Project COLDFEET was a 1962 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation to extract intelligence from an abandoned Soviet Arctic drifting ice station. Due to the nature of its abandonment as the result of unstable ice, the retrieval of the operatives used the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system.


What became known as Operation Coldfeet began in May 1961, when a naval aircraft flying an aeromagnetic survey over the Arctic Ocean reported sighting an abandoned Soviet drift station. A few days later, the Soviets announced that they had been forced to leave Station NP 9 (a different station, NP 8 ended up being the target) when the ice runway used to supply it had been destroyed by a pressure ridge,[1] and it was assumed that it would be crushed in the Arctic Ocean.[2]

The prospect of examining an abandoned Soviet ice station attracted the interest of the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research. The previous year, ONR had set an acoustical surveillance network on a U.S. drift station used to monitor Soviet submarines. ONR assumed that the Soviets would have a similar system to keep track of American submarines as they transited the polar ice pack, but there was no direct evidence to support this. Also, ONR wanted to compare Soviet efforts on drift stations with U.S. operations. The problem was how to get to NP 9. It was far too deep into the ice pack to be reached by an icebreaker, and it was out of helicopter range.

To Captain John Cadwalader, who would command Operation Coldfeet, it looked like "a wonderful opportunity" to make use of the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system. Following a recommendation by Dr. Max Britton, head of the Arctic program in the Geography Branch of ONR, Rear Admiral L. D. Coates, Chief of Naval Research, authorized preliminary planning for the mission while he sought final approval from the Chief of Naval Operations. The mission was scheduled for September 1961, a time of good weather and ample daylight. NP 9 would be within 600 miles (970 km) of the U.S. Air Force base at Thule, Greenland, the planned launching point for the operation.

ONR selected two highly qualified investigators for the ground assignment. Major James Smith, USAF, was an experienced paratrooper and Russian linguist who had served on U.S. Drift Stations Alpha and Charlie. Lieutenant Leonard A. LeSchack, USNR, a former Antarctic geophysicist, had set up the surveillance system on T-3 in 1960. Although not jump qualified he quickly went through the Navy parachuting course at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey. The two men trained on the Fulton retrieval system over the summer, working in Maryland with an experienced P2V Neptune crew at the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

B-17G N809Z which had been used in the project (Marana Airpark 1975)

The project was put on hold as formal clearance had arrived too late and NP 9 had drifted too far away. News came in March 1962 that another ice station (NP 8) had also been abandoned. This station could be reached from Canadian airfields. As NP 8 also was a more up-to-date facility than NP 9 the project's target was shifted to NP 8.[1]

On 28 May 1962, a converted CIA B-17 Flying Fortress 44-85531, registered as N809Z,[3] piloted by Connie Seigrist and Douglas Price dropped both men by parachute on NP 8. On 1 June, Seigrist and Price returned and a pick-up was made of the Soviet equipment that had been gathered and of both men, using a Fulton Skyhook system installed on the B-17. This mission required the use of three separate extractions—first for the Soviet equipment, then of LeSchack and finally of Smith.[2]

Operation Coldfeet was a success. The mission yielded information on the Soviet Union's Arctic research activities, including evidence of advanced research on acoustical systems to detect under-ice U.S. submarines and efforts to develop Arctic anti-submarine warfare techniques.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Fulton's Skyhook and Operation Coldfeet". Central Intelligence Agency. 2007-04-14. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  2. ^ a b c "Project COLDFEET: Seven Days in the Arctic". Central Intelligence Agency. 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  3. ^ "The Boeing B-17s." Archived 2010-09-28 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 25 July 2011.
Aircraft in fiction

Aircraft in fiction covers various real-world aircraft that have made significant appearances in fiction over the decades, including in books, films, toys, TV programs, video games, and other media. These appearances spotlight the popularity of different models of aircraft, and showcase the different types for the general public.

Cold Feet (disambiguation)

Cold Feet is a UK comedy-drama television series.

Cold Feet may also refer to:

Cold feet, apprehension or doubt strong enough to prevent a planned course of action

Project COLDFEET, a CIA operation in 1962

Cold Feet (U.S. TV series), the US version of the UK series

Cold Feet (1922 film), a comedy short film directed by Al Christie

Cold Feet (1983 film), a comedy film starring Griffin Dunne

Cold Feet (1989 film), a comedy film starring Keith Carradine

Cold Feet (1999 film), a drama film starring Chenoa Maxwell

"Cold Feet", a song by Tracy Chapman from New Beginning

Fulton surface-to-air recovery system

The Fulton surface-to-air recovery system (STARS) is a system used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States Air Force and United States Navy for retrieving persons on the ground using aircraft such as the MC-130E Combat Talon I and Boeing B-17. It involves using an overall-type harness and a self-inflating balloon with an attached lift line. An MC-130E engages the line with its V-shaped yoke and the person is reeled on board. Red flags on the lift line guide the pilot during daylight recoveries; lights on the lift line are used for night recoveries. Recovery kits were designed for one and two-man retrievals.

This system was developed by inventor Robert Edison Fulton, Jr., for the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1950s. It was an evolution from a similar system that was used during World War II by American and British forces to retrieve both personnel and downed assault gliders following airborne operations. The earlier system did not use a balloon, but a line stretched between a pair of poles set in the ground on either side of the person to be retrieved. An aircraft, usually a C-47 Skytrain, trailed a grappling hook that engaged the line, which was attached to the person to be retrieved.

Ice Station Zebra

Ice Station Zebra is a 1968 Metrocolor Cold War era suspense and espionage film directed by John Sturges, starring Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown. The screenplay by Alistair MacLean, Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink, and W. R. Burnett is loosely based upon MacLean's 1963 novel of the same name. Both have parallels to real-life events that took place in 1959. The film was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Daniel L. Fapp, and presented in 70 mm Cinerama in premiere engagements. The original music score is by Michel Legrand.

Intermountain Aviation

Intermountain Airlines, also known as Intermountain Aviation and Intermountain Airways, was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) airline front company. Intermountain performed covert operations for the CIA in Southeast Asia and elsewhere during the Vietnam War era.

Intermountain's main base of operations was Marana Army Air Field near Tucson, Arizona. In 1975 it was acquired by Evergreen International Aviation, a company that has acknowledged connections with the CIA. Other CIA "proprietary" airlines such as Air America and Air Asia also operated out of Marana during the Vietnam War years.

One of Intermountain's covert missions was Project Coldfeet in which intelligence operatives were dropped in the Arctic to reconnoiter an abandoned Soviet drift station and then recovered using a Fulton Skyhook recovery system mounted on an Intermountain B-17 Flying Fortress. The modified B-17G, N809Z (now N207EV) and until August, 2017 could be seen at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon), had previously operated out of Clark Air Base, the Philippines, in an all-black scheme for the CIA for agent insertions and other unspecified covert operations in Southeast Asia.

Intermountain is alleged to have been involved in the delivery of a number of A-26 Invader bombers to be flown by Cuban exile pilots supporting the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

During its years in operation, Intermountain used several types of aircraft including the Curtiss C-46 Commando, the Lockheed L-188 Electra, the de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou and DHC-6 Twin Otter, and a B-17 Flying Fortress which was outfitted with a Fulton surface-to-air recovery system, performed Arctic operations, and appeared at the end of the James Bond film Thunderball.

Special Activities Center

The Special Activities Center (SAC) is a division of the United States Central Intelligence Agency responsible for covert operations. The unit was named Special Activities Division prior to 2016. Within SAC there are two separate groups: SAC/SOG (Special Operations Group) for tactical paramilitary operations and SAC/PAG (Political Action Group) for covert political action.The Special Operations Group (SOG) is a department within SAC responsible for operations that include high-threat military or covert operations with which the U.S. government does not wish to be overtly associated. As such, unit members, called Paramilitary Operations Officers and Specialized Skills Officers, do not typically carry any objects or clothing, e.g., military uniforms, that would associate them with the United States government.If they are compromised during a mission, the United States government may deny all knowledge. SOG is generally considered the most secretive special operations force in the United States. The group selects operatives from other special mission units such as Delta Force, MARSOC, DEVGRU, ISA, Force Reconnaissance and 24th STS, as well as other United States special operations forces.SOG Paramilitary Operations Officers account for a majority of Distinguished Intelligence Cross and Intelligence Star recipients during conflicts or incidents which elicited CIA involvement. These are the highest and third highest valor awards in the CIA. An award bestowing either of these citations represents the highest honors awarded within the CIA in recognition of distinguished valor and excellence in the line of duty. SAC/SOG operatives also account for the majority of the stars displayed on the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters indicating that the officer died while on active duty. The motto of SAC is Tertia Optio, which means Third Option, as covert action is the option with diplomacy and the military.The Political Action Group (PAG) is responsible for covert activities related to political influence, psychological operations, and economic warfare. The rapid development of technology has added cyber warfare to their mission. Tactical units within SAC are also capable of carrying out covert political action while deployed in hostile and austere environments. A large covert operation typically has components that involve many or all of these categories as well as paramilitary operations.

Political and "influence" covert operations are used to support U.S. foreign policy. Overt support for one element of an insurgency would often be counterproductive due to the impression it would potentially exert on the local population. In such cases covert assistance allows the U.S. to assist without damaging these elements in the process.

William M. Leary

William Matthew "Bill" Leary, Jr. (May 6, 1934 — February 24, 2006) was an American academic and aviation historian. For 32 years, Leary taught at the University of Georgia from which he retired as the E. Merton Coulter Professor of History in 2005.Leary was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1934. He joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at Kadena Air Base in Japan during the Korean War where his responsibilities included filing flight plans, logging arrivals and departures, and arranging parking and service for aircraft. Leary stated that his observation of Civil Air Transport aircraft and personnel at Kadena led to a historical interest in aviation.After the war, Leary earned a doctorate in American history from Princeton University. He taught at Princeton, San Diego State University, University of Victoria, and finally the University of Georgia. Leary earned four Fulbright grants and in 1995 earned the Central Intelligence Agency's Studies in Intelligence Award. From 1996 to 1997, Leary held the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum.During his career, Leary authored books on various books on the history of aviation, including different airlines and the commercial airline industry. He documented the history of the China National Aviation Corporation, Civil Air Transport, and Air America, and their links to the United States Intelligence Community, in a trilogy of books: The Dragon's Wings: the Story of the China National Aviation Corporation, Perilous Missions: Civil Air Transport and CIA Covert Operations in Asia, a history of Civil Air Transport, and a third unfinished, unpublished book about Air America. Other books written by Leary discussed Mohawk Airlines, Project COLDFEET, and Allen Dulles. Other subjects covered in his writings included the Airmails of the United States, Bernt Balchen and polar aviation, the USAF's Combat Cargo Command, and the aerial resupply of Yugoslav Partisans during World War II.On February 24, 2006, Leary died in Watkinsville, Georgia.


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