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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Chapter 35 - Washington Not Impressed

Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner

Chapter 35 - Washington Not Impressed

After my 'high' at the Soviet base and the subsequent report, I suppose I should have braced myself for some disappointment in advance. But I was young, enthusiastic and, yes, naïve.

The Americans had to question my report, of course, and I should have been expecting some scepticism. But I was totally unprepared for the scolding, indifferent, initial response, and the follow-up questions left me angry.

First of all, they berated me for even going on the trip: it was not my duty, they said. I couldn't believe it! What? I've volunteered to work for the United States, I then get an invitation to go to a Soviet military base, am I supposed to turn it down?

Second, they cast doubt on my whole story: they said they couldn't find the place on a map. The base was up in the mountains, maybe 5-6 km from the village, but they couldn't even find that. Of course, the village was tiny, and wouldn't appear on regular maps, but a hiker's detailed map, with all the forest paths and tracks drawn in, would have it – and the US embassy surely had military maps with even more detail.

Then, in later messages, they began to show more interest in the military aspects – but kept asking about details I'd already provided in my first report.

What, they asked, was the colour of the insignia of the corps stationed there? I'd already told them it was red. They replied: we can't really believe it was red. Are you sure it wasn't black? Well, if I'd already told them the insignia was red, did they think I was colour blind or what?

Why did I think there were intercontinental ballistic missiles at the base? Again, I'd already written the length of the vehicle I saw, and it was their books which had specified this was needed for such rockets.

Why did I think there were nuclear weapons at this base? Well, if you see a steel door, which has a nuclear sign on it, warning you radioactivity is a potential danger, what do you think? And at a Soviet army base, what is this radioactivity? It's not a power station or a hospital X-ray room.

Now, nearly half a century later, I wonder if they already knew about the base, and my report was just a confirmation of facts, but perhaps not in every detail, and that might have disturbed them. At the time I had the feeling that they didn't want to endanger my long-term tasks with such initiatives.

It's also possible they thought I had been turned by the Hungarians or Russians and was feeding them disinformation on behalf of the enemy. There is also the chance that they wanted me to think the information was unimportant. There are many possible scenarios I turned over in my mind.

But at the time, it all left me baffled, frustrated and very disappointed.

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