6. It Was Not Until Yisrael Bar Was Caught Red-Handed That His Deception Came to Light
Yisrael Bar’s rapid rise to prominence highlighted the difficulty Israeli intelligence had during a period of mass immigration in spotting infiltrators. In reality, Bar was a Soviet spy, and was not even a Jew. A man of the sword and letters, urbane and Hollywood handsome to boot, Bar cut a swath through Israeli society and Tel Aviv’s nightlife as a ladies’ man. It took a surprisingly long time before the fact that he was uncircumcised raised suspicions.
In the meantime, Bar took advantage of his access to Israeli secrets and Israel’s prime minister, whose diary he raided to not only photocopy, but to tear out entire pages from and pass on to his handlers. It was not until 1961, when he was caught delivering a briefcase stuffed with sensitive materials to the KGB, that the deception fell apart. Bar never revealed his true identity during interrogations following his arrest. Tried and convicted of espionage, he was sentenced to jail, where he died in 1966, taking the secret of his identity to his grave.
5. The Scandal of the Great Poet Who Was Into His Sister – Literally
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788 – 1824), was a leading figure in the Romantic Movement. A poet, satirist, politician and peer, his poems and personality captured Europe’s imagination. Byron is one of Britain’s best poets, known and acclaimed for his brilliant use of the English language. However, he gained further fame, or infamy, by living his life as a walking scandal. He became even better-known during his lifetime for his flamboyance, amorous lifestyle, and the notoriety of his scandalous escapades with both men and women.
His most infamous scandal was a years-long incestuous relationship with his sister Augusta Leigh. Byron had seen little of her during childhood, but made up for it in spades in adulthood. The scandal bore fruit in 1814, when he fathered a daughter upon his sister, making Byron the child’s uncle, as well as father. He also liked to keep mementos of his lovers. The norm was a lock of hair from one’s object of affection. For Britain’s most flamboyant poet, eccentric aristocrat, and all around creep, a simple lock of hair would not do. Instead, Byron liked to snip clumps of hair from his lovers’ crotches, and kept them, catalogued and labeled, in envelopes.
Byron’s most famous affair was with the married Lady Caroline Lamb. She rejected him at first, describing him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know“. She changed her mind, however, and had a torrid affair with the poet that became the scandal of Britain. When Byron dumped her, Lamb turned stalker, and pursued him relentlessly. She stopped at his house one time too many, and scribbled in a book on his desk “Remember me”. The exasperated Byron responded with a poem entitled Remember Thee! Remember Thee!: “Remember thee! remember thee! – Till Lethe quench life’s burning stream – Remorse and shame shall cling to thee, – And haunt thee like a feverish dream! – Remember thee! Aye, doubt it not. – Thy husband too shall think of thee: – By neither shalt thou be forgot, – Thou false to him, thou fiend to me!’
Scandal eventually forced Byron to flee Britain, so he roamed Europe for years at a stretch, including a seven year stint in Italy. Restlessness eventually led him to join the Greeks in their war of independence from the Ottoman Turks. However, he was disappointed with the Greeks of his day, because they differed greatly from the heroic Hellenes described by Homer. While moping about that discrepancy, he caught a fever and died in a Greek backwater at the age of 36.
3. The Scandal of the US Navy’s Poorly Tested WWII Torpedoes
Designed in 1931, the Mark 14 Torpedo was the standard weapon of the United States Navy’s Navy submarines when America joined World War II in 1941. When first introduced, it was heralded as a vast improvement and a technological leap forward. The Mark 14 differed from earlier torpedoes that detonated on impact with a target ship’s hull. Instead, the Mark 14 had an advanced magnetic detonator that was supposed to set off the explosive charge directly beneath the enemy’s keel and break its back – fatal damage to any ship.
Theoretically a single Mark 14 was enough to sink an enemy ship, regardless of size, unlike its predecessors which usually required multiple torpedoes holing the enemy in various spots on the hull. However, secrecy and frugality led to the live testing of only two torpedoes – and one of the two failed. In a scandal that only got worse with the passage of time, a 50% failure rate did not give the US Navy pause and prompt it to conduct further testing. In 1938, the Mark 14 was approved and issued to the US submarine fleet as its standard torpedo.
2. The US Navy Sent American Submariners Into Harm’s Way With Defective Torpedoes
It was not until after the United States joined WWII and the US Navy’s submariners found themselves in life and death encounters with the Japanese that the Mark 14 Torpedo’s flaws became apparent. Within the first month of hostilities submarine commanders correctly reported that the Mark 14 had multiple serious problems. It had trouble maintaining accurate depth so as to pass within the correct distance beneath an enemy ship’s keel. Its magnetic detonator often detonated prematurely or failed to detonate at all.
The Mark 14’s backup contact detonator failed to set off the torpedo even when it struck an enemy’s hull at a perfect angle with a loud clang that was clearly audible in the firing submarine. Worst of all, the Mark 14 tended to boomerang, missing its target and running in a wide circle to come back and hit the firing submarine. At least two American submarines were destroyed by their own torpedoes, which circled around to come back and strike them.
1. The Mark 14 Torpedo Scandal Was Made Worse by the US Navy Ignoring Reports of Its Flaws
The Mark 14 Torpedo scandal was made worse when the US Navy ignored multiple reports about its serious shortcomings, including reports from submariners. In one incident, a submarine commander fired two spreads totaling a dozen Mark 14s at a large Japanese whaler, but only managed to cripple it. Then, with the enemy ship dead in the water, he maneuvered his submarine and carefully positioned it so that his torpedoes would have a perfect angle of impact, then fired off nine more Mark 14s. Not a single one detonated.
It took the US Navy two years from the start of hostilities to even acknowledge the possibility that a problem might exist with the Mark 14 Torpedo. Only then did higher ups deign to allow live fire tests to be conducted in order to find out what, if anything, was wrong. The tests verified what American submariners had been complaining about all along. Remedial steps to address the problems were finally begun – two years later than should have been the case.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading