Licensed to Spy

John Fahey’s firsthand account of his activities as a U.S. naval officer in East Germany during the Cold War is a must-read for everyone who enjoys true-life spy stories. A tale of overt reconnaissance, high-speed car chases, shootings, and detentions, Licensed to Spy chronicles Fahey’s two years in the midst of twenty-two divisions of Soviet troops behind the Iron Curtain. As a member of a military liaison mission established in a little-known 1947 agreement between U.S. and Soviet forces, Fahey was legally permitted to perform surveillance in East Germany and took advantage of the opportunity to conduct dangerous intelligence missions.

With this book Fahey takes the reader into the Soviet military psyche during the height of Cold War relations with the United States. A Russian linguist as well as a spy, the author served as an interpreter and delegate in high-level meetings between heads of the Soviet and American armies. His detailed account provides an intimate view of the Russian military officer and his life of intrigue inside a Communist country. Illustrating the tale are twenty-two photographs, published here for the first time.

John Fahey is an unassuming man, who it seems, prefers to get things done by using humor and tact rather than force. During this unusual period when he was living and working behind the iron curtain, he avoided being shot or permanently jailed by joking with his captors. Even his US Army bosses were out to get rid of the “swabbie” and that too he managed to easily avoid.It’s unusual for a naval officer to be involved with so much army, including the enemy’s army and Fahey was able to not only get along with these folks but collect very valuable intelligence information to forward back to our Government.” This little known part of history is a pleasure to read and you’ll find yourself chuckling along the way. My recommendation is : Buy it! you’ll like it.

Edgar E. DeLong

Commander Fahey’s memoir as a “licensed” spy in the former East Germany is an informative and entertaining read. While the incidents he relates are worth reading about, more useful are his comments about dealing with the (former) East Germans and Soviets, and observations on the Russian character. His memoir should serve as a excellent example of how fluent and perceptive linguists are crucial to intelligence operations. His comments about one (unnamed) mission chief provides a good example of how carefully intelligence agencies should choose their personnel. One very minor shortcoming: Cdr. Fahey’s assignment was to the US Military Liaison Mission to the Soviet forces in East Germany. The Soviets had a similar mission in West Germany. Were their “licensed” spying activities similar? Recommended for those interested in intelliegnce activities, the Cold War, and the Soviet/Russian military.

Reader from Burbank, CA

John Fahey Senior
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