The CIA Spy Who Reinvented the Travel Guide

The 12 months 1936 was a momentous 12 months for global travel. The RMS Queen Mary made her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York Metropolis. Aer Lingus took its first flight (from Dublin to Bristol). H.R. Ekins, a reporter for the New York World-Telegram, gained a race all over the world utilizing solely industrial airways (it took him 18 days, 11 hours, 14 minutes, and 55 seconds). And Eugene Fodor printed his first guidebook, 1936 … On the Continent, a 1,200-page doorstop on Europe, the world’s first yearly up to date journey guidebook.

The guidebook, which for the primary time was geared toward middle-class vacationers and never essentially upper-class “grand vacationers,” included all the standard sights, but in addition for the primary time inspired interacting with locals whose worldview is perhaps completely different from these of readers. “Rome incorporates not solely magnificent monuments and priceless artwork treasures,” Fodor wrote within the foreword to the 1936 information, “but in addition Italians.”

Eugene Fodor, who died at 85 in 1991, profoundly influenced the way in which People traveled within the twentieth and twenty first centuries; the corporate he based, at present known as Fodor’s Journey, at the moment publishes 150 titles per 12 months and its web site will get 2.75 million guests a month. (Full disclosure: I’ve at instances within the final decade up to date and written the restaurant part for Fodor’s New York Metropolis guidebook.)

What most individuals don’t know was that Fodor was a CIA spy, on their payroll for years. After this secret grew to become public in 1974, Fodor downplayed it and outright shut down questions on it in interviews, groaning, for instance, when a reporter from Conde Nast Traveler introduced it as much as him in within the late ’80s and saying, “Everybody appears to have forgotten what the Chilly Battle was like. The Soviets had been an actual risk. As an American, you probably did what you would.”

Fodor was born in 1905 within the small city of Losonc, then within the Kingdom of Hungary (now in Slovakia). He ultimately grew to become a naturalized American and he was in the US when the Munich Pact was signed (ceding the Sudetenland, the western elements of Czechoslovakia, to Hitler). He insisted he would solely return to Europe in a navy uniform.

Due to his language expertise (he spoke 5 languages fluently), he ended up within the Analysis & Evaluation Department of the Workplace of Strategic Companies (OSS), the World Battle II precursor to the CIA led by the legendary Common William “Wild Invoice” Donovan. The unit, innocuously named First Cellular Radio Broadcasting Firm, was designed with psychological warfare in thoughts to unfold disinformation and undermine enemy morale.

Fodor interrogated prisoners of struggle and wrote propaganda leaflets that had been dropped in enemy territory. The unit was additionally chargeable for working with resistance teams to hold out acts of sabotage in enemy territory. In spring 1945, he grew to become a part of an OSS operation that had him smuggled into Prague to assist direct an rebellion of the Czech Resistance in opposition to the occupying Germans. Throughout that point, he additionally traveled to Plzen, a city in western Czechoslovakia, serving to to liberate the area from the Nazis, as Russian troops superior from the East, doing the identical as they moved towards Prague and, ultimately Berlin.

After the struggle, Fodor’s involvement with the CIA continued. Beginning within the Nineteen Fifties, the CIA started tapping artists, musicians, writers, and journalists overseas for propaganda functions or for info amassing. “Journey author” appeared like cowl for an spy in enemy territory. And a journey author who previously labored for the OSS was very best. A declassified inner OSS task from 1946 acknowledged that Eugene Fodor would now have the title “Intelligence Officer.” His location: Prague. His job: “collect[ing] intelligence by overt and covert means as he has previously. He is not going to be anticipated to develop intensive agent chains, however he will probably be known as upon to take care of native nationals on a safe foundation.”

One in every of Fodor’s later assignments was to assist foment an rebellion in Hungary in 1956. The rebellion occurred, however the revolution that the CIA hoped would topple the Communist authorities didn’t. Fodor claimed that after 1956, he gave up the spy enterprise.

In accordance with paperwork I obtained in a Freedom of Info Act (FOIA) request, this isn’t true. It simply relies upon how a lot you need to consider the supply—E. Howard Hunt, a veteran CIA agent and, infamously, a convicted Watergate burglar.

On Dec. 31, 1974, The New York Occasions printed an exposé by Seymour Hersh who had obtained categorised transcripts from a Senate investigation listening to in December 1973. The article publicly revealed Fodor’s involvement with the company for the primary time.

“My workers ran a media operation referred to as Continental Press out of the Nationwide Press Constructing in Washington,” Hunt mentioned throughout his 1973 testimony. “We funded a lot of the actions of the Frederick D. Praeger Publishing Company in New York Metropolis. We funded, to a big extent, the actions of Fodor’s Journey Guides, distributed by the David McKay Company.”

In his 2007 memoir American Spy: My Secret Historical past within the C.I.A., Watergate, and Past, Hunt claimed that the CIA, beginning within the late ’50s or early ’60s, had bankrolled Fodor’s guidebook firm: “We… even printed a well-liked sequence of journey books—the Fodor Journey Guides. Our reasoning behind the guides was that usually most foreigners solely received to know People by touristic ‘Ugly American’ stereotypes. So, we hoped to alter that impression by individuals in different international locations to return go to ours, take pleasure in life in the US, and get to know America higher.”

“We’d endure his losses,” Hunt mentioned of Fodor within the 1973 Senate listening to, “and he was on the CIA payroll and should be for all I do know.”

However that wasn’t the one cause that the CIA needed to make use of Fodor and his firm as a covert weapon within the Chilly Battle. It was commonplace for the C.I.A. to make use of artists, writers, journalists, musicians and others for their very own achieve in the course of the Chilly Battle—each covertly and overtly. Three years after George Orwell’s loss of life, a movie model of Animal Farm was launched in 1954. It was a reasonably trustworthy rendition of the e-book, however as a substitute of Orwell’s finale, wherein each the people and pigs are left in egregious gentle, the movie eliminated the people, leaving solely the soiled pigs, i.e., the fascists. The silent producer of the movie was, actually, the CIA, and it was none apart from E. Howard Hunt who visited Orwell’s widow to efficiently wrest the rights from her so they may make the extra overtly anti-Soviet model.

The company noticed within the summary artwork of contemporary artists like Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko a type of very American assertive individualism and so promoted their work overseas, typically funding exhibitions. The CIA first funded the Paris Evaluate, and considered one of its founding editors, the novelist and naturalist Peter Matthiessen, was a spy. Jazz greats Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong, amongst others, had been despatched round varied elements of the planet on CIA-funded excursions. Generally the artists knew the U.S. authorities was paying for it. Different instances, as within the case of Nina Simone, who was despatched on a 1961 tour of Nigeria underwritten by the company, the performer had no clue.

“I informed [the CIA] to ensure to ship me actual writers, not civil engineers. I needed to get some writing out of them, and I did too.”

— Eugene Fodor

So it wasn’t stunning to study from Seymour Hersh’s New York Occasions exposé that the CIA’s involvement with Fodor went even deeper. When Hersh interviewed Hunt for his Occasions story, the previous agent revealed that the journey books had supplied “cowl” for CIA brokers desirous to journey in overseas international locations disguised as journey writers. Fodor would later admit this was true, saying, “I informed them to ensure to ship me actual writers, not civil engineers. I needed to get some writing out of them, and I did too.” In reality, in 1956 Fodor despatched some journey writers/CIA brokers to Hungary to assist rouse a possible revolution in opposition to the ruling Communist authorities.

In a declassified letter that Hunt despatched to Fodor on Jan. 13, 1975, two weeks after the Occasions article appeared, Hunt tried to make amends. “I need you to know that I tremendously remorse the embarrassment induced you by the New York Occasions’ revelation of my govt session testimony given in confidence to the Ervin Committee greater than a 12 months in the past… and I did so on the idea it might not be publicly revealed.”

After which he added, “The UPI story of at present’s date quotes you as stating that you simply and I by no means met, or had any dealings, and that after all shouldn’t be correct…. There needs to be a file of no less than one assembly between you and me at a CIA workplace in Washington.”

In an inner CIA memo dated Jan. 24, 1975 that I obtained by a FOIA request, about 4 weeks after the revelations grew to become public, Fodor known as considered one of his contacts on the company to specific a worst-case-scenario scenario that might come from being uncovered as an agent. Fodor was from a Hungarian city that’s now in Slovakia and his Czech-born spouse, Vlasta, nonetheless had household within the Soviet-controlled Japanese Bloc. “I really feel like I ought to let [Hunt] know the way he endangered the protection of my household together with his revelations, if solely to forestall additional disclosures and public controversy,” Fodor is quoted within the memo, implying there was presumably extra info on his involvement that might come out.

Within the memo, it states that the company advisable to Fodor that he simply “give a easy, sterile acknowledgement” of his previous actions with the company and go away it at that.

After that, Fodor downplayed his involvement with the CIA, chalking it as much as a patriotic responsibility, even going up to now to say that in the course of the early Chilly Battle almost each American in Europe had been approached by the company. way of=rss | The CIA Spy Who Reinvented the Journey Information


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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