Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Burgess, Guy Francis de Moncy (1911–1963)

British intelligence operative, diplomat, and member of the Cambridge Five spy ring. Born in Devenport, Devon, England, on 6 April 1911, Guy Burgess graduated from Eton in 1930 and went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge University, where he secretly joined the Communist Party, became associated with the infamous Cambridge espionage ring, and was first recruited by Soviet Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti (KGB) agents. On and off throughout his career, Burgess passed important and classified information to his Soviet contacts.

In 1936 Burgess secured a position as a broadcaster with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London. This job put him into contact with many top British officials. In 1938 he joined the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). He went on to serve in the British Foreign Office in 1944, during which time he began passing information to the Soviets. In 1947 he was posted to the British embassy in Washington, D.C., where he was in a position to pass more classified intelligence to his Soviet handlers.

While he was in Washington, Burgess became reacquainted with Kim Philby, whom he had known as a student at Cambridge. At the time, Philby was serving as an MI6 liaison with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In 1951 Philby learned that the head of the American Department at the Foreign Office, Donald Maclean, who was also a Soviet agent, was about to be interrogated by British intelligence. He had been identified as "Homer," a cryptogram for Maclean contained in the Venona decrypts. At that point, the KGB arranged for Burgess to return to London to warn Maclean that his cover had been blown. The KGB subsequently ordered both Maclean and Burgess to Moscow in May 1951. Burgess stayed in Russia but never adapted to the austerity of Soviet life. He died in Moscow of liver disease on 19 August 1963.

Ernie Teagarden


Further Reading
Hamrick, S. J. Deceiving the Deceivers: Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.; Newton, Verne W. The Cambridge Spies: The Untold Story of McLean, Philby, and Burgess in America. Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1991.
 

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