The Cold War was a desperate time that called for desperate measures. None more desperate than Acoustic Kitty, a $20 million program launched in 1967 by the CIA Directorate of Science & Technology. The goal was to train domesticated cats to spy on the Soviet Union, their embassies, and even the Kremlin. With the use of advanced, custom-built technology, the felines would be able to gather information that human agents couldn’t. The first mission was to eavesdrop on two men in a park outside the Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. But it failed miserably and the program was cancelled. Despite attempts to train, the cats would get hungry and distracted, mainly because they’re animals and not government spies. And as ridiculous as this sounds, it’s not even the craziest government program involving cats used during wartime. Makes sure to stick around to the end to see what was.
A lot of crazy ideas came about during the Cold War, and Project 1794 was definitely one of them. This ambitious, secret program tasked a team of engineers to construct an aircraft that looked like a flying saucer. Documents declassified in 2012 reveal U.S. Air Force plans to not only build this UFO-style vehicle, but also make it capable of reaching supersonic speeds, as fast as Mach 4 (four times the speed of sound) at high altitudes up to 100,000 feet with a range of over 1,000 nautical miles. No big deal right? Wrong. Project 1794 was as expensive as it was unrealistic. Adjusted for inflation, this then $3 million program would cost almost ten times that today. It was canceled in 1961 after tests revealed that its disc shape wouldn’t be aerodynamically stable or controllable at even close to the speeds they’d wanted. While this ridiculous plan failed in the air, the government wasted no time thinking of something just as weird for down on the ground…
Prepare and Protect
Declassified documents surfaced in 2014 detailing Operation Washtub, a project that came about due to the fear of a Soviet invasion. The plan was to recruit and train secret armies consisting of ordinary Alaskan civilians (there ended up being 89 total “stay-behind agents”) to become spies capable of covert intelligence, coding, decoding, evasion and escape, as well as other espionage techniques. The government continued to explore these types of concepts, some of which are discussed later in this article.
Some declassified government secrets, including Project Horizon, sound like they’re straight out of science fiction. Almost a decade prior to NASA’s 1969 moon landing, the U.S. military made plans to build a strategic, manned lunar base. The Army’s chief of research and development, along with physicist Leonard Reiffel and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, worked on this idea that would have also featured potential weapons capabilities. Crazy, but not nearly as insane as what the CIA was doing back on Earth…
In what is easily one of the most controversial government operations, Project MK-Ultra was a top secret mind control program. During the 50s and 60s the Central Intelligence Agency experimented with questionable methods ranging from hypnosis, biological agents and even drugs to train and program human subjects. In the 70s the then-CIA director Richard Helms tried to destroy all evidence of the project, but it was eventually revealed through a formal investigation.
Named after the Roman God of the Underworld, the Cold War era program Project Pluto used an aircraft engine to power a ramjet cruise missile. The weapon, which was also know as “the Flying Crowbar,” would employ nuclear fission and was designed to have an unlimited range. Two working prototypes were built, the Tory-IIA (pictured above) and the Tory-IIC, and successfully tested in the Nevada desert. But it was revealed that they spewed the fission material as exhaust.
The Kidnapping of the Lunik
There’s nothing like a good heist story. In the early 1960s the CIA led a mission to steal a Soviet spacecraft. At the height of the space race, the Soviets took the lead with the launch of their Lunik satellite program. To keep up, four undercover U.S. agents “borrowed” one to deconstruct and photograph its components before swiftly returning it the next day. According to declassified documents, the Soviets had no idea this even happened. But they do now.
Operation Ivy Bells
The Cold War didn’t just reach outer space, it also went underwater. In 1971 the U.S. Navy, CIA, and NSA founded Operation Ivy Bells, a joint mission to wiretap the Soviet’s subaquatic communication lines. With the use of the U.S.S. Halibut, a purpose-modified submarine (pictured above), divers went deep into the Sea of Okhotsk where they found a cable and installed a recording device, which was designed to detach if the cable was raised for repair.
U.S. Air Force / CC
Beyond the Outer Space Treaty, there aren’t many laws in the cosmos. The US Air Force decided to capitalize on this with Project Thor, a weapons system built to launch kinetic projectiles from Earth’s orbit. The system uses 20-foot-long, 1-foot-diameter tungsten telephone poles, or the “Rods of God,” with small fins and a satellite-controlled computer. While this idea came about in the 1950s, it’s still being tested today (as seen in the image).
FBI Surveillance Planes
Pictured above is an actual FBI surveillance plane. Since 2015 it has been public knowledge that the government is using these small aircrafts, which are registered to fictitious companies and operate all over the country without judicial approval. While they carry advanced video and cellphone technology to spy and gather intel, details about what information the planes collect is highly censored in publicly available documents. If this isn’t being kept secret, it’s scary to think about what is…
This Is The Story Of…
In 1946, the first atomic explosions since World War II happened as weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. Declassified documents reveal the debate between scientists and military officials prior to the bombings, which forced locals to relocate due to radiation safety concerns. Interestingly enough, fashion designer Louis Reard named his two-piece swimsuit after the tests because “like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating.” Keep reading for another strange connection between government secrets and pop culture…