Vintage Pulp Dec 3 2010
THE WENNERSTROM AFFAIR
The guy who kicked the hornet’s nest.


On the cover of this National Police Gazette from December 1965 is a once-infamous Swedish spy named Stig Wennerström. Wennerström was an Air Force colonel who passed Swedish, U.S., and NATO secrets to the Soviets. He’s labeled a red by the Gazette, but that’s a stretch—he served the U.S.S.R. for fifteen years, true, but before that he may have spied for Nazi Germany, who as fascists were as near the opposite end of the political spectrum as it was possible to be. The obvious motivation, then, must have been money, but no, Wennerström didn’t spy for profit any more than he did for political ideology. He came from a moneyed Swedish family and as a colonel was well paid. Nor did fear of blackmail seem to drive him, as there was nothing seriously embarrassing in his past. The answers wouldn’t come until after he was caught.

The Swedish state police—SAPO—had directed Wennerström’s maid to snoop around his home. She eventually found incriminating film negatives that resulted in his arrest, and he was convicted of four counts of treason and sentenced to twenty years in prison. During those years he finally answered some questions about his motivation. He claimed thatat some point during his time in the military he came to believe that peace could only be maintained through balance, and the secrets he passed helped maintain that balance. The answer was unsatisfactory to most observers, but that was the only one Wennerström would ever furnish.

Stig Wennerström served ten years of his sentence and secured parole at age 77. Twenty years later in 2004 while living in a seniors' home, the 97-year-old ex-spy was interviewed by the magazine Aret Runt. It was clear this would probably be his last interview, and he was asked if he had any regrets. His answer: “If I could live my life over again, I am stupid enough to let it be exactly the way it has been so far.” He died two years later at age 99, the questions surrounding his spying mostly unanswered, the crimes he committed mostly fading into history, and the secrets he passed entirely obsolete.  

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 20
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
October 19
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
October 18
1968—Olympic Committee Suspends Carlos and Smith
The U.S. Olympic Committee suspends African-American track & field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos for saluting the crowd with raised, gloved fists during a medal ceremony at the Mexico City games. The salutes represented the black power and civil rights movements in the United States. Both athletes also received their medals shoeless to represent black poverty.
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