Are you attracted to fiction movies? There are loads of books related fiction you would love reading. The mysteries, the spies, the thrillers may be of immense curiosity. But if you know about the real characters, you would feel double excited.
If you track down history, you would know a lot about the livelihood of notorious spies. Yes, they existed, and history reveals their story. Initiated by animals and birds in Greece, during the cold war, it gained eminence. Lets look at the most famous real lives spies. If you like spy stories you an checkout our article about spy stories.
Most Famous Real Life spies in history
Knowing about some of the deadliest spies from history a lot more than James Bond can result.
1. Dusan Popov
Legendary Dusan Popov inspired the famous spy novel written by Ian Fleming. The later was born in Siberia. During the period of World War II, he was involved in M16 as a double agent. Popov undertook a dangerous mission. Besides, he got involved with many gorgeous and charming women.
He was a Casanova besides dealing with risky involvements. Popov was the first person to inform about Pearl Harbor. He warned the plan of Japan’s invasion in 1941 to the FBI in advance. But the director of the FBI during that time was ignored. At the age of 68, in 1981, he breathed his last in France.
2. Tony Mendez
Mendez was skillful in handling his enemies without getting involved in the affair. He coordinated his men to execute. While by self all documentation, costume design, and selection of members. He cleverly involved the Black and Asian candidates.
They disguised as ordinary businessmen to escape counter-intelligence of Laos. The director Ben Affleck in his movie Agro released in 2012, depicted the works of Mendez. This film earned him Oscar. A group of Americans and Canadian ambassadors got freed from hostage in the 1970s.
3. Mata Hari
She was an exotic Dutch dancer. More about her life can get from biographies like Life of Mata Hari and Femme Fatale: Lovelies. Her stage name was Mata Hari, while in actuality, her name was Margareta Gertrude Macleod. Because of a dancer’s fame and courtesan of Hari.
The French army recruited her with the idea that she might have a lot of contacts. So, during World War I, Mata Hari came into existence. The German officers got targeted for gathering information. By using her seductive skill. But, in 1917, the French themselves prosecuted her, claiming her German spy.
The firing squad executed her in Paris. She got imprisoned after finding her guilty for espionage. But her death remains debatable; the espionage factor seems circumstantial and vague. However, the debate continues as a lot of historians still believe she was a German agent.
4. Odette Hallows
Do you want to know the only woman who won the UK’s highest awards? It was Odette Hallows. The history of the making of Odette Hallow was accidental. It all was because of a postcard that was sent to the war efforts department. She was nominated by the Special Forces to work as a nurse in FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry).
But later, she got trained as an SOE agent. She, on a later date, was transferred to the Nazi-occupied French area. Unfortunately, she and her supervisor Peter Churchill got arrested by the Nazis. Hallow, to escape execution, decided upon an idea to escape. She somehow convinced the Nazis. They expressed to be relatives of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It was a fair deal for the Nazis, a lucrative bargaining opportunity against the British. Hence released Hallows and Peter Churchill unharmed.
5. Klaus Fuchs
When the Nazis came to power, Klaus, the German nuclear physicist, fled to Britain. It was in 1933. Fuchs had worked on the secret atomic bomb project in Britain. “Tube Alloys” was the name of the project. He next worked with the Soviet military. Later to states, to work with the scientists. Who got allotted for Manhattan Project around 1943.
In 1949, the American suspected him of leaking vital information to the Soviet Union. Once his espionage got proved, he was put behind bars the next year. Anti –Nazi feelings occupied Fuchs heart and soul. Fuchs was a gentleman, as well as an excellent academician. While in jail, he prepared a sketch to explain the handling of spin equipment in the laundry.
In 1959 after 14 years of jail term, he was released. He was sent to East Germany. In 1988 he died. How the Soviet Bomb project benefitted from Fuchs’s espionage is unclear. But exposed the soviet spies such as Rosenberg, i.e., Americans born in the Soviet Union. His vital information helped both the true Americans and Canadians likewise.
6. George Blake
Vladimir Putin awarded Blake with Order of Friendship in 2007. But there is a long history we should know. During World War II, George Blake was born. He is of Dutch origin. He was captivated by North Korean authorities for him being a British agent in Seoul. He was imprisoned for three years 1950-1953. During imprisonment, George became defected and developed communist feelings. Britain welcomed Blake once out of prison.
He then became a double agent. Blake transmitted details of over 40 M16 agents. He destroyed the Eastern European intelligence network. But his misdeed got exposed in 1961. He fled to Moscow without serving 42years term. After only five years, he migrated to Moscow and lived forever.
7. Henry Dericourt
This person Henry was originally a French pilot. In the year 1942, he fled to Britain to join as Special Operation Executive. He was also sent back to France to arrange flight landings with utmost secrecy. Till the arrests made under Gestapo, things were fine.
But due to the arrests of British agents and the French resistance firefighters. Henry suspected some traitors around. It would be a mystery, though, if Henry got identified as a double agent. But in 1946, he got arrested. Though he was acquitted after two years, in a plane crash, he died in 1962. But strangely, his mortal remains were not recovered from the crash site. Some historians claim it was a fake plane crash. Dericourt still survives elsewhere in disguise
8. Virginia Hall
During World War II, the American volunteer Virginia Hall was working in Paris. She escaped to Britain and joined SOE when France surrendered. She went back to France soon after as a New York Times correspondent. Side by side, she also was involved in Vichy Resistance. The Germans regarded Virginia as the notorious group of allied spies.
Virginia appeared in Gestapo’s most-wanted list. She was named limping lady because she lost her lower foot. Virginia had shot herself in 1932, resulting in the amputation of the leg. She used a prosthetic leg instead. During her period as a spy, she used to hide many documents in this artificial limb.
She called her wooden leg as Cuthbert. Subsequently, after the war ended, Hall joined the CIA. There she worked as an intelligent agent. Hall retired in 1962, and at the age of 76, died. She breathed her last in 1982.
9. Sydney Reilly
Reily was the main source of inspiration for James Bond’s character. Famous for Ian Fleming’s stories. His nickname was “The Ace of Spades” provided by his peers. He was serving as a spy consecutively for four nations. His number of exploits is doubtful. However, Reily became the participant of a lot of daring public spy activities.
Reilly was involved in America’s mission to assassinate Lenin. As well as get the Soviet Union Freed from the Bolshevik government. Like any other fictional spy, Reilly was a Casanova and lived a regal life. As a requisite of his job, he mastered the art of telling lies and deception. The plot to assassinate Lenin failed. But the fact remains that Reilly escaped from getting arrested. He saved himself from death sentence issued in absentia. However, in 1925 he was captured when he returned to aid soviet cadres to throw out the government.
10. William Stephenson
Similar to Reilly, William also contributed largely to inspire Ian Fleming’s works. Fleming himself admitted that James bond is highly romantic. Yet, the true life of a spy is different. Stephenson existed throughout World War II. Besides being a spymaster, Stephenson was a businessman, inventor, airman, and soldier. He acted as the head of British intelligence for the overall western hemisphere.
Stephenson Founded Camp X. His establishing spy training facility was his major contribution. The camp earned its nickname as a school of mayhem and murder. The subject he trained the potential spies of the future to murder and eliminated.
Stephenson earned the position as a President’s advisor. He used to pass secrets of scientific interest to British President Roosevelt. He was the founder of the CIA of today. Stephenson is also credited with the American public’s support. In regards to America’s entry to World War II.
11. Oleg Penkovsky
The Russian missile silos at Cuba were identified by Americans. This resulted in aggravation of the COLD WAR. Oleg Pekovsky was the person who had informed the Americans. He probably top among most famous real life spies in America. It could have resulted in the devastation of the world if not identified and deactivated. Oleg’s work is much appreciated. Oleg was nicknamed as HERO acted as a colonel in Soviet Military Intelligence agency.
Penkovsky remained active in transferring information to Americans. As well as the British from time to time. He was involved in a risky business. The activity of transmitting valuable information was tough. CIA realized Oleg was constantly monitored. But the Soviet government didn’t spare him. Summoned Oleg and questioned by Soviet intelligence. By the end, he was shot.
12. Richard Sorge
Sorge was a famous character who received the highest honor in the Soviet Union. Sorge was awarded the Hero of Soviet Union distinction. Sorge was a Soviet spy born in Germany. After World War I, Sorge became a believer in communism. While operating in Japan in World War II, he passed information to Nazis as well as Russia.
From Sorge, the Germans understood there was a threat from Germany. But no Japanese invasion was being planned. The message of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was also hoped to be raised by Sorge. But that didn’t reach the allied forces. In 1941, the important contribution of Sorge prevented Nazis from advance.
The Japanese troop held him hostage and executed in 1944. Unfortunately, Stalin didn’t react to holding him hostage by the Japanese. Ian Fleming also recognizes his contribution as the most formidable spy in history.
13. Aldrich Ames
The 31-year-old CIA veteran Aldrich became a KGB double agent. The espionage against the Soviet Union led to his arrest in 1944. He was accompanied by his wife Rosario in the deed. As a guilty plea, Ames confessed that he disclosed some CIA and FBI. That information helped the Soviet Union to execute.
A year-long investigation and frequent trials revealed that Ames was spying since 1985. His information shared included HUMINT source details. Along with other classified details to USSR. He generally performed in exchange for millions of dollars. Information got shared trough the “dead drop.” The fall of Ames was mostly due to his lavish spending. He destroyed American intelligence almost. He served lifetime imprisonment. But his wife got released on a plea-bargain agreement after five years.
14. Harriet Tubman
The rescue of slaves using underground rail lines for freedom. That is a vivid example of Tubman’s contribution. In 1849. When the civil war began eleven years later, she continued the fight. She converted to a spy for Union army.
Tubman was uneducated, though she was extremely sharp. She learned a lot from her Underground Railroad expedition. Skills she learned were dealing with secretive documents. She also gained expertise in routing scout routes.
Nevertheless, arranging clandestine meetings became her credentials. She was quite effective in building spy rings. Routing, mapping waterways also formed the essential capability of Tubman.
During the Civil War, she was the only woman to form the military to operate. In the mission, she freed 700 slaves. Once freed, about 100 slaves took up arms to fight at the north.
15. Rose Greenhow
Credit goes to Rose, the confederate spy. She disclosed the unions’ critical intelligence plans to attack Manassas, Virginia. At the beginning of the civil war, she created her spy network at Washington, DC. Within a short time, the gang proved its worth. Union General Irvine MacDowell’s plans got exposed.
In Bull Run on 21st July, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard requested extra troop. The assistance of Greenhow to raise intelligence can be sited. The battle of Bull Run was a major battle in the Civil War. South was able to win victory courtesy Intelligence of Greenhow.
As a letter of appreciation, Greenhow was cheered for success. The Confederate President that time Jefferson Davis did the honor himself. The federal authorities could track the spy activities by Greenhow and arrested her. She was put into Old Capitol Prison without delay.
The first US citizens to be blamed for espionage were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were found guilty. For passing valuable information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. While Ethel, his wife, was working as a secretary, Julius, her husband, was also working at US Army Signal Corps.
Ethel’s younger brother David Greenglass, working at a secret atomic bomb laboratory. It was located at Los Alamos joined. He confessed about the disclosure of US intelligence to the USSR. The Rosenberg group tried their level best to aid the Soviet Union.
Aided in supplying atomic bomb intelligence. The Soviets received full information for Manhattan Project. As stated by the Los Angeles Times. The sonar or radar was used to transmit the data. This information was used by Moscow to shoot down American aircraft. Korea and Vietnam were the target locations.
17. Robert Hassan
Between the years 1979 to 2001. The former FBI agent Hassan is recognized for espionage activities. He spied for Soviet intelligence. He is known to be the most dangerous spies in American history. Hassan’s activity was transferring information. A thousand pages of information of American Atomic bomb intelligence to USSR.
To betray his country, Hassan received about 1.4$ million dollars in exchange. The FBI identified Hassan’s espionage facts related to the Soviet Union and Russia. Afterward, he was proved guilty. Imprisonment and death penalty was ordered.
During World War I and World War II, the spies were quite active. The spies in espionage service risked their life immensely. If the James Bond character founded by Ian Fleming is interesting for you. You learn the spies were different in real life, It’s not easy to become a spy, You need to have the accurate gadgets with yourself.
James Bond has been portrayed as a more romantic figure, but in actuality, spies’ lives were not so. Factually the spies enjoyed a beautiful life. With lots of female-related scandals, but all was for mastering the job.