In August 1972 an unknown person mailed a letter addressed to the military attaché at the U.S. embassy in Bonn, postmarked Wilhelmshaven and signed “PV,” promising to telephone the American embassy in The Hague a week later. When he did so, a rendezvous was arranged later the same night outside the main railway station, and this was followed by a meeting in a nearby hotel at which Colonel Kuklinsky identified himself as a Polish General Staff officer who was sailing along the Dutch coast with colleagues aboard the two-masted yacht Legia. He had chosen the initials “PV” because “V” is rarely used in Polish, and he wished to conceal his nationality if the offer fell into the wrong hands. Three further meetings were arranged, at Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Ostend, which persuaded Kuklinsky’s inquisitors of his bona fides.
Kuklinsky explained that, having become disaffected by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, he had been persuaded by the events of December 1970, when the Polish Army had been ordered to suppress demonstrations in Gdansk and Gdynia, to help the West. He had been particularly impressed by his discovery of Soviet nuclear warheads deployed on Polish territory during a Warsaw Pact exercise and had determined to make contact with the Americans. Realizing that there would be no chance of reaching the U.S. embassy in Warsaw undetected, he had taken the opportunity to write his letter when the Legia docked at Wilhelmshaven. He confided in no one, including his wife Hanka and their two sons, Boguslaw and Waldemar.
The Central Intelligence Agency responded to Kuklinsky, codenamed GULL, by arranging a series of dead drops in Warsaw. Ameeting with him in January 1973 at the Wolski cemetery was also set up, at which he delivered nine rolls of film containing classified material he had photographed at work. Six months later, in June 1973, Kuklinsky was assigned a new case officer, David W. Forden, codenamed DANIEL, who spoke Polish fluently, having served previously as the CIA’s station chief in Warsaw.
In 1975, after Kuklinsky’s fourth cruise out of Poland, the Legia was confined to Polish waters, so he was obliged to rely on dead drops emptied by the CIA’s Warsaw station, with whom he communicated via a Discus that could transmit and receive alphanumeric messages. By 1980 Kuklinsky had been promoted to deputy chief of the Operations Directorate and he had gained access to the Warsaw Pact’s contingency plans that detailed intervention from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. Altogether, Kuklinsky
was to supply some 30,000 documents, ranging from war plans and military maps to electronic warfare manuals, military targeting guidelines, and even blueprints for command bunkers. As soon as Kuklinsky discovered General Jaruzelski’s plan for martial law, he called an emergency meeting to warn the CIA and revealed the code word to begin the operation, WIOSNA (“Heather”).
However, this information leaked from the CIA, perhaps through the Vatican, and became known to the Solidarity movement, which prompted a crisis meeting in Warsaw in September 1981 at the Ministry of the Interior. Only about a dozen senior officers had been allowed to know about WIOSNA, yet the highly classified code name had leaked, so the KGB had reported, to Rome. Two months later, on 2 November, Kuklinsky was summoned to a chief of staff’s conference, where he realized that although he personally was not yet under suspicion, it was now only a matter of time before the mole hunt now under way, which was concentrated on the only two people with uninterrupted full access to the martial law plans, trapped him because a crucial document had been compromised. Accordingly, Kuklinsky requested another emergency rendezvous and was met by the CIA deputy chief of station in Warsaw, a woman who promised an exfiltration for him, his wife, and his two sons. However, it proved almost impossible for the local CIA personnel to shake off their surveillance, and on three successive nights the operation had to be abandoned. Finally two CIA officers under commercial cover flew in to Warsaw from Germany on a black operation to supervise an escape devised by the “pipeliners” from the CIA’s Office of Technical Support. Kuklinsky was driven to West Berlin on 7 November hidden under cardboard boxes in the back of a Volvo station wagon, and three days later he was flown in a military transport to Andrews Air Force Base to be met by a jubilant Forden, who escorted him to a safe house in Warrenton, Virginia.