tv Special Forces in Cold War Berlin CSPAN July 1, 2017 5:00pm-6:01pm EDT
>> this is the author of special forces: berlin. clandestine cold war operations of the army elite. the graduate school of national security hosted this hour-long event. before we begin our session, and we talk about our speaker and everybody sitting down, i would to make sure that we q&a at the and. if everybody would be so kind as to shut off your cell phones, frank pletcher, who is our head of public affairs is a very -- he has a very large and heavy mike. be careful, we are dealing with some dangerous people. that's on who introduced us can do is to get out of the way quickly. i like to welcome everybody to daniel morgan.
opportunity for us to have the latest in a series of speakers. also, a thanks to the c-span people who are here as well. i started off in the clandestine services of the cia. we were always very curious as to what those military before doing on the other side. today, i get to find out. our speaker has a new book, special forces, berlin, and dustin cold war operations of the u.s. army elite. 1956 to 1990. jim is someone who came out of nebraska, the midwest and did a few stents is a very special place in the very special forces. he went on to work with some ngos and then over to my own home and the cia. that is quite a career, he is a military historian and a
conflict archaeologist. you will hear what that is. he has been the author of a number of articles and books. ladies and gentlemen, if you'd be so kind as to welcome our friend and author -- james. off, i would like to say thank you for the invitation. i appreciate it very much. it is a good opportunity to be here. i'll believe this will be enjoyable and a learning experience for some of you. i am winging it to some extent. given this presentation about five times in the last month. the audience is varied. at one point, i am preaching to the choir. last time i was preaching to given a sermon. breathing senior
officers who know exactly what you're talking about and are just waiting. acknowledge all of the serviceman that talked with me about this. about a hundred people served in this unit in the thirtysomething years that it existed. very few have been able to talk to me about it. he managed to pick up my notes. a lot of people said this book cannot be read. it was a very highly classified military unit. the explosions were top-secret until a number of years ago. i had to go through a complete review process with the dod, cia and talk -- it's about 14 months
to go through the process. everything that was in the book was classified before and now it is not. this is the history, the story of not only the unit but the people who served there. diverse, very memberships, we had eastern europeans. first and second generation americans as well, very diverse. to really get to the heart of the matter, we have to go back to just after world war ii. know, we fought world war ii with our allies france, britain, of course, the commonwealth countries, a number of others and the soviet union. in 1946, we started to realize the soviet union was not the partner that we wanted to continue going to the ball with so to speak.
rhetoric, the actions of the soviet union in poland and the czech republic -- czechoslovakia in late 40's, the berlin airlift and 94 91950 were all signs that our relationships with the russians were going away. adjustment by the name of george wrote a very long telegram out of moscow which outlined his that reallyfears outlined american policy for about the next 30 years. it tilted the united states toward containment of the soviet union. it became even more offensive in the 1950's when korea was -- south korea was invented by
north korea, of course, the domino theory was beginning to be explained as one of the reasons for the containment. the government also started looking at the rollback as a possible policy. rollback was nothing more than pushing the soviet union back into its internal borders, to strip it of its eastern european countries. >> romania, yugoslavia, czechoslovakia and poland. all of the eastern pollock states were there. ae cia and mi six were special secret intelligence service that began to run programs to turn those countries against the soviet union. as we all know, most of them did not work out so well. primarily because of a gentleman like kim.
about that time, u.s. army was rethinking its conventional mindset. beentrategic service had eliminated after world war ii. the peace dividend, the army was concentrating on conventional warfare. 1950's, people start to think that we needed more of an unconventional approach to things. a number of military officers got together and created what eventually came to be known as special forces. 1952, the first group was created. its mission was to conduct unconventional warfare. that is supporting direct action, sabotage missions, guerrilla warfare, behind enemy lines. this was not a new thought but as the old ways of doing warfare. 1953, the special forces group
looks forward. it is stationed down here in munich. that group was given the mission of conducting conventional warfare and all of those countries that i talked about with the exception of one. 1955, the berlin commander had a total of about 12,000 troops in the small city. of course, the divided city had 110 miles behind the curtain. that instead of having a defensive mission, he thought he should have an offensive mission. troops surrounded by someone in the neighborhood of
one million russians, it is fair odds. sabotage teams from his commander in west germany and the commander in west germany decided that was probably not a bad idea not quite exactly to permit -- berlin commander question. instead, he gave him six special forces teams who would instead of being sent in, they would be there permanently. stationed in the american sector and their mission would be to repair for unconventional warfare in that one area that the u.s. forces had not planned for. that was east germany. 1956, the first six teams go up there and this unit would stay in one form or another for about 34 years until after the berlin wall they'll.
their missions were a special forces group, a dimensional warfare sabotage. is one thing you see here this green trace, this is the this goes through east germany, basically, wells from the south of hungary, from czech republic, from poland, they all converged around berlin and then out on the other side. this was a strategic charge. these six themes became a strategic card and the defense plan for all of nato. later,ral rogers put it he said your vision is one thing, to buy me time.
stationed at the small barracks in the american sector. come, they would disappear into the city and wait for the opportune time to cross over the wall and then sabotage key targets, along with this railway. later on, this target was thrown in. this target was thrown in. those are the command bunkers for both the east german and other forces. again, it is pretty fair odds, this one for example, the soviet one was guarded by three soviet outpost. about 12,000 troops. 12,000, not at bad thing. guys stayed, these
in the city and plan for the mission. say that i back and will give you some information about who was there, who were they russian mark i said they all came from special forces, they were special forces, there was no special test to say you are qualified to go to berlin, if you become special forces, you have the qualifications with one copy. easternto speak european or a line which this a .anguage to pass you had to be able to accept the fact that you were going to wear civilian clothes. that was important because you are captured, you would be shot
as a spy. with those two caveats, the first 40 people were sent in 1956 with those 40 volunteers, no one had any problems with 34 years,or the next a lot of guys served there and never give it a second thought of what was the odds they had in fun of them. as i say, a lot of them were americans, probably at the beginning, 60% were first or second generation, they all spoken language, either from gary and or russian in some cases. german was the predominant language. about 40% were jacked recruits. this was public law 57 which was passed very early in the 50's to get eastern europeans to join the american military just for
this type of operation. a lot of them served up in berlin. even up into the 80's. a lot of people that came into the unit were immigrants from theern europe that came to american army. something we should look at doing for iraq and afghanistan. quite in history -- quite an interesting group of people. they were trained to be clandestine soldiers. they had to wear civilian clothes, not only did they have to know their military skills tradeey had to know the craft skills, the intelligence tradecraft skills to operate as a clandestine force. when the war started, they knew that the russian -- the cave you and other groups would be looking for them. not only did they shut down the west berlin government but they
would go after the american command centers. they would go after the police force and they would at -- also go after any elite units that they thought would be in the city. it was known as detachment a at the time. it was one of the target. immediately, on receiving information that war was goinent, the unit would not back to its corners but disperse withthe city and operate the help of germans who had been using safehouses, using non-technical communications to talk with each other as well as spectacle communications like hf radios and vhf radios and disappear into the city until such time as they could cross over the wall to do their main target. two teams would remain in the city just to give the russians
and east germans a hard time, destroy critical target site radio stations and power plants also to give the russians and east germans a hard time. while the other guys would cross over the walls to hit the east germans. are railyardss and if you could sabotage one of these railyards to actually slow traffic for 24 to 72 hours, that would give the american troops that cushion where they can actually meet and hopefully defeat a russian attack. in thed a big problem 1950's and 1960's. there were about 72 total divisions sitting in west germany. the russians and the east germans had a minimum of 96 divisions just on the side. another hundred or so and it
further east. this rail line is going to be critical. to slowly strips down, this was a hell mary pass. they figured that east germany would be a pretty well denied area. russian airmans and defense systems were pretty good , not impenetrable but close. we knew that we could apply airplanes. these six teams were going to be critical. the guys that came into the unit -- they were unconventional. that off, the guys volunteered for special forces have to be a little bit odd to be -- to begin with. i can say that because i am one. as i said, they trained unconventionally.
it was from barrett -- very early on. they did all the standard special forces type training. this is where they were stationed at andrews barracks. this is the old headquarters of the senior cadets go at the time. this is a very nice olympic. constructedngs were by the american engineers after world war ii. the attachment a was located in this building. this was also the headquarters for the first ss division in world war ii. prizesly, we took it as a and for about 30 years, the unit was located in this outfit. course, varianof oculus. one of the issues that would come up later was that the unit
had a bare modicum of a cover. support the berlin brigade. the on that, the story appeared out. if someone would ask you a specific question, then everybody was pretty much on their own for making up their story. that was the area that came out later. the wall at the time was not awol. the city itself, the outside of the city was surrounded by a small fence and towers. not a difficult thing to cross. the interior of the city was not yet walled off. this is about 1957. of course, you could walk across, driver cross, getting into east germany and he's berlin was not a problem.
cameof the first guys that looked like any other soldier until you start looking at their nametags. there was quite a few of them. we trained in unconventional warfare. this was in west germany. you will notice that these guys don't seem to be wearing uniforms, that is because they are not. is aweapon right there german machine gun. airborne operations, just like you guys down there, the unit did airborne operations not
because they thought they would have to use them to keep up the qualifications was easier than having to retrain them later. you never know when a mission might come up later. you see some of the names down european, the lieutenant colonel was a polish immigrant in the united states, he served with general gavin. he came back as a unit commander. anybody would recognize the sky as a non-airborne qualified sugar -- soldier. these are overseas stripes.
this was an interesting story. that the time government started using small nuclear weapons as a way to slow down the russians, the engineers had a burden that they could put under a bridge and pull off a bridge and that was fine. they came up with an even better idea. they dropped them in behind the lines. were allmembers that top secret cleared. this was the first special forces team that was trained to use the atomic demolition mission. back then, it was not quite so small. , it wasces, 400 pounds enough that if you left it in the basement of this building, it would probably clear about five square blocks. imagine what these
things would have done to that railway. unit acquired german weapons. this is a walther p 38. more interesting weapons. it was a very silent weapon, completely unmarked. single shot but it had a magazine that operated like a piece of plumbing equipment. that piece on the left side, this is called an rf six.
later on, we switched to british equipment. 1961, the wall goes up, it makes the mission a bit more difficult. that wall splits the city. because all the way around, 110 miles of total wall. donald trump to get ideas from this. them 30mber it took years to perfect it. the teams had to come up with engine -- ingenious ways to cross the wall. this is a target model.
we had intelligence available from the air force from east german immigrants who would be interrogated. we could determine ways to cross that wall. one of the things you do not want to do was cross a line find out you were in the east german military base. we had to do reconnaissance on both sides. -- the wall had one fallacy, it was designed to keep their people in. it was not designed to keep you go out. there were ways. in 30 years, they can start to perfect things, edition -- rcycle, dogs,
as east germans are interested in what we are doing as they are. that is very close to checkpoint charlie. you see the layers of defense. another wall right there, very difficult for the east germans. that is about 80 meters across. obviously, you have the final location. it was a bit closer. as i said, all these were used to find out information.
that is how it was. they did not risk getting shot in the back. also, you did nothing about just going over the wall or through the wall, you had to think about going under. we also worked with scuba gear. demolition does well, using scuba gear in the water. he just had to know what your enemy was. that is one of the east german patrol boats. if you're underwater with a non-bubble making the -- yoububble making device,
can get under these things and through these things. we can get into east germany. the unit didthat some holistic training. this is down at the garden. training,raining, ski mountain climbing, scuba diving outside of berlin. you have to get out once in a while to enjoy the open air. not just on hold but cross-country. our mission through the 1950's -- unconventional warfare, fighting the russians and the east germans.
europe, yous in could start seeing student movements. terrorism stress become a problem a problem in the middle east. 1974 -- this is shortly after the debacle at munich where the germans tried to rescue the hostages at the olympics, and after the israelis do their rescue, the american military starts to look at terrorism and counterterrorist wars, but for the most part, the u.s. decides counterterrorism is an aspect better left to law enforcement. so, they give it to the military police to handle as far as the military goes. that would change. you come commander
in the nato you come command are -- the u.s. commander and the nato commander both decided they needed means of the rome because they were a hotbed of terrorism, so they cast berlin, because it was a special forces unit, because it collectionlligence task, because it used clandestine nine operations -- all of these things work well versed -- they tasked berlin to come up with basically a precision marksmanship unit to help out in case of aircraft hijackings, which were all the vogue now. 1974 they again to do this. they have the first counterterrorism unit in the military that is not military
police. these guys are doing unconventional warfare and counterterrorism, two missions, which there is a problem i can discuss later, but early on, we decided our allies had information that would be useful to us. the german border patrol. ,hey had a unit called gsu9 created after munich specifically for this. the british sas. the local police forces -- the berlin special operations command. the bgs practicing with their door beach -- door breaching charges. there was quite a dissemination the americansish, early on -- even the israelis. we would pass tactics back and
forth. this is training with gsu9. as part of these guys knew, they came from the united states. they had no clue they came from berlin. aread an urban training inside berlin that we used quite a bit. that is the bare-bones assault units. soldier inever see a uniform like this. he would be encumbered by armor -- lightweight armor, but still 200 pounds. seven meters to 25 meters to hold down shot groups the size of a teacup. assault rangen where you could practice multi
room, multiperson injury tactics, and we began to train is the manager, the field manager said, i know you guys have something to do with us. if you want to use our airplanes, it's quite all right with me. he did not clear this with corporate headquarters or anything. broken jet.the this is the jet that would be used the next day and it gets access to the jet, pulling the doors open, knocking the windows rin, and not telling the passengers the next day what happened the previous night -- notking the windows in, and telling the passengers the next a what happened the previous night. the international airport, probably the second largest airport in germany at the time, the back door --
working ostensibly as a maintenance crew, working as baggage handlers, aircraft and was, people would be on the tarmac as these pan am airplanes were moving in and out. it gave them familiarization with the operations and how .ossibly to use it 1979, tehran, iran, students take over the american embassy compound. 67 americans are taken hostage and immediately, the united states is thrust into one of its first counterterrorism problems. we all know the story of detachment delta that was going to go into to run to rescue the evil from the american embassy -- the people from the american
embassy compound. what is less known, charlie beckwith was in command. said i cannot handle the second target. the second target was the iranian re-, where the american ambassador, the cia officer, and his deputy were being held by the ringing government. the iranian-- by government. the command of the arabian government, a czech émigre -- ranian element, a czech émigre, he said i can do this. these are the nine guys who would have participated. but another aspect of the story is clandestine training, the theecraft training, knowledge of special operations and targeting led the army to pick to the guys from the unit
and send it into tehran to forect information needed delta to do its mission. , two guys from --lin made multiple trips this is desert one. this is the layout of all of the aircraft. there were three americans right here waiting for this force to move on. the mission failed. troops were recalled. but somebody forgot to tell the three guys that were waiting for them. they found out the next guy over the radio when someone announced we are going to do a rescue, and oh, by the way, there may be more americans inside iran.
now these guys are basically in a wicket. instead of running, as most people would, they made a plan, they got out of the city a couple days later. probably the only successful portion of that operation was the intelligence collection, . now the problem with that, this was preparation for the second mission that was canceled. rescue missiona to basically a revenge mission. the delta force went from 90 guys to about 300 and the detachment force went from nine to 40. that's just one. the mission on this case entailed using helicopters to go into the city, whereas before, they were going to use trucks.
the detachment of small helicopters -- delta force had the big blackhawks. they came from a reserve unit that was given the need .emporarily of task force 159 i participated in this, and i have never seen pilots you can knowike this. at you might them now as task force 160, the ,ight stalkers. at way up here the ch 47 has a command ship. our unit has 16 of these little helicopters with 40 guys loaded up with all of the munition they can carry, doing all kinds of strange things. but in florida, they are practicing. if any of you have been to
ranger school, you will recognize this is can't router. , the cover that , the unit would be exposed in a time or newsweek with thend it ended up unit being closed down inmates and 84. but everyone at the time thought the commission had closed down. in reality, the army came up with a new unit that would carry on until the end of the cold war, and that was a unit delta force physical security support unit that would carry on the mission just as the first unit dead, but this time with a cover that made sense. these guys were doing physical yukonty surveys for the
commander all across africa and the middle east. but along with that mission -- that is one of the security surveys from uganda. along with that mission, they are still doing the wartime missions. quite busy. and you can see from the earlier pictures, the equipment has changed radically. looked to him like the difference between the u.s. army in world war i and star wars. which -- yeah. with the assault teams, which was the previous ones, we had cyber teams. and special weapons for opening
doors. thermite door opening device, so to speak. that's the kind of techniques you practice to get into a room. that is a steel door. so this is exceptionally difficult. if anyone was on the other side of this, they would probably be dead. again, practice, practice, practice. interestingly, we had exchanged .ourses with delta force some of the operators in this picture are delta operators and summer from the unit. theinue -- some are from unit. continue to practice with pan am. how to get in when you have no other means. and then doing an actual mission .ractice exercises on this particular one, the berlin brigade demand --
commander was on board. luckily, we did not shoot him. and the wall continue to be a problem. it was getting better and better. the liaisond mission. one of the ways we got across the wall was the offensively illegal liaison mission set up sides. eyes on both the french, endless, and americans did it in east germany. we look at our targets. eastguy was looking at the german boarder with a bullet, obviously from a concealed spot. sometimes, you got too close to the east germans. he's obviously upset. the guys would become specialists at identifying any
type of equipment, especially equipment under tarps. . have this outlined it is a track guide for a p.a.d. -- p80 tank. i'm just showing you, this is the kind of esoteric detail you had to work on with this mission. you can identify a truck and the association and tell your ob which units were actually wear at any particular time. what a valuable tool. the unit changed its mission again, still going across the wall. not sabotage, not unconventional warfare, but strategic reconnaissance. and strategic reconnaissance is nothing more than finding a nice hole to sit in, building a top over it, and watching a railway,
the highway to move forward as the russians come forward. that is what they did. and then you radio the information back to your headquarters and next thing you know, hopefully the air force is confirming it. it is not quite as dangerous as blowing up bridges, but still dangerous in that you are sitting behind the lines with the russians. 1990, the unit working the physical security support element, the wall goes down finally on november 9, 1989. a surprise to almost everyone, i think, except for the one police officer on the east german side that actually opened the gate and said, just go across. closed down shortly thereafter, part of the peace
dividend. i think probably it was inevitable with the reduction of the military, capitalization of horses, delta force, of course, said it's not necessary to keep that unit. we have its. we see how busy they are now. as far as the unconventional warfare side, we see what the russians are doing in the eastern ukraine and other places. the army special forces is looking at the unconventional warfare mission. that is why i was out talking to some special forces group about two weeks ago. so, the legacy is there, much as the legacy of oss led to the issue. now it is leading to a new unit within the army. but the history of this unit has been encapsulated, as i said, in this book. i did it for the guys who served
re, for their families. it has only been as a result of riding the book that i have come out to talk to people. but that in a net shell, because it is 34 years of history, is special forces berlin. so, can i entertain any questions? [indiscernible] somebody raises his hand. sir? >> [indiscernible] >> i think what surprised me the had aas the fact that we nuclear mission when i never knew that before. that was very classified. i was in a pretty good position though. i worked in both units. i worked in the operations
center and i got to see a lot of the documentation, so i knew a lot of the history before. i think, more me, was the fact that a lot of the guys you served in the unit that i talked with did not know where they had come from, where their predecessors were, did not know the connection with the office of strategic service. that is another reason to put the stuff down into a bark. what you forget in the history you end up redoing. past is prologue. you have to really look at that when you are a soldier. have we done this before? what can i learn from my predecessor? that surprised me often when i am talking history or military. how many people do not know where they came from. could you have a clarification --
>> could you have a clear vacation? you mentioned yugoslavia. it was never part of the soviet army. did you have operations there? >> berlin did not. the sovietpart of organ, but it was tacitly toeeable to supplying forces the warsaw pact in the event of war. one of the things that the states verylan obviously was we are heading for the cap in west germany. what they do not talk about so thatis the parallel moves would go through scandinavia, italy, and southern europe. so there was going to be massive amounts of force in any offensive movement of the soviets. >> [indiscernible]
mr. stejskal: as i said, this mission is evolving. in the beginning, in the early there and early 1960's, are always looking at the eastern european front as a whole. >> speaking of opposing fronts, jim, how to the military interact with the cia during this period? cia wasskal: a sensibly going to get the unit support in 1950's, directing them to positions in east germany.
perfectedt germans their security state and the cia realized how difficult it was to recruit an agent and operate there, they became less interested in supporting unconventional warfare and directed their energies towards intelligence collection. naturally, their cooperation with the unit fell off measurably, and so, i think the is, from "blazing saddles" you're on your own, son? that's pretty much how we felt. >> how difficult was it for special forces to set up to infiltrate on the other side businesses so it seemed like they were part and parcel of that scene? might bekal: that taken out of context, but crossing the wall was done through the legal means of going with the military liaison
mission into east germany or the berlin patrols into east berlin. we would also have people go on , intoas american soldiers what theyny to see could see, basically. but actually going in and living there, no. the cia was very adamant about who would operate on their turf and they would not let their people in west germany or west berlin go in. eastad to be stationed in germany with the agency. and we all know how well that works. another question. to you explain how he rose look at this -- how influential
was canon's letter? the memorandum? it wasjskal: oh, extremely influential. truman based his strategy of containment basically off that letter. , andwas 1949, 1949, 1950 some of his senior advisers took that letter and basically expounded on it a lot of military senior officers used it to base their military strategy off of. it was extremely influential. it is called the long telegram. it was printed in open press later on. , but it wasd mr. x extremely influential to american strategy in the early 1950's and 1960's. book, butnot read the the number of émigres who came
in to the unit, i'm just curious if you have done the follow-up research? i'm curious if they went back into their communities, what learned theyns bring as we look forward to revamping this capability. the other is we have examples from the 1970's and 1980's in terms of their capabilities. do you have any operational missions you can discuss that 1950's thatn the were impacts all on our strategy at the front? mr. stejskal: to break it down -- i am in contact with a number of these project people, and some of the germans actually came into the american forces -- many of them went into germany and retired. most of them stayed in the united states. i think they preferred it here. i think when the wall went down, some of them considered going back. they quickly changed their minds . as far as missions in the
1950's. most of our missions were happening elsewhere. of you might remember the congo and also vietnam. there were no specific strategic missions the unit was involved with. there were some tactical within east berlin and west berlin. most of those remain classified. have open east german or soviet military files that give you insight into what they knew about your unit? mr. stejskal: the soviets are no longer our friends. i did not meant -- i did manage to get into the east german archives. with a specialist, we went about .5,000 pages of information
they are applied to the unit. most of that knowledge was extrapolated. they knew generally what the mission was. they had some names of the 800 people who served in the unit over the years. namesst germans had six and one of them was incorrect. if they hadht that the chance to corral the unit in its headquarters, they would do their job, but once the unit is first, then all bets are off. sir? >> yes, where there any instances where there are members of the units who had been abducted, kidnapped, arrested, otherwise disappeared and had mysterious accidents or other serious problems?
mr. stejskal: when did have a court death sentence on his head. it was not necessarily dangerous at that point. the probability of getting dangerous -- actually, we had more problems. we had more than our number of guys. we would have run-ins with spurious elements downtown. let's put it that way. but -- [laughter] yeah.ejskal: >> can i don't know if you can answer, but what were the rules about dating, relationships with ?omen while assigned to berlin if there's anything you can say about that. it stejskal: well, let's put this way. the guys were not as altruistic as they should have been, but
there were no restrictions on dating west germans or west if they came out of an outside country, especially the east, was off-limits. if a guy was interested in some wells, that name would be run through the agencies and police files to see where they came from. so, we were doing extreme vetting back then. so you could find out who you're dealing with. so -- any more questions? well, in that case, thank you very much. i appreciate your attention. [applause]
mr. stejskal: oh. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >> thursday at 7 p.m. eastern, joint american history to the -- join american history tv for a tour of the museum of the american revolution. introduce artifacts and exhibits, including george washington's war tent and a piece of the old north ridge from the battle of concorde. hear stories about the american revolution, and you can participate in the live program with your phone calls and tweets. watch american history tv live from the american museum of the revolution thursday, starting at 7 p.m. eastern on c-span3. >> coming up next, historians discuss new york city during the dividedr, emphasizing loyalties despite being in a
union state. to give examples of the southern economic ties, they also discussed the cause and effect in 1863.ty draft riots the new york historical society hosted this event. it's about an hour. >> good evening, everyone. welcome to the new york historical society. i am the vice president for programs. invite you to our spectacular auditorium. the battle for new york, rioting , tammany and terrorism. we always want to thank mr. swartz for his support, which has enabled us to invite so many prominent authors. i also would like to thank all of the chairman's councilmembers here tonight