First-Hand:Espionage and Engineering in WWII-Era Finland

Submitted by Harry E. Stockman

Finishing college, I served as Associate Professor of Radio Engineering, and one of my obligations was the university short wave station, SM5SX. Around that time, my superior at the university, Professor Loefgren, was appointed by the Swedish government as a radio expert to serve in Finland. However, he could not accept because of ill health and urgent duties, so I was sent in his place.

This was quite an experience. Our little Swedish plane was shot at before we arrived at Helsinki, so we had an emergency landing in Abo (now Turko).

I was soon given a well guarded lab in Helsinki. Whenever the Finns shot down a Russian plane, the detonator was removed and the transceiver brought to me. My job was to get the circuit diagram, and other technical details, then send a report P.D.Q. to Headquarters, as well as to Sweden.

I found some very ingenious Russian circuits, unknown to me, at least. They certainly knew what they were doing in this "radio" field. They manufactured copies of the American metal tubes, all with Russian lettering, and in later measurements back in Sweden, I found that these tubes were just as good as their American originals.

Coming to the United States in 1940, I happened to run across an old newspaper showing a photo on the front page of a Russian spark transmitter, housed in a gigantic carriage from the previous century, and pulled by two pairs of oxen. The text under the photo read something like this, "That's all they got, spark transmitters, totally antiquated ..... "

The truth of the matter was that this transmitter, apparently captured by the Finns, was one of the jammers the Russians cleverly positioned along its border facing Helsinki. And do I have to tell anybody in radio or electronics how a good job of jamming they did?

Traveling in Finland during the war had its ups and downs. Occasionally, I had to go by bus, and as you entered the bus you were given a white sheet, unless you already had one. If there was an alarm (alarms were a daily nuisance), you got out of the bus as quickly as possible, swept the sheet around you, and dived into the nearest snowy ditch. Today, this might seem like a joke, but indeed it saved many lives.