, he was engaged in physical training and practicing practical techniques associated with dispatching into Soviet territory and conducting subversive work in the USSR. He was periodically taken out into the open sea at 700-1000 meters from the beach, launched into the water in a swimming suit on a rubber raft, and offered to independently get to the beach, from where, in the course of training, he kept radio contact with the boat, and then returned to it.

During the night of August 17-18, 1952, Golubev was disembarked from a speedboat about 700 meters on the southern coast of Sakhalin near the village of Kuznetsovo. His tasks were to

  • photograph objects on the coast in the area of ​​the Kuznetsovo settlement;
  • recruit an agent for subsequent use by American intelligence against the USSR; and
  • obtain Soviet documents, including passports, party, Komsomol, military cards, and various certificates.

Golubev possessed two waterproof bags, two radios that worked on different frequencies, a rich set of chemicals, painkillers (morphine derivatives, sleeping pills, poisons of both instant and delayed action), 25,000 rubles in small banknotes, 100,000 rubles in large denomination bills, and 25 gold "ducats" from royal coins. He also had two submachine guns and three combat knives, one of which had a serrated blade. In addition, he was given fictitious documents in the name of Vorobyov. Golubev was now tasked with:

  • infiltrating the vicinity of the Chelyabinsk-40 nuclear plant;
  • conducting surveillance of the facility;
  • obtaining documents from the soldiers guarding the closed city; and
  • collecting and storing water and soil samples outside the protected perimeter.

Golubev was expected to stay on Soviet territory for two or three days. He was then to use his radio to contact the American intelligence center in Japan, report on the completion of the mission, call for an American boat to enter Soviet territorial waters, and return him to Japan. 

Soviet border guards arrested him immediately after arriving on the beach. He was still wearing the wet suit with a mask and fins.

On December 26, 1952, Golubev was interrogated from 2 AM to 6 AM, during which he admitted everything. He was then flown to Moscow for interrogation. On December 30, 1952, a copy of the interrogation was sent to Joseph Stalin, who wrote on the first page, “Read.” 

Golubev subsequently was found guilty in a closed trial and sentenced to death.

In January 1960, the Soviet Information Bureau in Moscow published a propaganda book, Caught in the Act: A Collection of Facts on U.S. Espionage and Other Subversive Activities Against the USSR. The book listed 23 Western agents who infiltrated the Soviet Union from August 1951 to June 1959 on 14 missions. Names and details were given, including that of Golubev.Aphotograph in the book had this caption: “To overcome water obstacles, American intelligence supplied spies thrown into the territory of the USSR with swimming suits. Such a suit was seized from agent Golubev.”

Chicago Tribune national syndicated columnist Don Oberdorfer wrote a book review published in newspapers throughout the United States in May 1961. He included the Golubev story: “They say ‘frogman’ E.G. Golubev swam from a high-speed launch to the beach of Soviet-held Sakhalin Island near Japan on August 17, 1952.”  


[1] AEACRE VOL.1_0001,



About the Author

Richard H. Cummings

Richard H. Cummings, a graduate of Boston University, was a Criminal Investigator for the U.S. Government, a Russian Linguist for the U.S. Air Force, and Director of Security at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Munich. He is also the author of three books on early Cold War history.

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