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Secret FBI project trained Alaskans in preparation for Soviet invasion

Declassified documents reveal that in the 1950s the FBI trained Alaskan residents to become agents behind enemy lines if the Soviets invaded. No women, Eskimo, Indians or Aleuts were included, with native peoples considered unreliable.

Nome, Alaska (Reuters / Nathaniel Wilder)

Nome, Alaska (Reuters / Nathaniel Wilder)

The recently declassified FBI and Air Force documents show that in the early stage of the Cold War the US government feared that the Soviet Union was planning an intervention and occupation of Alaska. The US military believed that the Soviet invasion would be airborne, with bombing preceding dropping of paratroopers to Alaska’s major inhabited localities, namely Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome and Seward.

To cope with the eventuality that there was no way to rebuff the invasion, in 1951 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover initiated a highly classified project, code-named “Washtub,” organizing a human intelligence network, recruiting and training citizens across Alaska to provide the American military with intelligence in case of war with Moscow.

Under the plan, “stay-behind agents” would hide in so-called survival caches – bunkers loaded with food, warm clothes, message-coding material and radios – and report on enemy movements.

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