n the late 1970s, Warsaw Boulevard in Moscow was the most carefully plotted and studied real estate in the world. The CIA launched a five-year, multi-million-dollar effort to tap into communications lines running between the Krasnaya Pakhra Nuclear Weapons Research Institute and Soviet Ministry of Defense. Case officers surveyed manholes along the boulevard for two years, and satellites took photos from outer space. Eventually a multi-agency task force selected the best possible manhole for access based on operational accessibility and technical capability.
Finally, after an enormous effort including recreating the subterranean workspace at The Farm for rehearsals, they swung into action with the incredibly high-risk, high-reward operation. Case officer Ken Seacrest had prepared for this mission for more than two years, and his wife had been fully briefed in and trained up as well. In the spring of 1981, they took the kids for a picnic at a nearby park in Ken's VW van. After running a successful surveillance detection route, Ken slipped away with a rucksack containing a disguise and a bespoke signals intelligence device that had cost more than $20,000,000 in research and development for this single operation. Changing into his disguise and completing another long SDR, he arrived at a manhole cover like the one pictured. Ken slipped into the subterranean space and spent the next two harrowing hours testing the communications lines and installing the device around the correct cable. He returned to his family after five hours away with the KGB unaware.
The mission was a complete success, and the CIA collected incredibly valuable intelligence on Soviet particle beam and laser weapon research. Three years later the signals disappeared unexpectedly, and eventually the CIA learned that it was due to their betrayal by turncoat CIA employee Edward Lee Howard, who defected in 1985.
Now you can own a set of four drink coasters, each one a replica of a unique manhole cover found in the center of Moscow. These coasters are manufactured in Philadelphia, PA with all-natural Portuguese cork, using hand-drawn illustrations and etchings. They are a quarter-inch thick and four inches in diameter. They make for fantastic gifts for your history-minded friends and relatives, and a great conversation piece to boot. The Portuguese cork will stand up to years of use.
The five-sided beauty can be found in a courtyard of a lovely cafe. The CCCP cover dates from the Soviet era with its star emblem, grappler axe, and anchor. These covers were particular to the People's commissariat of Railways, or NKPS, until 1946. The MKC cover is from the 1940s with the emblem of the Moscow Cable Network (Mosenergo), and is most likely the same cover that Ken Seacrest himself opened for his incredible mission. The cover with the word Sewerage dates from the early 1930s and can be found in Red Square, with detritus in its cavities including a cigarette butt and a Stoli bottle cap.