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.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
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