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Iowa History Daily: December 25 - A Soviet Spy in Siouxland

Iowa History Daily: On December 25, 1913, Soviet spy and infiltrator of the Manhattan project George Koval was born in Sioux City. Vital in relaying secrets to the USSR, Koval directly contributed to the success of the Soviet atomic bomb project.

Koval’s parents arrived in Sioux City after escaping anti-Semetic progroms in their hometown of Telekhany, Belarus. Koval came of age in Sioux City and attended the famed “Castle on the Hill” Central High School where he joined the Honor Society and participated in debate. A high school graduate at 15 years old, Koval’s family moved back to the Soviet Union as a part of the Organization for Jewish Colonization of the Soviet Union when the Great Depression led them away from Sioux City.

After Koval excelled at the Mendeleev Institute of Chemical Technology, the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) recruited him. In 1940 he returned to the United States under the code name Delmar and enrolled at Columbia University. While managing the Soviet spy cell in New York City under the auspices of the Raven Electric Company, the United States Army drafted Koval in 1942. Put into a specialized training program, an assignment to the Oak Ridge, Tennessee facility related to the Manhattan Project gave Koval access to the top secret project in 1944.

Given top security clearance, Koval passed along to the Soviets “the recipe” for the plutonium bomb initiator. Allegedly under pressure of being found out during the immediate post-war era, Koval disappeared in October of 1948. He reemerged at the Mendeleev Institute where he worked as a teacher and laboratory assistant. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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