The recent reports of a Chinese industrial spy stealing data from Ford Motor Company for his homeland and a cabal of Koreans doing the same to General Motors for the Russians remind me of a funny story from several decades back — the first time I ever heard of serious international commercial spying.
Beginning in the 1920s, Ford manufactured much of its own glass for vehicle windows, starting with a glass plant in Dearborn’s Rouge, once identified as the world’s largest industrial complex.
In the post-World War II years, Ford expanded its glass operations by opening additional plants in Nashville, Tulsa and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Further, Pilkington Glass of England licensed Ford to use its highly efficient (and secret) manufacturing process called Float Glass.
In those Cold War years, Eastern European countries behind the Iron Curtain were assumed to be taking their orders from Moscow for whatever transpired in international commerce. The Western countries had diplomatic relations with the Soviet empire, but both sides kept close eyes on the other.
So it came about that the FBI was watching over the movements of employees of the Washington embassies of Iron Curtain countries. A supposed commercial attaché from the Bulgarian Embassy traveled to Detroit where he met with an immigrant Turkish employee of Ford Motor Company.