Sorge, Richard

   A frontline veteran of World War I, Sorge was an ideological convert to Stalinism. In the 1930s, under cover as a journalist, Sorge served as a Soviet military intelligence (GRU) illegal in China and then in Japan. In Tokyo in the late 1930s, he became close to the German ambassador and had access to official Nazi military and diplomatic dispatches. He also developed a number of important sources in the Japanese establishment, who provided detailed information about Japanese military planning and were able to corroborate much of the reporting from the German embassy. His code name in GRU cables was “Ramzei” (Ramsey). In early 1941 he repeatedly provided detailed reporting of German plans for war, including the date of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (22 June).
   Joseph Stalin disregarded Sorge’s warnings in the spring of 1941 that Hitler was poised to invade the Soviet Union. However, the dictator believed Sorge’s reporting in the fall of 1941 that Japan was not planning war with the Soviet Union but was moving toward war in Southeast Asia. As a result of this information, Stalin deployed infantry and tank formations from Siberia to the west in time to win the critical Battle of Moscow in December 1941.
   Sorge handled sources with sophistication, living his cover in Japan as a jaded journalist. He had a reputation as an alcoholic and a womanizer, and apparently paid little attention to tradecraft. He was arrested in October 1941 and executed in 1944. The Soviet government disavowed him, and no effort was made to rescue him. When the Japanese government made an effort to trade Sorge, Stalin responded that he “did not know that name.” Following the war, Sorge was made one of the Soviet intelligence heroes of World War II. Stamps were issued with his picture, and several books were written about his exploits.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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