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Inside the Spy Shrine

The International Spy Museum is sneaky good!
Who doesn’t hear the James Bond theme when seeing the Aston Martin DB4 from the movie Goldfinger in the lobby of the International Spy Museum?

The Metro Washington D.C. area is home to several agencies of the United States intelligence community, but most of their official museums including the Central Intelligence Agency Museum and Defense Intelligence Agency Museum can’t easily be visited by the public. Fortunately, for those with an interest in all things of a clandestine nature, there is the International Spy Museum, a privately-run, non-profit museum located near the Washington Mall in the heart of the city.

Who doesn’t hear the James Bond theme when seeing the Aston Martin DB4 from the movie Goldfinger in the lobby of the International Spy Museum?

Who doesn’t hear the James Bond theme when seeing the Aston Martin DB4 from the movie Goldfinger in the lobby of the International Spy Museum?

Within its multiple floors are numerous exhibits, along with some 1,000 artifacts that chronicle the role that espionage has played form the ancient era to the modern day, with an emphasis from the American Revolution to the Cold War. While by no means a “military museum” in the truest sense, the International Spy Museum still has a number of fascinating pieces sure to interest military history buffs.

In addition, the museum has exhibits focused on various pop culture spies, and who wouldn’t like to see James Bond’s Aston Martin up close? 

Among the most fascinating artifacts in the International Spy Museum could be a four rotor Enigma machine that Germany actually built for its Japanese allies. The machine was intended for communication between the German and Japanese Navy.

Among the most fascinating artifacts in the International Spy Museum could be a four rotor Enigma machine that Germany actually built for its Japanese allies. The machine was intended for communication between the German and Japanese Navy.

An original David Clark XMC-2-DC flight suit that was worn by pilots of the Lockheed A-10 Oxcart and SR-71 Blackbird during the Cold War. The suit was designed to provide the pilot with oxygen, pressure and temperature controls, and without it, the Spy Museum noted the pilot would be dead within a mere 15 seconds at the aircraft’s maximum altitude of 85,000 feet!

An original David Clark XMC-2-DC flight suit that was worn by pilots of the Lockheed A-10 Oxcart and SR-71 Blackbird during the Cold War. The suit was designed to provide the pilot with oxygen, pressure and temperature controls, and without it, the Spy Museum noted the pilot would be dead within a mere 15 seconds at the aircraft’s maximum altitude of 85,000 feet!

A Motorized Submersible Canoe used by Great Britain’s Special Operations Executive during World War II. Nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty,” this sleek craft glides silently on the surface, and then dives. Underwater, the pilot, wearing an oxygen mask, operates unseen by enemy ships. America’s OSS bought this one from the British and painted it in North Atlantic camouflage colors

A Motorized Submersible Canoe used by Great Britain’s Special Operations Executive during World War II. Nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty,” this sleek craft glides silently on the surface, and then dives. Underwater, the pilot, wearing an oxygen mask, operates unseen by enemy ships. America’s OSS bought this one from the British and painted it in North Atlantic camouflage colors.

An ice pick axe that was used to kill Leon Trotsky, rival to Joseph Stalin, while he lived in exile in Mexico. On August 20, 1940, the exiled revolutionary was killed by assassin Ramón Mercader, who hid the shortened ice climbing axe under his suit jacket suspended by string. Visitors who look closely can even see a rust mark from Mercader’s bloody fingerprint still visible on the blade.

An ice pick axe that was used to kill Leon Trotsky, rival to Joseph Stalin, while he lived in exile in Mexico. On August 20, 1940, the exiled revolutionary was killed by assassin Ramón Mercader, who hid the shortened ice climbing axe under his suit jacket suspended by string. Visitors who look closely can even see a rust mark from Mercader’s bloody fingerprint still visible on the blade.

A wall plaque for the infamous Ministerium für Staatssicherheit – better known as “Stasi,” the East German Ministry for State Security.

A wall plaque for the infamous Ministerium für Staatssicherheit – better known as “Stasi,” the East German Ministry for State Security.

An inflatable tank of the type used to convince the Germans of the existence of the First U.S. Army Group, commanded by Gen. George  S. Patton.

An inflatable tank of the type used to convince the Germans of the existence of the First U.S. Army Group, commanded by Gen. George S. Patton.

The International Spy Museum’s collection includes a few artifacts that showcase the Allied D-Day deception efforts, including a “Rupert” dummy, the decoys dropped across Northern France on the early hours of the morning to confuse the Germans about where the actual Allied paratroopers were landing. In addition, the museum has on display a number of U.S. Army shoulder patches for units that never existed. Those “phantom units” existed only on paper, but were also meant to convince the Germans that an invasion force was being built up in eastern England for a landing near Calais.

The International Spy Museum’s collection includes a few artifacts that showcase the Allied D-Day deception efforts, including a “Rupert” dummy, the decoys dropped across Northern France on the early hours of the morning to confuse the Germans about where the actual Allied paratroopers were landing. In addition, the museum has on display a number of U.S. Army shoulder patches for units that never existed. Those “phantom units” existed only on paper, but were also meant to convince the Germans that an invasion force was being built up in eastern England for a landing near Calais.

A number of Stasi pins that were issued as rewards or honors for officers’ service. It is likely few ever wore these after the Berlin Wall came down in late 1989!

A number of Stasi pins that were issued as rewards or honors for officers’ service. It is likely few ever wore these after the Berlin Wall came down in late 1989!

The Bushnell submarine “Turtle,” a Revolutionary War submarine that was developed to sink British warships in New York Harbor, is among the only true “replicas” in the museum.

The Bushnell submarine “Turtle,” a Revolutionary War submarine that was developed to sink British warships in New York Harbor, is among the only true “replicas” in the museum.

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