Weapons and Equipment

Topics included here:

1. Weapons

2. Other Equipment

1. Weapons

Click for items focused specifically on OSS special weapons in World War II.

Frail, T.A. "Such Intimate Weapons: A Gallery of Unusual Suspects from the Era When Spying Began to Go High-Tech." Washington Post, 31 Jan. 1999, W14. [http://www.]

This article in the Post's magazine section is on H. Keith Melton's collection of espionage equipment. It is accompanied by photographs of some items from Melton's holdings. Those interested in the gadgetry of spying should refer to Melton's OSS Special Weapons and Equipment: Spy Devices of WWII (1991), CIA Special Weapons and Equipment: Spy Devices of the Cold War (1993), and The Ultimate SPY Book (1996).

McLean, Donald B. The Plumber's Kitchen: The Secret Story of American Spy Weapons. Cornville, AZ: Desert Publications, 1975.  [Petersen]

Melton, H. Keith, with Foreword by Richard Helms. CIA Special Weapons and Equipment: Spy Devices of the Cold War. New York: Sterling Publishing, 1993. 1994. [pb]

According to Surveillant 3.2/3 and 3.4, "scores of fascinating tools of the trade are pictured and expertly described." Melton "has one of the largest collections of spy devices in the world." FILS 12.4 calls this "another excellent volume" to go along with Melton's OSS Special Weapons.

Minnery, John. CIA Catalog of Clandestine Weapons, Tools, and Gadgets. Boulder, CO: Paladin, 1990.

Surveillant 1.3: "Escape and Evasion devices purportedly designed by CIA Technical Services Division."

Murphy, John F., Jr. "Secret Weapons of the Secret War." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 14, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 262-278.

This is a broad walk-through of some of the weapons used in covert activities during and after World War II. See Nigel West, "Dispelling Myths," International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 158-159, for comments suggesting that Murphy's "entertaining article ... inadvertently perpetrates one or two wartime and postwar myths."

2. Other Equipment

McCormick, Donald. The Master Book of Spies: The World of Espionage, Master Spies, Tortures, Interrogations, Spy Equipment, Escapes, Codes, and How You Can Become a Spy. New York: Watts, 1974. [Petersen]

McGarvey, Robert, and Elise Caitlin. The Complete Spy: An Insider's Guide to the Latest in High Tech Espionage and Equipment. New York: Perigee, 1983.  [Petersen]

Melton, H. Keith, with Forewords by William Colby and Oleg Kalugin. The Ultimate SPY Book. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd., 1996. With Forewords by Richard Helms and Markus Wolf. Ultimate Spy. Rev. Ed. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd, 2002.

Clark comment: The Ultimate SPY Book is a beautifully presented work; it might be called "The Spy-Aficionado's Ultimate Coffee-Table Book."

Surveillant 4.4/5 describes the book as an "impressive visual encyclopedia with condensed, fact-filled descriptions of intelligence equipment and operations since the Renaissance." For Peake, WIR 15.3, The Ultimate SPY Book "is a wonderful historical reference guide to important intelligence operations and equipment." Advertising copy aside, "no secrets are revealed here.... There are neither footnotes nor a bibliography.... The absence of citations does not ... imply they do not exist; those interested can obtain them from the author."

Commenting on the 2002 expanded edition, Peake, I&NS 18.4, notes that 32 new pages have been added to the work, including "some espionage toys [emphasis in original] that appear ... for the first time, several from the former KGB.... There are two new sections on concealed cameras," as well as other new sections. Peake concludes that "Ultimate Spy is a wonderful historical reference guide to important intelligence operations and equipment."

Kruh, Cryptologia 20.3, finds that "[f]rom its dust jacket on the outside to virtually every page inside, this book is a spectacular visual treat and an encyclopedic picture guide to the mysterious and ingenious paraphernalia of the spy." With regard to the new edition, Kruh, Cryptologia 28.1, recommends this work for "anyone interested in cipher devices and machines, codebreaking, clandestine operations, spying equipment and techniques, [and] secret operations."

For more on Melton's unique holdings, see Hank Schlesinger, "For Your Eyes Only," Smithsonian Magazine, Jul. 2001, at

Meulstee, Louis. Wireless for the Warrior: A Technical History of Radio Communication Equipment in the British Army. 4 vols. Ferndown/Dorset, UK: Wimborne, 1995-2004.

Vol. 1: Wireless Sets No. 1 to 88. 1995.

Vol 2: Standard Sets for World War II. 1998.

Meulstee's web site ( says that volumes 1 and 2 "cover transmitters and transceivers used [in] the period 1932-1948."

Vol. 3: Reception Sets. 2001.

Meulstee states that this volume describes Army receivers, "spanning the era 1932 to the late 1960s." It covers not only "those receivers specifically designed or adapted for the British Army, but also sets adopted from Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.... [S]pecial receivers, direction finding receivers, Canadian and Australian Army receivers, commercial receivers adopted by the Army and Army Welfare broadcast sets" are also covered.

Vol. 4: and Rudolf F. Staritz. Wireless for the Warrior: A Technical History of Radio Communication Equipment in Clandestine and Special Forces Operations -- Clandestine Radio. 2004.

Meulstee notes that this volume includes "Clandestine, Agents or 'Spy' radio equipment, sets which were used by Special Forces, Partisans, Resistance, 'Stay Behind' organisations, Australian Coast Watchers and Diplomatic Service, in addition to selected associated power sources, RDF and intercept receivers, bugs and radio- and radar beacons. The information has been compiled through the collaboration of a vast number of collectors and enthusiasts around the world." The time period is from about 1938 up to the early 1990s. "[S]atellite equipment and radios which might be still in current use" are not included.

Lippmann, JIH 5.2 (Winter 2005), sees volume 4 as "an important contribution in eliminating some of the ... gaps in the analysis of military and secret service history" in the 20th century.... Not only is the content weighty,... but it is easy to read and as a reference work, which it primarily is, it is easy to use."

Moses, Morris G. Spy Camera -- The Minox Story. Sussex, UK: Hove Press Books, 1990. Rochester, NY: Hove Foto Books/Saunders, 1990. Moses, Morris G., and John Wade. Spy Camera -- The Minox Story. Rev. ed. Rochester, NY: Saunders, 1998.

Regarding the 1990 edition, White, IJI&C 5.3, comments: "Good Camera, Poor Exposure."

Pritchard, Michael, and Douglas St. Denny. Spy Camera: A Century of Detective and Subminiature Cameras. London: Classic Collections, 1993.

Surveillant 3.4/5: Spy Camera "celebrates a unique auction held at Christie's in London on 9th December 1991." This was a "collection assembled by passionate collector David Lawrence, comprising 400 spy, subminiature and detective cameras." The book is "written by Christie's Camera Specialist Michael Pritchard and photo historian, Douglas St Denny." This is "information that has not been published anywhere else."

Public Record Office. Intro., Mark Seaman. Secret Agent's Handbook of Special Devices. London: 2000. The Secret Agent's Handbook of Special Devices, World War II. Guildford,CT: Lyons, 2001.

Kruh, Cryptologia 25.2, identifies this as a large hardbound volume with "the main pages from the 1940's SOE Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies in their original format." Seaman's 30-page introduction "places the catalogue in its historical context and describes how many of the items were used on actual missions.... It is a fascinating collection."

White, William.

1. The Microdot: History and Application. Williamstown, NJ: Phillips Publications, 1992.

Surveillant 3.4/5 says that this is the "first authoritative review of the entire development of the technique of reducing text and images by photographic and electrographic techniques.... [White is] an acknowledged expert in the history of microphotography." Kruh, Cryptologia 18.4, notes that this "extraordinary" and "unique, large size (8 1/2" x 11") hardbound book ... includes numerous illustrations of cameras, viewing devices, examples of microdots magnified and in situ, key personalities, onetime pads, patents and other interesting items."

2. "The Microdot: Then and Now." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 3, no. 2 (1989): 249-270.

White traces the development and use of the microdot through history, from the beginning of microphotography in 1839 to the post-World War II era. An interesting sidelight in the article is the author's discussion of the Soviet Union's "spare-no-expense" approach to making sophisticated use of obsolete technologies.

Yost, Graham. Spy-Tech: The Fascinating Tools of the Espionage Trade -- What, How, and Who Uses Them. New York: Facts on File, 1985.

Wilcox: "Ranges from guns to spy satellites."

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