The CIA Spy Who Reinvented the Travel Guide

The 12 months 1936 was a momentous calendar year for world-wide journey. The RMS Queen Mary manufactured her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York Town. Aer Lingus took its first flight (from Dublin to Bristol). H.R. Ekins, a reporter for the New York Entire world-Telegram, received a race close to the earth using only business airlines (it took him 18 times, 11 hrs, 14 minutes, and 55 seconds). And Eugene Fodor released his very first guidebook, 1936 … On the Continent, a 1,200-site doorstop on Europe, the world’s to start with on a yearly basis updated travel guidebook.

The guidebook, which for the first time was aimed at middle-course travelers and not automatically higher-course “grand travellers,” bundled all the normal sights, but also for the first time encouraged interacting with locals whose worldview might be unique from all those of visitors. “Rome has not only spectacular monuments and priceless artwork treasures,” Fodor wrote in the foreword to the 1936 tutorial, “but also Italians.”

Eugene Fodor, who died at 85 in 1991, profoundly influenced the way Us citizens traveled in the 20th and 21st hundreds of years the enterprise he started, nowadays named Fodor’s Vacation, now publishes 150 titles for every calendar year and its website will get 2.75 million website visitors a month. (Full disclosure: I have at situations in the past ten years updated and created the restaurant section for Fodor’s New York City guidebook.)

What most persons never know was that Fodor was a CIA spy, on their payroll for decades. Right after this mystery grew to become public in 1974, Fodor downplayed it and outright shut down thoughts about it in interviews, groaning, for example, when a reporter from Conde Nast Traveler introduced it up to him in in the late ’80s and declaring, “Everyone seems to have neglected what the Chilly War was like. The Soviets ended up a true risk. As an American, you did what you could.”

Fodor was born in 1905 in the modest city of Losonc, then in the Kingdom of Hungary (now in Slovakia). He ultimately turned a naturalized American and he was in the United States when the Munich Pact was signed (ceding the Sudetenland, the western areas of Czechoslovakia, to Hitler). He insisted he would only return to Europe in a military uniform.

Thanks to his language competencies (he spoke 5 languages fluently), he ended up in the Investigation & Assessment Branch of the Business office of Strategic Providers (OSS), the Environment War II precursor to the CIA led by the famous Basic William “Wild Bill” Donovan. The device, innocuously named To start with Cellular Radio Broadcasting Organization, was made with psychological warfare in brain to spread disinformation and undermine enemy morale.

Fodor interrogated prisoners of war and wrote propaganda leaflets that were being dropped in enemy territory. The unit was also dependable for functioning with resistance teams to have out acts of sabotage in enemy territory. In spring 1945, he turned part of an OSS procedure that experienced him smuggled into Prague to assist immediate an rebellion of the Czech Resistance from the occupying Germans. For the duration of that time, he also traveled to Plzen, a town in western Czechoslovakia, supporting to liberate the region from the Nazis, as Russian troops state-of-the-art from the East, doing the similar as they moved toward Prague and, eventually Berlin.

Immediately after the war, Fodor’s involvement with the CIA ongoing. Starting up in the 1950s, the CIA began tapping artists, musicians, writers, and journalists overseas for propaganda purposes or for details collecting. “Travel writer” appeared like a superior deal with for an undercover agent in enemy territory. And a travel author who previously worked for the OSS was suitable. A declassified inside OSS assignment from 1946 stated that Eugene Fodor would now have the title “Intelligence Officer.” His site: Prague. His task: “gather[ing] intelligence by way of overt and covert implies as he has in the earlier. He will not be predicted to create extensive agent chains, but he will be identified as on to deal with neighborhood nationals on a secure basis.”

A single of Fodor’s afterwards assignments was to help foment an uprising in Hungary in 1956. The uprising took place, but the revolution that the CIA hoped would topple the Communist government did not. Fodor claimed that just after 1956, he gave up the spy enterprise.

According to paperwork I acquired in a Flexibility of Data Act (FOIA) request, this is not accurate. It just is dependent how considerably you want to think the source—E. Howard Hunt, a veteran CIA agent and, infamously, a convicted Watergate burglar.

On Dec. 31, 1974, The New York Instances released an exposé by Seymour Hersh who had acquired categorised transcripts from a Senate investigation listening to in December 1973. The posting publicly disclosed Fodor’s involvement with the company for the to start with time.

“My staff members ran a media operation recognized as Continental Press out of the National Push Setting up in Washington,” Hunt said all through his 1973 testimony. “We funded considerably of the routines of the Frederick D. Praeger Publishing Corporation in New York Metropolis. We funded, to a substantial extent, the pursuits of Fodor’s Vacation Guides, distributed by the David McKay Company.”

In his 2007 memoir American Spy: My Solution History in the C.I.A., Watergate, and Over and above, Hunt claimed that the CIA, starting in the late ’50s or early ’60s, had bankrolled Fodor’s guidebook business: “We… even printed a preferred collection of travel books—the Fodor Travel Guides. Our reasoning powering the guides was that commonly most foreigners only obtained to know Individuals by means of touristic ‘Ugly American’ stereotypes. So, we hoped to improve that impression by people today in other countries to arrive stop by ours, delight in everyday living in the United States, and get to know The united states far better.”

“We’d undertake his losses,” Hunt explained of Fodor in the 1973 Senate hearing, “and he was on the CIA payroll and may however be for all I know.”

But that wasn’t the only explanation that the CIA desired to use Fodor and his organization as a covert weapon in the Cold War. It was not abnormal for the C.I.A. to use artists, writers, journalists, musicians and other folks for their individual achieve during the Cold War—both covertly and overtly. 3 a long time right after George Orwell’s dying, a film model of Animal Farm was produced in 1954. It was a fairly devoted rendition of the ebook, but rather of Orwell’s finale, in which each the individuals and pigs are left in egregious light-weight, the film taken off the individuals, leaving only the dirty pigs, i.e., the fascists. The silent producer of the film was, in simple fact, the CIA, and it was none other than E. Howard Hunt who visited Orwell’s widow to properly wrest the rights from her so they could make the more overtly anti-Soviet variation.

The company observed in the abstract art of fashionable artists like Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko a sort of pretty American assertive individualism and so promoted their work abroad, generally funding exhibitions. The CIA first funded the Paris Evaluate, and just one of its founding editors, the novelist and naturalist Peter Matthiessen, was a spy. Jazz greats Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong, among the some others, were sent close to different elements of the earth on CIA-funded tours. From time to time the artists understood the U.S. governing administration was shelling out for it. Other periods, as in the scenario of Nina Simone, who was despatched on a 1961 tour of Nigeria underwritten by the company, the performer experienced no clue.

I informed [the CIA] to make guaranteed to deliver me genuine writers, not civil engineers. I required to get some producing out of them, and I did as well.

Eugene Fodor

So it was not stunning to learn from Seymour Hersh’s New York Situations exposé that the CIA’s involvement with Fodor went even further. When Hersh interviewed Hunt for his Moments tale, the previous agent disclosed that the travel publications experienced supplied “cover” for CIA agents keen to journey in overseas nations disguised as journey writers. Fodor would afterwards admit this was genuine, stating, “I explained to them to make guaranteed to mail me real writers, not civil engineers. I desired to get some composing out of them, and I did way too.” In fact, in 1956 Fodor sent some journey writers/CIA brokers to Hungary to enable rouse a opportunity revolution from the ruling Communist govt.

In a declassified letter that Hunt sent to Fodor on Jan. 13, 1975, two months just after the Instances write-up appeared, Hunt attempted to make amends. “I want you to know that I greatly regret the humiliation caused you by the New York Times’ revelation of my govt session testimony specified in self esteem to the Ervin Committee extra than a 12 months ago… and I did so on the assumption it would not be publicly uncovered.”

And then he included, “The UPI story of today’s date prices you as stating that you and I never ever fulfilled, or experienced any dealings, and that of class is not accurate…. There should really be a document of at least just one conference between you and me at a CIA office environment in Washington.”

In an inner CIA memo dated Jan. 24, 1975 that I attained through a FOIA ask for, about four months right after the revelations grew to become community, Fodor known as a single of his contacts at the agency to categorical a worst-scenario-scenario predicament that could occur from remaining uncovered as an agent. Fodor was from a Hungarian city that is now in Slovakia and his Czech-born spouse, Vlasta, even now experienced family in the Soviet-controlled Jap Bloc. “I feel like I should allow [Hunt] know how he endangered the protection of my family members with his revelations, if only to protect against additional disclosures and public controversy,” Fodor is quoted in the memo, implying there was probably far more details on his involvement that could arrive out.

In the memo, it states that the company recommended to Fodor that he just “give a basic, sterile acknowledgement” of his earlier functions with the agency and depart it at that.

Right after that, Fodor downplayed his involvement with the CIA, chalking it up to a patriotic responsibility, even heading so significantly to say that throughout the early Chilly War practically each and every American in Europe had been approached by the agency.