Traitor's Odyssey: Martha Dodd, her Circle and Soviet Espionage in America
Brendan McNally

Traitor's Odyssey: Martha Dodd, her Circle and Soviet Espionage in America

Martha Dodd was the Soviet spy that got away, not once, but twice, and both times with all her money.

Martha was twenty four when she decides to accompany her parents to Berlin, following her father’s unexpected appointment as American Ambassador to Nazi Germany. Martha goes knowing almost nothing about Adolf Hitler or the Nazis, but thinking it would be a fun way to spend a couple of years, while her complicated personal life in Chicago sorted itself out. Instead, she steps into the celebrity spotlight and almost overnight, finds herself at the over-heated center of Hitler’s ‘New Germany’ with its vicious, internecine struggles for power and proximity to The Fuhrer. To the consternation of the US Government, Martha dates, and beds, the head of the Gestapo, a famous dive-bomber ace, several top generals,  Goering, Goebbels, and both Hitler’s piano player and his personal spymaster.

 But then a dashing Russian diplomat causes Martha to cast her lot with Stalin and with it a lifetime of high-level intrigue, espionage, betrayal and ultimately, exile.

 Martha’ career as a spy didn’t lack for highs and lows. After several years as Stalin’s most important spy in Berlin, she returns to America, tasked with infiltrating First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s inner circle. But it gets put on hold and then forgotten while Moscow Center kills off its best agent-runners in a long series of bloody purges. Martha writes two bestselling memoirs, then goes to Hollywood, with Otto Preminger briefly considering whether to cast Ronald Reagan as Martha’s dissolute brother. Assigned to yet another stillborn operation and then betrayed by a Hollywood hustler turned double-agent, Martha spends years under massive FBI surveillance, only to escape right under their noses, not once, but twice and with all her money: first to sunny Mexico, then finally going to ground in Cold War Prague, old, sad, lonely, rich and bored, living out her final decades as if in a Communist version of Sunset Boulevard.


Until now, the full sweep of Martha Dodd’s strange life and career has never been told. Traitor's Odyssey corrects this by telling Martha Dodd’s full story: from her many dalliances among Hitler’s inner circle, to her work in Soviet spy rings in America, to her and her husband’s role in Henry Wallace’s disastrous 1948 presidential campaign, her years under FBI surveillance, her escape, and lonely exile and  death in Prague.   


Traitor's Odyssey brings out these previously unexamined aspects of Martha Dodd’s life:

  • Examines Martha Dodd’s activities in 1930s Berlin in the larger context of Soviet espionage in Germany and Moscow Center’s sudden, radical switch to its ‘American’ strategy, after the sudden loss of all its networks following Hitler’s accession to power.
  • Uses recently released information from KGB archives, in which Martha is discussed at length,
  • Tells how Martha convinces a senior American diplomat to negotiate a deal between Hermann Goering and the SS to not assassinate her lover, Gestapo chief, Rudolf Diels.
  • How, despite her standing among Stalin’s top spies, Martha gets dumped into a ‘bottom of the barrel’ spy network, less concerned with stealing atomic secrets than fighting Trotskyites. While her handler Jack Soble is a worn-out, impoverished spy, running a dingey cafeteria as cover, his courier is Boris Morros, a flamboyant movie executive whose preternatural ability to ‘blow smoke’ has both the KGB and FBI believing whatever lies he tells them.
  • A lifelong, unapologetic Stalinist, in the end, Martha warmed up to Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77 dissidents and became a mentor to Rita Klimova, one of the key leaders of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, and the first post-communist Ambassador to Washington.
  • Martha loved fame, celebrity, and being at the secret center of things, but once behind the Iron Curtain, she found herself immediately forgotten. Martha’s Czech secretary, unaware of her story, once dismissed her as “a nobody trying to be a somebody.”
  • Martha’s end was ironically fitting for someone who betrayed her country. With the Cold War over, the secret police who’d guarded her for decades, now unemployed, came back one night and robbed the house of its valuables, leaving her tied up and dying.

Book Details:

  • Author: Brendan McNally
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Brendan McNally

Brendan McNally

Brendan McNally is a journalist and author who has covered defense, security and intelligence issues since the late 1980s. He cut his teeth covering the Pentagon and Capitol Hill for industry newsletters. Following the 1991 Gulf War, Brendan moved to Prague where he reported for Defense News and The Prague Post. During that time, he uncovered, among other things, Czech government efforts to sell its high-tech ‘stealth radar’ and nuclear weapons technology to Iran. He was also part of a New York Times team investigating a Pentagon cover-up of Iraqi chemical weapons detections by ...
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