Skip to main content

tv   Special Forces in Cold War Berlin  CSPAN  July 2, 2017 1:00pm-2:01pm EDT

1:00 pm
memoirs that if he had burn the tapes, as i urged him to do, he would've >> tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> talk about the special forces attachments in berlin, germany for over 30 years. he is the author of "special forces: berlin. clandestine cold war operations of the army elite." the thing of working graduate school of national security hosted this hour-long event. i am ron marx, i had of the intelligence program. 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 end. if everybody would be so kind as to shut off your cell phones, fletcher, who is our head of
1:01 pm
public affairs, here's a phone he will run to you and hit you on the head. be careful, we are dealing with some dangerous people. the best thing that's on who introduced us can do is to get out of the way quickly. i will try to do that. i like to welcome everybody to daniel morgan. graduate school of national security. it's a nice 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 am an old spy. i started off in the clandestine services of the cia in the soviet-european division. 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 are when: clandestine operations of the cold war delete from 1956 to
1:02 pm
1990. jim is someone who came out of nebraska, the midwest and did a few stints is a very special place in the very special forces. then onward to work with some ngos and then over to my own home at the cia. that is quite a career, he is a military historian and a conflict archaeologist. i would like to hear that is. he has been the author of a number of articles and books. the last book being the river campaign of world war in southwest africa. ladies and gentlemen, if you'd be so kind as to welcome our friend and author. [applause] james: first off, i would like to say thanks for the invitation. i appreciate it very much. it is a good opportunity to be here. hopefully 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.
1:03 pm
the audience is varied. at one point, i am preaching to the choir. preaching, or giving a sermon to the college of cardinals. nothing like breathing senior officers who lived this and no exactly what you're talking about and are just waiting. i should acknowledge all of the serviceman that talked with me about this. that i served with. about 800 people served in this unit in the thirtysomething years that it existed. very few have been able to talk to me about it. you managed to pick up my notes. thank you.
1:04 pm
a lot of people said this book could not be written. it was a very highly classified military unit. its missions were top-secret up until a number of years ago. i had to go through a complete review process with dod, cia and nsa. it took about 14 months to go through the process. everything that was in the book was classified before and now it is not. anyway, this is the history, the story of not only the unit but the people who served there. like i said 800 guys, very , diverse membership. we had eastern europeans. first and second generation americans. quite diverse. to really get to the heart of the matter, we have to go back to just after world war ii. as you all know, we fought world war ii with our allies france,
1:05 pm
britain, of course, the commonwealth countries, a number of others, plus the soviet union. about 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. stalin's rhetoric, the actions of the soviet union in poland and the czech republic -- well, not yet. czechoslovakia in late 1940's, the berlin airlift in 1949, 1950, were all signs that our relationships with the russians was going badly. name ofman by the george cannon who wrote a very long telegram out of moscow which outlined his worries and fears. that really outlined american policy for about the next 30 years.
1:06 pm
his policy tilted the united states toward containment of the soviet union. offenses inven more the 1950's when korea was -- when 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 theory. 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. >> bulgaria, romania yugoslavia, , czechoslovakia and poland. along with the eastern baltic states were all in the soviets feared. soviet sphere.
1:07 pm
the cia and mi-6 were a 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 philby. about that time, u.s. army was rethinking its conventional mindset. the office of strategic service had been eliminated after world war ii. the piece -- peace dividend. the army was concentrating on conventional warfare. about the 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. in 1952, the first group was created. its mission was to conduct unconventional warfare. that is supporting direct
1:08 pm
action, sabotage missions, guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. this was not a new thought but re-think of the old ways of doing warfare. 1953, 10th special forces groupd is moved forward to germany. it is stationed down here in -- south of munich. that group was given the mission of conducting unconventional warfare and all of those countries that i talked about with the exception of one. east germany. in 1955, the berlin commander , who had with its allies a total of about 12,000 troops in the small city. whoops. rhonda. -- wrong button.
1:09 pm
of course, the divided city of berlin 110 miles behind the curtain. they decided that instead of having a defensive mission, he thought he should have an offensive mission. 12,000 u.s. and allied troops surrounded by someone in the neighborhood of one million russian and east german troops. fair odds. he requested 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 what the berlin commander requested. instead, he gave him six special forces teams who would instead of just being sent in, they would be there permanently. stationed in the american sector and their mission would be to prepare for unconventional
1:10 pm
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 fell. their missions were for 10th special forces group, a -- unconventional warfare and sabotage. the one thing you see here is this green trace. this is the major railways this that thoroughfare that goes through east germany. basically, wells from the south of hungary, from czech republic, from poland, they all converged around berlin and then fan out on the other side. this was a strategic charge.
1:11 pm
these six teams became a strategic cog and the defense plan for all of nato. as general rogers put it later, he said your mission is one thing, to buy me time. these guys are basically stationed at this small barracks in the american sector. if war would 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. and this target was thrown in. those are the command bunkers for both the east german and soviet forces. one team for each one of those targets.
1:12 pm
again, it is pretty fair odds. this one for example, the soviet one was guarded by three soviet regiments. about 12,000 troops. 12 guys against 12,000, not a bad thing. for 30 years, these guys stayed in the city and planned for the mission. i should go back and say that i will give you some information about the guys who were there, just to where they. 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 had become special forces, you have the qualifications with one caveat or maybe teedo. -- two. you had to speak an eastern german toanguage or
1:13 pm
pass. you had to be able to accept the fact that you were going to wear civilian clothes. which was important because you that if you were captured by the east germans are russians, you would probably within five or 10 minutes shot as a spy. with those two caveats, the first 40 people were sent in 1956. of those 40 volunteers, no one had any problems with that and for the next 34 years, 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 said a lot of them were , americans. probably at the beginning, 60% were first or second generation, they all spoke the language. or servo croatn or russian in some cases.
1:14 pm
german was the predominant language. about 40% were lawjacked recruits. this was public law 57 which was passed very early in the 1950's to get eastern europeans, not germans, but 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 1980's. a lot of people that came into the unit were immigrants from eastern europe that came to the american army. something we should look at doing for iraq and afghanistan. so, quite an interesting group of people. they were trained to be clandestine soldiers. as i said they had to wear thes.ilian clo not only did they have to know their military skills but they had to know the trade craft
1:15 pm
skills, the intelligence tradecraft skills to operate as a clandestine force. because when the war started, they knew that the russian -- mfskgb and the east german 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 also go after any elite units that they thought would be in the city. naturally, the unit, special forces berlin, known as detachment a at the time was one of the target. immediately on receiving information that war was imminent or what actually happened the unit would not go , back to its headquarters but disperse into the city and operate underground with the help of german to it in saw out out using safehouses,
1:16 pm
using non-technical communications to talk with each other as well as spectacle communications like hf radios and uhf 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 targets like 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 -- these targets. other targets are railyards. and if you could sabotage one of these railyards to actually slow traffic for 24 to 72 hours, that would give the american troops in the gap that cushion where they could actually meet and hopefully defeat a russian attack. nato had a big problem in the 1950's and 1960's.
1:17 pm
what about 72 total divisions sitting in west germany. the russians and east germans and their allies had a minimum of 96 divisions just on this side. another hundred or so and it further east. this rail line is going to be critical. but the slow these troops down, this was a hail mary pass. they figured that east germany would be a pretty well denied area. the east german and russian air defense systems were pretty good, not impenetrable but close. we knew we could not fly airplanes and have them survive. these six teams were going to be critical to the unconventional where fair plan. -- warfare plan. unituys they came into the , as i said, were kind of
1:18 pm
unconventional. first off, the guys that volunteer for special forces have to be a little bit odd to begin with. i can say that because i am one. but as i said, they trained , unconventionally. on they did all the standard special forces kind of training. this is where they were stationed at andriy barracks. -- andrews barracks. this is the old headquarters of the prussian senior cadet school theng the time of wilhelm emperor. poolis a very nice olympic . these buildings were constructed by the american engineers after world war ii. detachment a was located in this building. this was also the headquarters for the first ss division in world war ii.
1:19 pm
obviously, we took it as a prize after the war. and for about 30 years, the unit was located in this outfit. this barracks. the front door, of course, very innocuous. one of the issues that would come up later was that the unit had a bare modicum of a cover. it was detachment a berlin, to support the berlin brigade. peteredr that the story out. if someone would ask you a specific question, then everybody was pretty much on their own for making up their story. that was a problem area that came out later. the wall at the time was not a wall. the city itself, the outside of the city was surrounded by a small fence and towers. not a difficult thing to cross.
1:20 pm
the interior of the city was not yet walled off. this is about 1957. that is the brandenburg gate. you could walk across, drive across, getting into east germany and east and was not a -- berlin was not a problem. some of the first guys that came looked like any other soldier until you start looking at their nametags. there is quite a few of east german -- not east german, but eastern european names. we trained unconventional warfare type tactics in west germany. berlin was a city the size approximately of new york surrounded by a fence. not easy to run military exercises in the city so we would go out to the west. this is practicing a truck ambushed in west germany. these guys don't seem to be
1:21 pm
wearing uniforms. that is because they are not. that weapon right there is a world war ii german submachine gun. airborne operations, just like the guys in brussels -- 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. and you can never tell when a mission might come up somewhere else that requires them. you see some of the names down here. eastern european. virnik nt colonel roman ck. surgeon general gavin world war ii. berlin in 1946-1947. he came back as a unit commander. anybody in today's army would recognize this guy is well the call and airborne qualified soldier.
1:22 pm
at least until you look right there. fore were service drives overseas service in a combat zone. with threeedic senior military decorations for valor in korea. just an indication of who some of these people were in this mission. falling out of an airplane, parachuting. people ask me why people would want to jump out of an airplane. if you have ever flown in an air force aircraft -- sorry. also, a small unit operations required using small airplanes. this is practicing her message drops to small units. that airplane was based out of berlin. quite useful for setting down on short airstrips, farmers field, anyplace anytime.
1:23 pm
, 1956, this is what they look like. this is actually an exercise in west germany. they are still carrying american weapons because the have not been able to get enough of the communist bloc or eastern german weapons. this was an interesting story. it was about the time the government started thinking about using small nuclear weapons as a way to slow down the russians. the engineers had a version that they could put under a bridge and that was fine and easy but someone came up with a better idea. one of the give special forces guys one of these things and drop them in behind the lines of the what they can do with them? numbersthe unit had that were all 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
1:24 pm
small. four pieces, 400 pounds, a local attend yield. it was enough that if you left it in the basement of this building, it would probably clear about five square blocks. you can imagine what these things would have done to that railway. later on, the unit acquired german weapons. this is a walther p-38. it was used by both sides. that is a better view. more interesting weapons. rhod,is called the wel developed by the british. very silent weapon. completely unmarked. single shot. it had a magazine that operated like a piece of plumbing equipment.
1:25 pm
small radios. that piece on the left side, about the size of this book. this is called an rf-6. it was called an agent radio. it had a transmission distance of about 6000 miles. from germany you can to mitigate with your headquarters in england or ever -- wherever. 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. and goes all the around, 110 miles of total wall. donald trump to get some ideas from this. you have to remember it took them 30 years to perfect it.
1:26 pm
before they decided it did not work and knocked it down. the teams had to come up with ingenious ways to cross the wall to find out how to get to their target sites. this is a target model. their wall crossing point. we had intelligence available from the air force, from east german immigrants who would be interrogated. very close of looks by our people at the wall. we could determine ways to cross the wall without being caught. one of the things you do not want to do was cross a line find out you were in the east german military base. of which they had many. we had to do reconnaissance on both sides to make sure things were ok. the east germans -- the wall had one fallacy here it -- one fallacy. it was designed to keep their people in. it was not designed to keep you there were ways.
1:27 pm
-- it was not designed to keep you out. there were ways. in 30 years, they can start to perfect things. these motorcycles. dogs. not so much as an attack device but an early warning device because they were very attuned to who or what was in the area. the east germans are as interested in what we are doing as they are. that is very close to checkpoint charlie. you see the layers of defense. wall, wall, fence, obstacles, and then another wall right here. very difficult for the east germans. that is up in the french sector. this is the wall between west berlin and east germany, about 80 meters across. obviously, you have the final
1:28 pm
-- find a location that was a bit closer. a bit easier to get across. as i said, all methods were used to find out information. personal knowledge, that tower was empty. did not want to risk getting shot in the back. also, you did not to think about going over the wall or through the wall you had to think about , going under. the city of roman has more sewer systems, more canals than amsterdam for example. -- the city of erwin. -- berlin. we also worked with scuba gear. demolitions using scuba gear in the water.
1:29 pm
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 device, you can get under these things and through these things. not only could we get into east berlin through these means, we can get into east germany. i should say that the unit did some holistic training. it was not all fun and games up in the city. this is not a purchase garden. esgarden. ski training, mountain climbing, scuba diving outside of berlin. if you're in a contained atmosphere, you have to get out once in a while to enjoy the open air. otherwise you get cabin fever. that is looking towards austria.
1:30 pm
not just downhill across country. so our mission through the , 1950's and 1960's -- unconventional warfare, fighting the russians and the east germans. 1968, 1970's in europe, you start seeing student movements growing up. there is opposition to the vietnam war in europe. terrorism starts to become a problem in europe and 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 building a counterterrorist force.
1:31 pm
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. but the u.s. commander in the nato commander decided they needed a means of their own because they were really a hotbed of terrorism at that time. to combat it. -- tasked berlin because it was a special forces unit, because it had an intelligence collection task, because it used clandestine nine -- all these things were well-versed in the unit. they tasked berlin to come up with basically a precision marksmanship unit to help out in case of aircraft hijackings,
1:32 pm
which were all the vogue now. 1974, the unit begins to do this. they have the first 1975-1976, 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. this is the german border patrol. they had a unit called gsg-9, created after munich specifically for this. the british sas. other units. the local police forces -- the berlin special operations command. the bgs practicing with their door breaching charges.
1:33 pm
quite an exchange of information among the british, american and german's early on. even with the israelis. we would pass techniques and tactics back and forth. this unit was from berlin. this is training with gsg-9. as part of these guys knew, they came from the united states. they had no clue they came from berlin. we had an urban training area inside berlin that we used quite a bit. that is the bare-bones assault units. today you would never see an assault or uniform like this. he would be encumbered by 200 pounds of lightweight armor but , still 200 pounds. precision shooting tactics. being able to engage her targets
1:34 pm
seven meters to pull the shot groups the size of a teacup. and we built an assault range where you could practice multi room, multiperson injury -- entry tactics. we began to train on airplanes. this is an interesting story because the field manager in europe 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. this is not a broken jet. this is the jet that would be used the next day and it gives you full access to the jet, pulling the doors open, knocking the windows in, and not telling the passengers the next day what happens the previous night.
1:35 pm
we would also train on the tarmac. gle international airport, probably the second largest in germany at the time. working ostensibly as minas crews, working as baggage handlers and aircraft handlers. people would be on the tarmac as these pan am airplanes were moving in and out. it gave them familiarization with operations and how possibly use it if there was ever a hijacking. 1979. in tehran, iran, students would take over the american embassy compound. 66 americans are taken hostage and immediately the united states is thrust into one of its
1:36 pm
first counterterrorism problems. we all know the story of detachment delta who was going into teran to rescue the americans. the people from the american embassy compound. what is less known, charlie beckwith was in command. he said i cannot handle the second target. the second target was the iranian foreign ministry where the american acting ambassador the cia officer, and his deputy , were being held by the ringing -- iranian government. unit, aander of the czech emigre, he said i can do this. the unit was enlisted as the second assault element. these are the nine guys who would have participated.
1:37 pm
but another aspect of the story is the clandestine training, the tradecraft training, the knowledge of special operations and targeting led the army to pick two guys from the unit and send it into tehran to collect intelligence needed for delta to do its mission. very early on, about january of 1980, two guys from berlin made multiple trips into teran to collect intelligence. -- desert lung when bad, this is the layout of all the aircraft there it there were three americans right here waiting for this force to move on. the mission failed. troops were recalled
1:38 pm
out of here, but someone forgot to tell the three guys that were waiting for them. they found out the next day over the radio when someone announced the americans had tried to do a rescue, and by the way, there may be more americans inside iran. so 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 that intelligence collection operation. that was special forces berlin. now the problem with that, this was preparation for the second mission that was canceled. because of the reagan election. that went from a rescue mission to basically a revenge mission. the delta force went from 90 guys to about 300 and the detachment force went from nine to 40.
1:39 pm
that's just one. the mission on this case would have entailed using helicopters to go into the city, whereas before, they were going to use trucks. the detachment got small helicopters. delta force got the big blackhawks. they came from a reserve unit that was given the name temporarily of task force 159. i participated in this, and i have never seen pilots that if i like these guys. you might know them now as task force 160, the night stalkers. up here, ach 47 as a command ship. our unit has 16 of these little helicopters with 40 guys loaded
1:40 pm
up with all the weapons and ammunition they could carry. doing all kinds of strange things. practicing in florida, practicing on a building that look much like the iranian foreign ministry. if any of you have been to ranger school, you will notice this is camp rutter. as i intimated, the cover that unit had to be a problem area. the unit would be exposed in a time magazine article or newsweek article and it ended up with the unit being closed down in 1984. 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
1:41 pm
war, and that was a unit known as physical physical -- 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 security vulnerability surveys for the commander all across europe, africa and the middle east. but along with that mission -- that is one of the security surveys in uganda. along with that mission, they are still doing the wartime nct missions. quite busy. and you can see from the earlier pictures, the equipment has changed radically. one of the guys i interviewed for this book served in the unit in 1960. he saw the pictures and send him
1:42 pm
a good difference between the u.s. army in world war i and star wars. which -- yeah. along with the assault teams, which was the previous ones, we we had sniper teams. and special weapons for opening doors. thermite door opening device, so to speak. that is not that were presented techniques he practiced to get into a room. that is a steel door. that is an exceptionally difficult target. if anyone was on the other side of this, they would probably be dead. again, practice, practice, practice. interestingly, we had exchanged courses with delta force. some of the operators in this picture are delta force operators and some are from the
1:43 pm
unit. continue to practice with pan am. how to get in to talk to the copilot you have no other means. and then doing an actual mission practice exercises. exercises on the airfield. in this particular one, the berlin brigade commander was on board as one of the hostages. luckily, we did not shoot him. and the wall continued to be a problem. it was getting better and better. you mentioned the liaison mission. one of the ways we got across the wall was the offensively legal military liaison mission set up to keep observation on both sides. the russians did in west germany. the french, english and americans did it in east germany. we did it as a way to look at our target this guy was looking at the east german boarder with
1:44 pm
poland. 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. i have this outlined. it is a track guide for a p-80 tank. if you saw this tank on a railway car completely covered by a car, the only way identifying specifically was because of this. 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 -- by association the unit it was assigned to and tell your ob guys which units were actually wear at any particular time. quite a valuable tool. the unit changed its mission again, still going across the wall.
1:45 pm
but 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, a bridge on a highway to count the russians has been move 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 bombing 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. 1984-1990, psse, the unit working the physical security support element. the wall goes down finally on november 9, 1989. a surprise to almost everyone, i
1:46 pm
think, except for the one police officer on the east german side that actually opened the gate and said, just go across. the unit closed down shortly thereafter, part of the peace dividend. i think probably it was inevitable with the reduction of the military, capitalization of forces. delta force, of course, said it's not necessary to keep that unit. we have it. 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 re-looking at the unconventional warfare mission. that is why i was out talking to 10 special forces group about
1:47 pm
two weeks ago. so, the legacy is there, much as the legacy of oss led to the units. 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 there, for their families. it has only been as a result of writing the book that i have come out to talk to people. 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? >> was surprised you the most? >> when writing the book, what surprised you the most? >> i think what surprised me the
1:48 pm
most was the fact that we had a 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 got to see a lot of the documentation, so i knew a lot of the history before. what surprised me, i think, more was the fact that a lot of the guys that 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 book. 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?
1:49 pm
that is what surprises me often when i am talking history or military history. how many people do not know where they came from. sir? >> could you make a clarification on yugoslavia. it was never part of the soviet army. -- orbit. did you have operations there? >> i -- berlin did not. it was not part of the soviet orbit, but it was tacitly agreeable to supplying forces to the warsaw pact in the event of war. one of the things that the soviet war plan states very obviously was we are heading for the gap in west germany. what they do not talk about so much is the parallel moves that would go through scandinavia,
1:50 pm
through italy and through southern europe. so there was going to be massive amount of forces involved in a defensive movements against the soviets. yugoslav military doctrine of the time calls for opposing any soviet troops that came through. thatu know, a little after they are asked to join nato. mr. stejskal: as i said, this mission is evolving. this does not involve berlin. in the beginning, in the early 1950's and early 1960's, there -- they are always looking at the eastern european front as a whole. even down in all mania. -- albania.
1:51 pm
>> speaking of opposing sides, jim, how to the military interact with the cia during this period? mr. stejskal: ostensibly cia was going to get the unit support in the early 1950's, directing them to positions in east germany. as the east germans perfected 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 line from "blazing saddles" is, 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
1:52 pm
and then set up businesses so it seemed like they were part and parcel of that scene? mr. stejskal: that might be 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 with the berlin patrols into east berlin. we would also have people go on leave as american soldiers into east germany to see what they could see, basically. but actually going in and living there, no. we did not do that. 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. you had to be stationed in east germany with the agency. and we all know how well that
1:53 pm
works. >> i have another question. can you explain what he wrote to help us look at this -- how influential was canon's letter? the memorandum? mr. stejskal: oh, it was extremely influential. truman based his strategy of containment basically off that letter. this was 1949 -- 1949, 1950, and some of his senior advisers took that letter and basically expounded upon 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. it was signed mr. x, but it was extremely influential to
1:54 pm
american strategy in the early 1950's and 1960's. >> i have not read the book, but it alluded to the number of emigres who came in to the unit, and i'm just curious if you have done any follow-up research to see what happened to them. i'm curious if they went back into their communities, what kind of lessons learned they bring as we look forward to maybe revamping this capability. the other is we have examples of later on from the 1970's and 1980's in terms of their capabilities. do you have any operational missions you can discuss that took place in the 1950's that were impactful on our strategy at the time? mr. stejskal: to break it down -- i am in contact with a number of these people, and some of the germans actually came into the
1:55 pm
american forces. many of them went into germany and retired. most of them stayed in the united states. i think they prefer it here. i think when the wall went down, some of them considered going back. but then quickly changed their minds once they got there. as far as missions in the 1950's, most of our missions were happening elsewhere. some people might remember the congo and also vietnam. there were no specific strategic missions the unit was involved with. there were some tactical missions within east berlin and west berlin that did happen. most of those remain classified. research did you get any access to the open east german military files or the soviet files they gave any insight about what they knew
1:56 pm
about your unit? mr. stejskal: the soviets are no longer our friends. they were not really give me access. i did manage to get into the east german archives. with a specialist, we went about 55,000 pages of information. about 15 pages of applied to the unit. most of what the -- what they had was extrapolated from the knowledge of 10th group. they generally what the mission was. they had some names of the 800 people that served in the unit over the years. the east germans had six names and one of them was incorrect. we thought that if they had the chance to corral the unit in its headquarters, they would do their job, but once the unit is -- dispersed then all bets are , off. sir? >> yes, where there any
1:57 pm
incidents where there are members of the units who had been abducted, kidnapped, arrested, otherwise disappeared or had certain mysterious accidents or other problems? >> one unit never had an east german corporate a death sentence on his head. yes. it was not necessarily dangerous at that point. it have the probability of getting dangerous really quickly. actually, we had more problems. berliners. west a number of guys had run-ins with spurious elements downtown. let's put it that way. but -- [laughter] mr. stejskal: yeah. >> can i ask another question? i don't know if you can answer, but what were the rules about
1:58 pm
dating, relationships with women while assigned to berlin? if there's anything you can say about that. mr. stejskal: well, let's put it this way. the guys were not as altruistic as they should have been, but there were no restrictions on dating west germans or west berliners, but anyone that came out of an outside country, especially the east, was "off-limits." if a guy was interested in some one else, 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. just to find out who you are dealing with. any more questions?
1:59 pm
well, in that case, thank you very much. i appreciate your attention. [applause] >> thursday at 7:00 p.m. eastern joint american history tv for a life to our of the museum of the american revolution. the museums resident and ceo with collections and vice president will introduce artifacts and exhibits throughout the museum. including the george washington or tent and a piece of the bridge near the battle of concorde. or is stories of the american .esolution -- revolution watch american history tv, live from the museum of the american
2:00 pm
revolution grade thursday starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. where history unfolds daily. c-span was treated as a public service by american cable companies. it is bright you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> 211 years ago or so we would have seen william clark paddling his canoe and he is thinking the sceneone day be of a major commercial center. >> this weekend american history tv is visiting portland, oregon. along ton the 1840's


1 Favorite

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on