The real-life Operation Goldfinger

A natural inspiration for the name of a U.S. secret operation.

There’s a new book out about the relationship between the United States and gold. It includes a passage out a real-life secret operation dubbed, naturally, Operation Goldfinger.

The book is One Nation Under Gold: How One Precious Metal Has Dominated the American Imagination for Four Centuries by James Ledbetter.

An excerpt from the book appeared in this month in The New Yorker magazine. That excerpt specially explores Operation Goldfinger, a 1960s U.S. effort to increase the gold supply.

Background: By the mid-1960s, the gold standard for the global economy was under severe strain. The U.S. government decided it needed more of the precious metal and needed to look in unlikely places.

Naturally, the name of the third James Bond film, released in 1964, was an inspiration for a project name.

Here’s an excerpt.

 

The government would end up looking for gold in the oddest places: seawater, meteorites, plants, even deer antlers. In an era during which people wanted badly to believe in the peaceful use of subatomic energy, plans were drawn up to use nuclear explosives to extract gold from deep inside the Earth, and even to use particle accelerators to try to change base metals into gold.

(snip)
Operation Goldfinger took the form of hundreds of research projects designed to find gold in places likely and very unlikely. The Roberts Mountains in north central Nevada had long seemed like a promising source of gold, and samples from dozens of areas were taken to search for surface minerals (such as limestone) known to be associated with gold deposits. Other studies were long shots. For decades, various scientists had found traces of gold in coal, and so the U.S. Geological Survey sifted through coal in dozens of locations in Appalachia and the Midwest. The government even took samples from coal ash and “coal-washing waste products received from various industrial plants.” These did not yield gold bonanzas.

There’s quite a bit more to the story. To read the full New Yorker excerpt, CLICK HERE. Also, Ledbetter was interviewed on the June 26 edition of Fresh Air, an NPR radio show. The interview runs about 37:19. Ledbetter begins discussing Operation Goldfinger around the 23:40 mark.

The U.S. went off the gold standard in 1971.

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