Recently declassified documents have uncovered new information about several secret operations that have taken place among government agencies over the last 75 years. One of these secret operations involved the Federal Bureau of Investigations and their efforts during the 1950s to train residents in certain parts of Alaska to take on “behind enemy lines” agent status in the event that a Soviet invasion occurred.
The documents reveal also that the United States was fearful of and perhaps even expecting the Soviet Union to invade and occupy Alaska, in part because of its proximity to Soviet soil. It was believed that if there were an invasion that it would come through the air with paratroopers dropping into major cities such as Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Nome.
Then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launched what became known as Operation Washtub as a countermeasure to the possible – and as it was believed then, probable – Soviet invasion.
The operation, classified as top secret, involved the recruitment and extensive in-depth training of Alaskans in an effort to establish a human intelligence network that would be able to provide valuable information to the United States military in the event that the country found itself at war with the Soviet Union.
The Alaskans who were recruited were screened by the FBI to test their loyalty to their country and perhaps more precisely to check for disloyalty. Those who the FBI chose to train were offered as much as $3,000 annually – which in current monetary terms is the equivalent of about $30,000. They would receive as much as $6,000 should an actual invasion take place.
They were provided with in-ground survival bunkers that were stocked with warm clothing and blankets, beds, food, and message decoding and radio communication equipment.
In the end, however, the operation was scrapped because, as Hoover put it, if things went bad, the FBI could potentially become the scapegoat for an entire war.