Chapter 19 – Weaponry: Tribal Daggers, Supersonic MIGs
Updated: Aug 17
Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner
It was probably early May 1973, when Carol came back from her holidays. I barely saw Murad after that, and then mostly in the American Club, where I was told not to socialise with him.
Summer was fast approaching, and that meant the end of the academic year, the end of my father's contract, and our departure from Khartoum.
In turn, this all meant time for final preparations for my mission. There was a lot to do. In particular, we had to get certain items, most notably the micro-film reader, past the risk of a customs search.
Photo: One of the tribal daggers
Carol may have been, as she once self-deprecatingly put it, "just a plain Texan farm girl", but she sure had nouse. She bought a pair of traditional Sudanese daggers, the type that you stick into a belt, a little bit curved, with decorated, ebony handles. They were, of course, souvenirs for tourists, but tribesmen would have worn them for real in the not-so-distant past.
She then had someone work on these, someone who must have been a very skilled craftsman.
He (or she) carved out a tiny cavity in the handle of one dagger. The top of the handle could be unscrewed, only not anti-clockwise as normal, but clockwise. So, if somebody tried to unscrew it without knowing this, it would just get tighter. And it was a very fine thread, so it wasn't easy to move. And that's where we hid the tiny micro-film reader lens.
It was all done with such skill that I couldn't detect any difference between the daggers.
By that time, I also had the Pentax camera and a tape recorder, expensive items for my age.
I was under instructions that going back to Hungary I shouldn't have anything with me that was not commercially available (except, of course, the micro-film reader) to avoid raising suspicions at the Hungarian customs.
The Americans were also always worried about how I was going to explain how I got these things to my parents.
They thought that if a 19-year old takes an expensive camera or tape recorder home, then, of course, the average normal parent would ask how come?
It took me some time to explain to them that my parents were different: they'd never asked me questions like that, because they knew that I'd either not answer, or lie, or just evade answering somehow, because I didn't like my parents prying into my things, and I made that clear, even before I'd never met these CIA spooks, I had a very strong aversion to my parents prying into my things.
I told them that once I'd had a very big quarrel with my mother. I was 14 when she opened a letter that I got from a Hungarian ex-girlfriend, whom I hadn't seen for three years at that time.
She wrote a letter to me, and my mother opened it.
I remember we were screaming at each other, until I could make her understand that if she ever touches anything that is mine, or supposed to be my private, secret matter, then it's going to get worse.
So, my parents kept their distance, because they knew it wouldn't lead anywhere. This was something the Americans found hard to understand.
But still, the camera was a little bit too big, too obvious and too expensive: and my parents indeed did ask where it was from. I told them it was Nicolai's, and I'd borrowed it.
Then two new guys arrived. I can't really remember them now. One was fat, I remember that. Anyway, they brought me books on Soviet armaments and weapons, all sorts of military equipment and transport vehicles used by Soviet forces that I might just see in Hungary. I had a couple of days with them to cram in all the names and learn to identify these things.
What I could remember best were the aeroplanes – I knew my MIG Fitter from my Sukhoi Fencer - because that was one of my hobbies. As a kid, I'd read a lot of articles about the warplanes that they'd used in Vietnam, which was still a big issue in those days.
But as to the rest, the variations of Kalashnikovs, or the myriad of military vehicles, it was all overwhelming.
To be honest, it was all too rushed, all sorts of weaponry, of which I had no experience whatsoever, with the code names and stuff. We should have spent longer on this, with more explanation of detail.
Yet, despite its superficial nature, even this would prove useful in a year or two.