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James Bond's Creator, and the Real Spy Gadgets He Inspired 38

cylonlover writes "It's one of the most memorable moments in perhaps the best James Bond film, From Russia with Love: SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb, posing as a hotel maid, drops her gun, and appears to be at a disadvantage as she goes toe to toe with Sean Connery's imposing Bond. That is until she deploys her iconic poison-tipped dagger shoes, which have gone on to be copied in other notable action films. But as kitsch as Klebb's cleaver clogs might seem, the CIA attempted to replicate them, and another classic Bond gadget, in real life, according to research by Dr. Christopher Moran of Warwick University. At the heart of the story is the close friendship of Bond author Ian Fleming and former CIA Director Allen Dulles. Gizmag spoke to Moran about 20th century Intelligence, and its peculiar relationship with the fictional British spy."
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James Bond's Creator, and the Real Spy Gadgets He Inspired

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  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:14PM (#44324057)

    If you've seen Clooney's movie, "The Men Who Stare at Goats" you know about Project MKUltra [] -- in which the CIA did things like dose people with LSD without their consent and try to develop psychic powers for remote viewing and other sci-fi stuff.

    • I always enjoyed reading MKUltra files/stories, it was like sci-fi, but real. Scary that someone green-lit all this stuff, has to take some belief in it, & these are the people "defending" the US.

      Oh, & "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is awesome too. ;)

    • by OhANameWhatName ( 2688401 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:49PM (#44324415)

      you know about Project MKUltra

      Pffft, anyone with any sense KNOWS that this is a complete fallacy. Even when it's documented by the CIA, it's just documented to throw people off the scent of the real projects the CIA are involved in .. projects like hunting down imfamous and deadly major islamist extremist terrorist organisations that organise precision aeroplane attacks on very public US targets ... or putting a stop to the massive production and importation of heroin ... and overthrowing foreign dictatorships in favor of democratic governance!

      And don't even try to suggest that MkUltra has continued due to it's outlandish success and that the CIA is still involved in 'DID' programming practices and systemic child abuse. If you try to suggest that, I'm going to call you nasty names and I'll guarantee, you WON'T like them.

  • He would ask his engineers at CIA to try to replicate some of Bond's technology

    Life imitating art imitating life. You'd have to be a heroin junky to try this.

    Oh wait...

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:23PM (#44324341) Journal

      Life imitating art imitating life.

      Why not?

      Ian Fleming, along with Eric Frank Russel, were members of Britain's intelligence community, where such devices were designed and deployed, for real, during WWII. Some of the stuff the "department of dirty tricks" came up with were brilliant.

      Russel also used his WWII experience in his post-war writing. Notable (and perhaps my very favorite SF novel) is _Wasp_, which is a thinly-disguised recycling of one of Russel's plans for infiltrated saboteurs targeting Japan, combined with techniques that also ended up in the taining manual for the British Home Guard. (The latter was to be the nucleus of a resistance movement if the NAZIs occupied the British Isles.)

      Gadgets in stories are more plausible if they might actually work, and plausible and potentially useful story gadgets have a track record of inspiring the development of the real thing. (Consider, for instance, the clamshell-style cellphone, inspired by the Star Trek communicator - which Motorola implicitly acknowledged by naming the first one the "StarTAC".)

  • Rebreather (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:43PM (#44324199)
    I remember years ago watching a History Channel special on Bond gadgets, and one of the ones that came up was the tiny rebreather used by Bond in the film Thunderball. According to the person they were interviewing (propmaster for the movie possibly, or a producer) MI5 actually called them up and asked them how the rebreather worked, as they wanted to copy it. The person had to tell them that it was only a prop, and didn't actually work.
    • Was that supposed to be a rebreather? I thought it was supposed to be a tiny, very-short-term, SCUBA system using a couple oxygen tanks modeled on the CO2 cartridges for soda bottles.

      (It's been decades since I've seen Thunderball, though.)

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        From what I remembered they called it a rebreather (which of course means nothing, movies get things wrong all the time), but I could be mistaken, as I haven't seen it in years myself.
      • Plain old scuba systems have a tank full of compressed air.
        Using just an oxygen tank requires something to remove the CO2 and add the oxygen to the air you breathe out, so you can breathe it back in.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          They do work and they do have them, albeit, not in James Bond's coolness size. Most work by using a chemical compound like barium hydroxide to remove the CO2. I never really thought the movie one's were "rebreathers" though, since I always saw bubbles. More like a tiny version of the SCUBA SPARE AIR.

          On a side note I was thinking of Jane Russell in "Underwater".

          Or as one commenter put it, "beaver tails and camel toes the perfect match".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:44PM (#44324203)

    dancing around who Flemming patterned Bond after, and not a single solitary mention of William (Bill) "Intrepid" Stevenson. (Here's the clue from Wikipedia): Sir William Samuel Stephenson, CC, MC, DFC (23 January 1897 – 31 January 1989) was a Canadian soldier, airman, businessman, inventor, spymaster, and the senior representative of British intelligence for the entire western hemisphere during World War II. .....Stephenson was soon a close adviser to Roosevelt, and suggested that he put Stephenson's good friend William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan in charge of all U.S. intelligence services.... Not least of Stephenson's contributions to the war effort was the setting up by BSC of Camp X in Whitby, Ontario, the first training school for clandestine operations in Canada and North America. Some 2,000 British, Canadian and American covert operators were trained there from 1941 to 1945, including students from ISO, OSS, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, United States Navy and Military Intelligence, and the United States Office of War Information, among them five future directors of what would become the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.... Did the author just 'miss' all of this? Hello cluestick!

    • by multisync ( 218450 ) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:13AM (#44324673) Journal

      dancing around who Flemming patterned Bond after, and not a single solitary mention of William (Bill) "Intrepid" Stevenson.

      Also no mention of Sidney Reilly, Ace of Spies [], another major inspiration for Fleming's character.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      dancing around who Flemming patterned Bond after, and not a single solitary mention of William (Bill) "Intrepid" Stevenson.

      Not just this, but Flemming based a lot of the Bond gadgets on real life spy gadgets used in WWII (the land mine disguised as dog poo comes to mind).

      Real life spy gadgets inspire author to write about fictional spy gadget, fictional spy gadgets inspire spy agency to create real life spy gadget. Circle of life and all that.

    • And another of the real world characters that inspired Fleming that few people even know about, Dusan Popov. []
  • I liked the remote contol car in Tomorrow Never Dies

  • by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:56PM (#44324249) Homepage Journal

    A Man Called Intrepid []

    Ian Flemming worked for William Stephenson and had this to say, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is William Stephenson."


  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:08PM (#44324287) Homepage Journal

    TFA mentions two books, The Craft of Intelligence by Allen Dulles, and Spycraft, by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton, which talk about the gadgetry in use by the CIA. They're both very good reads, but Spycraft is definitely the fun book of the two. For a more adventurous history that's written by a professional screenwriter, Leo Marks wrote Between Silk and Cyanide, which is a very Bond-like description of work in the SOE during WWII. The Official C.I.A. Manual of Trickery and Deception, also by Melton and Wallace, talks about learning tradecraft from a professional stage magician, where they learned how to perfect the unseen brush pass, dead drops, poison in the champagne glasses, and all of that kind of spy sleight of hand. A fascinating book.

    If you want to see what the Soviets were up to during this time, I recommend reading it from their own historical documents in The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, by Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin. Mitrokhin was the Senior Archivist for the KGB in the 1980s, and copied many of their records against intentional destruction. In it, he documents all kinds of operations, including the secret caches scattered around the United States (booby trapped, of course), radio caches in Berne and Rome, and bugging operations everywhere.

    And to cross reference the Soviet files, the book Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, by John Haynes and Harvey Klehr, has the stories from much of the decoded information the Americans gleaned by cracking the Soviet "one-time-pad" encryption system in use in the late 1940s. This information provided the basis for much of the attention of the FBI as they were hunting for communists through the '50s and beyond; including the Soviet's own documents detailing the Rosenbergs' and Greenglass' involvement in giving the atomic bomb secrets to Russia.

  • This passes for writing nowadays? "But as kitsch as Klebb's cleaver clogs might seem"
  • seriously, it is full of mistakes. why is it so hard for editors to edit?
  • IIRC it was in the KGB vs CIA episode, and the KGB guy had it. (They had all kinds of wacky stuff in that one, with exploding cigars and video cameras that could fire a single bullet.)

    Not that it means anything in particular, just thought it was neat.

  • He was supposed to use the Walther PPK it. It was the standard MoD handgun. The AWE guards used to have them. I expect it still is. But he thought it was too bulky, and preferred a Beretta 418. I am not a big fan of the books, but I picked up 'Dr No' years ago, thinking I ought to see what a Bond book was like, and that bit stuck. The films get that wrong too.
  • For those who don't know: that part was played by Lotte Lenya, a woman with an incredibly wonderful voice. She's probably best known for her role in Threepenny Opera. (granted she was somewhat younger then)

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