Former World War II allies, the United States (US) and the Soviet Union (USSR) had turned their warm ties into cold shoulders following the end’s war, mainly due to conflicted beliefs in ideology and politics. Thus, the rivalry between the two began—among which was the race on who would build the fastest, most superior military power might, subsequently igniting the era of espionage.

While the notion of secret operatives lurking in hostile territory and spies hidden in plain sight among civilians is not new, Cold War espionage has evolved into its own genre, inspiring fictional works such as the renowned James Bond series of novels and movies.

But the case below is a true case straight from the intelligence agency files, dating back to the early 1970s. This may seem anti-climactic without the adrenaline of a pursuit like Agent 007, but it depicts how cunning these USSR agents were in obtaining top secrets off US territory.

Here’s how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) caught one Russian spy who tried to leech off intelligence from an American engineer working on the then-ongoing F-14 aircraft project.

A ‘Chance’ Encounter

The year was 1970. A year that brought the swinging sixties to a close and poured freezing cold water into the nation, waking everyone up to the harsh reality of increasing geopolitical unrest, gas shortages, natural disasters, serial killers, terrorism, and more that was previously buried behind blind optimism.

An American engineer working for the Grumman Aerospace Corporation was unwinding at a social gathering somewhere within The Big Apple when a man, alias Sergey Viktorovich Petrov, struck up a casual conversation with him.

Petrov introduced himself as a United Nations (UN) Russian translator, processing papers relating to various scientific affairs for the organization. The Russian gentleman appears to have posed himself as an equal counterpart to the Grumman engineer after casually sharing his family life and career, particularly his previous professional experience as an aeronautical engineer.

When he heard this, the American engineer also opened up more about himself, noting somewhere amid the conversation his involvement in the design phase of the F-14 fighter jet being developed by Grumman for the US Navy.