Oleg Vladmirovich Penkovsky

Glenn Harding

Colonel Oleg Vladmirovich Penkovsky
Colonel Oleg Vladmirovich Penkovsky is a name that doesn't ring a bell for most people. However, for many in the intelligence community this name is as about household as you can get. He is a legend in his own right. Those who lived during and through the Cuban missile crisis actually benefited from this man's activities. Colonel Penkovsky was a joint spy for the United States and England. He is often thought of as the highest ranking, most damaging person to spy on the Soviet Union. While most everybody is thankful for the information he provided there are questions to be brought to light. For example, why did such a devoted officer turn on his own country and spy for the west? What were the motives to keep him doing such a thing? To try to answer these various and complex inquiries one must start at the beginning.
Oleg Penkovsky was born in a small town on the 23rd of April in 1919. By 1939 he had graduated from a Soviet military school and had been part of a group called Komosomol, meaning "young communists." He also went to war serving as a unit commander of an artillery unit. Penkovsky was decorated four times during his 1939-1940 tour of duty. After that tour he was injured and spent most of his time doing various assignments that took him between Moscow and the Ukrainian front for the rest of the Second World War. When the war was over, Penkovsky attended two military academies. One of the academies was the Frunze Military Academy and the other was the Military Diplomatic Academy. By 1950 he had married a woman who was the daughter of a fairly important general in the Soviet army. At this time he was also promoted to the rank of Colonel and was a member of the Soviet military intelligence agency, also known as the GRU. He was given various foreign assignments, Ankara, Turkey being the last location of these assignments (Richelson 274).
While in Turkey Penkovsky was noticed by the British intelligence agency known as Military Intelligence department 6 (MI6), more precisely a man named Greville Maynard Wynne. Wynne felt that they could possibly use Penkovsky since he showed dissatisfaction in the Soviet Union's communist system of government (Volkman, Warriors 98). When Penkovsky returned to Moscow in 1956 his military career came to a screeching halt. By 1960 he had had enough and decided to take matters into his own hands (Richelson 275).
On August 12, 1960, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky approached two Americans on a bridge. The two Americans were Elden Ray Cox and Henry Lee Cobb (Shecter, Deriabin 5). The two men were unsure about Penkovsky's motives since they had been warned about how the KGB (Soviet intelligence agency) tried to entrap people for spying (Volkman, Spies 23). Cox decided to go to the U.S. embassy where the diplomat on duty looked at the information Penkovsky had handed over. There was a letter written by Penkovsky indicating his desire to provide the U.S. with vital information. The second item was a detailed description of how the CIA could contact him (Volkman, Spies 23). The information was dismissed as purely provocation from the KGB. This was believed to be the case on more than one occasion. He had tried to get the Canadian embassy as well as the U.S. embassy to listen to him. They were suspicious because of his impeccable record and he was too obvious about offering his services (Pincher, Too Secret 264). He did not fit the profile of a traitor. Eventually, England took notice of Colonel Penkovsky and felt that he was genuine. The CIA decided to join England's secret service in a joint venture and see if Penkovsky was genuine.
It was the before mentioned Greville Maynard Wynne who finally contacted Penkovsky. Greville Wynne was a businessman who was trying to make a business arrangement with the Soviet Union. He represented several companies involved in the steel and electrical machine making industry. Wynne was also a secret agent of the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service for England). More accurately he worked in the MI6 (Richelson 275). Secretly, Wynne had been conducting one of the most successful covert operations against the Soviet Union (Volkman, Warriors 99). Wynne set up a delegation from the Soviet Union to come to London to learn more about some