Operation Whisper

The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen

Barnes Carr

Meet Morris and Lona Cohen, an ordinary-seeming couple living on a teacher’s salary in a nondescript building on the East Side of New York City. On a hot afternoon in the autumn of 1950, a trusted colleague knocked at their door, held up a finger for silence, then began scribbling a note: Go now. Leave the lights on, walk out, don’t look back. Born and raised in the Bronx and recruited to play football at Mississippi State, Morris Cohen fought for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and with the U.S. Army in World War II. He and his wife, Lona, were as American as football and fried chicken, but for one detail: they’d spent their entire adult lives stealing American military secrets for the Soviet Union. And not just any military secrets, but a complete working plan of the first atomic bomb, smuggled direct from Los Alamos to their Soviet handler in New York. Their associates Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who accomplished far less, had just been arrested, and the prosecutor wanted the death penalty. Did the Cohens wish to face the same fate? Federal agents were in the neighborhood, knocking on doors, getting close. So get out. Take nothing. Tell no one. In Operation Whisper, Barnes Carr tells the full, true story of the most effective Soviet spy couple in America, a pair who vanished under the FBI’s nose only to turn up posing as rare book dealers in London, where they continued their atomic spying. The Cohens were talented, dedicated, worldly spies—an urbane, jet-set couple loyal to their service and their friends, and very good at their work. Most people they met seemed to think they represented the best of America. The Soviets certainly thought so.

Cloth: $22.95 | E-book: $19.99
ISBN-13: 9781611688092
Pages: 338 | Size: 6.25 in. x 9.25 in.
Date Published: May 3, 2016


  • Journalist Carr meticulously documents the astonishing life and times of these anything but average Americans. He vividly evokes the tedium and deceit, interspersed with bursts of terror, that make up the life of a spy. Fans of fictional and true espionage, and readers interested in the history of the 20th-century communist movement and the Cold War, will enjoy this intricate chronicle.

    Laurie Unger­Skinner
    Library Journal
  • While the story is an interesting one in and of itself, the context of how [the Cohens] were able to operate for so long without detection is really the element that is of more interest.

    Journal of Strategic Security
  • Carr’s book is painstakingly researched, and his use of sources constitutes his greatest strength. As a part of his research, he managed to have the Cohens’ FBI file declassified, which he uses to a great degree as his story builds to a climax with their eventual capture. Carr notes in his Introduction that other authors have written about the Cohens/Krogers but never within the same book. Indeed, his recounting of his quest to follow the American Cohens to the British archives is intriguing.

    International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
  • This book fills in a gap in the annals of Soviet espionage. Clearly, the Cohens contributed much more to the theft of the atomic secret than the Rosenbergs, who were executed. This book was of special interest to me because I got to know Morris and Lona personally while I was in Moscow being prepared by the KGB for undercover work in the United States. The Cohens were absolutely lovely people who were great friends and neighbors. Goes to show you that the old saying ‘Don't judge a book by its cover’ is very true. Those (honestly) nice people served an evil cause. As much as it might pain one to say that, consequently, they were evil themselves, it is the hard truth.

    Jack Barsky
    former KGB agent in America and author of Deep Undercover
  • In Operation Whisper, Carr takes us back to the golden age of Soviet spies in America, when the ideology was stark, the tradecraft basic, and the stakes were as high as they come: the Atomic bomb.

    Naveed Jamali
    former double agent and coauthor of How t

About the Author

Other Recent Titles

The Marital Knot

Noa Shashar

A New Orient

Amit Levy

Jewish Country Houses

Edited by Juliet Carey and Abigail Green

The Spice Ports

Nick Nugent

Philosopher Fish

Richard Adams Carey