tv Special Forces in Cold War Berlin CSPAN December 26, 2017 4:00pm-5:04pm EST
north carolina. when our washington journal guest is north carolina attorney general josh stein. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. next a discussion about the classified u.s. special army attachments. for more than 40 years with the author of special forces berlin. clandestined cold war operations of the u.s. army's elite. 1956 to 1990. the discussion was hosted by the daniel morgan graduate school of national security. it runs about an hour.
>> some of you know me. i'm ron marks. i head up the intelligence program here. before we begin our session, and talk about our speaker and everybody gets to sit down, i would like to make sure there is q&a at the end, if everybody would be so kind as to shut off your cell phones. frank fletcher, who is our head of public affairs here, has a very large and heavy mike. he'll run to you and get you. so be careful. we're dealing with dangerous people here. the best thing someone who introduces can do is get out of the way quickly so i'm going to try to do that. i would like to welcome everybody to daniel morgan graduate school of national security. a great school we have here and a nice opportunity for us to have the latest in a series of speakers at the national security area, and also thanks to c-span3 people who are here today as well. i started off as a clandestine services in the cia in the soviet division, and we were
always curious as to what the military people were doing on the other side. today i get to find out at long last. jim stejskal is here, our speaker. he has a new book "special forces berlin, clandestine cold war operations of the u.s. army elite from 1956-1990." jim has someone who came out of nebraska, the midwest, and did a few stints in a very special place, in special forces. and then onward to some work with ngos and over to the cia, where he served as an operations specialist with quite a career, military historian and conflict archeologist. i would like to hear what that is, and an author of a number of books. the horn of the beast and in southwest africa. so ladies and gentlemen, would you be so kind as to welcome our friend and author here, james stejskal. [ applause ] >> well, first off, i would like to say thanks for the invitation, appreciate it very
much. good opportunity to be here and hopefully this will be enjoyable and a learning experience for some of you. i'm winging it to some extent. giving this presentation about five times in the last month, and the audience is varied. at one point, i'm preaching to the choir, and last week, i was preaching to, well, more or less given a sermon to the college of cardinals. nothing like briefing the senior army officers who lived this and know exactly what you're talking about and are just waiting to pounce on you. i should at the very beginning acknowledge all the servicemen that talked with me about this book, that i served with, about 800 people served in this unit in the 30-some years it existed, and very few have been able to
talk to me about it. you managed to pick up my notes. thank you. but a lot of people said this book could not be written. it was 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, nsa. took about 14 months to get through that process. everything that was in the book was classified before and now it's not. but anyway. this is the history, the story of not only the unit but of the people who served there. like i said, 800 guys, very diverse membership. we had the eastern europeans. first and second generation americans. quite a diverse unit.
but 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, britain, of course, the commonwealth countries and a number of others, plus the soviet union. about 1946, we started to realize that the soviet union was perhaps 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 and poland and the czech republic, not yet the czech republic, but czechoslovakia in the late '40s. the berlin air lift in 1949, 1950, were all signs that our relationships with russians was going badly.
gentleman by the name of george kennan, who wrote a long telegram out of moscow outlined his worries and fears. and that really outlined american policy for about the next 30 years. kennen's policy tilted the united states towards containment of the soviet union. and became even more offensive in the 1950s. when korea was -- when south korea was invaded 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 rollback as a possible policy. and rollback was nothing more than pushing the soviet union back into its internal order.
to strip it of its eastern european country. bulgaria, romania, yugoslavia, poland along with the eastern baltic states were all within the soviet sphere, and the cia and the british mi-6 or special secret intelligence service, began their own programs to actually 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. but about that same time, the u.s. army was rethinking its conventional mind set. the office of strategic service had been eliminated after world war ii. the peace dividend, the army was concentrating on conventional warfare. and about 1950s, people started to think we needed more of an
unconventional approach to things. so 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, guerilla warfare, behind enemy lines. this was not a new thought, but it was a rethink of some old ways of doing warfare. 1953, ten special forces group is moved forward to germany. and stationed down here south of munich. that group was given the mission of conducting unconventional warfare in all those countries that i talked about, with the exception of one -- east germany. about 1955, the berlin commander who had with his allies a total
of about 12,000 troops in this small city, oops -- wrong button. of course, the divided city of berlin, 110 miles behind the iron curtain. decided that instead of just having a defensive mission, he thought he should have an offensive mission. 12,000 u.s. and allied troops surrounded by somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million russians 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, but not quite exactly what the berlin commander requested. instead, he gave him six special forces teams who would instead
of just being sent in there for war, they would be there permanently, stationed in the american sector, and their mission would be to prepare for unconventional warfare in that one area that the u.s. forces had not yet 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, as i stated, for ten forces special group, unconventional warfare sabotage. the one thing you see here on this chart is this green trace. this is the major railway, thoroughfare that goes through east germany. basically, rail from the south,
from hungary, from czech republic, from poland, all converge around berlin, and then fan out on the other side. this was a strategic target. and so these six teams became a strategic cog in the defense plan for all of nato. as general rogers put it later in the 1980s, he said basically, your mission is one thing, to buy me time. and these guys were basically stationed at this small barracks in the american sector. if war would come, they would disappear into the city, wait for the opportune time to cross over the wall, and then sabotage key targets along 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. again, it's pretty fair odds. this one, for example, the soviet one, was guarded by three soviet units, about 12,000 troops. 12 guys against 12,000. that's not a bad thing. so for 30 years, these guys stayed in this city and planned for the mission. but i should go back and say, give you some information about the guys that were there, just who were 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 had the
qualifications with one caveat, maybe two. you had to speak eastern european language or german well enough to pass as a local or to confuse the east germans and russians for long enough to do your mission, and you had to be able to accept the fact that you were going to wear civilian clothes. which was important because wearing civilian clothes meant that if you were captured by the east germans or the russians, you would be within probably five to ten minutes, shot as a spy. so 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, as i said, a lot of guys served there, and never gave it a second thought of what odds they had in front 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, either hungarian or serbo or russian in some cases. german, of course, was the predominant language. then about 40% were recruits, and that was public law 1507 which was passed in the '50s to get eastern europeans, not germans, but eastern europeans to join the american military just for this type of an operation. a lot of them served in berlin. even up into the '80s, a lot of the people that came into the unit were immigrants from eastern europe who came into the american army. something we should look to 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 civilian clothes. not only did they have to know their military skills, but they had to know the trade craft skills, the intelligence trade craft skills to operate as a clandestine force. because when the war started, they knew that the russians, the kgb, and the east german mfs were going to be looking for them. not only would 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 of the elite units they thought might be in the city. naturally, the unit special forces berlin, it was known as detachment a at the time, was one of the targets. so immediately on receiving information that war was imminent or if it would actually happen, the unit would not go back to its headquarters but disperse into the city and
operate as an underground with the help of germans who had been sought out, using safe houses, using nontechnical communications to talk with each other, as well as technical communications like hf radios, the hf radios, and disappear into the city until at 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 the east germans a hard time. destroy critical targets like radio stations and power plants, also to give the russians and east germans hard time, while the other guys would cross over the wall to hit these targets. now, the red squares are railyards. and if you could sabotage one of these rail yards to actually slow traffic for 24 to 72 hours, that would give the american
troops in the baltic gap that cushion where they could actually meet and hopefully defeat a russian attack. nato had a big problem in the 1950s, 1960s, with about 72 total divisions sitting west, in west germany. the russians on the other hand, and the east germans and their allies had a minimum of 96 divisions. just on this side, and another 100 or so a bit further east. so this rail line is going to be critical, but to 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 then. not impenetrable, but close. so we knew we couldn't fly airplanes in and have them survive, so these six teams were going to be critical to the
unconventional warfare plan. now, the guys that came into the units, as i said, were kind of unconventional. i mean, first off, the guys that volunteer for special forces have to be a bit odd to begin with. i can say that because i am one. but as i said, they trained unconventionally from very early on. they did all those standard special forces kind of training. this is actually where they were stationed at andrews barracks. this is the old headquarters of the prussian senior cadet school during the time of the emperor.
this is a very nice olympic pool. and these buildings here 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 during world war ii. so obviously, we took it as a prize after the war, and for about 30 years, the unit was located in this outfit, this barracks. front door, of course, very innocuous. one of the issues that would come up later is that the unit had a bare modicum of cover. it was detachment a berlin, its mission was to support the berlin brigade, but beyond that, it petered out. if someone would ask you specific questions, then everybody was pretty well on their own for making up their stories. that was the 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 an easy -- not a difficult thing to cross. the interior of the city was not yet walled up. this is about 1957. and that's the brandonberg gate, of course. you could walk across. you could drive across. so getting in to east germany and east berlin was not a problem. some of the first guys that came looked like any other soldier until you start looking at their name tags and there's quite a few east german -- not east german, but eastern european names. we trained unconventional warfare type tactics in west germany. obviously, berlin was a city the size of approximately new york,
surrounded by a fence. not easy to run military exercises in the city, so we would go out to the west. this, of course, is practicing a truck ambush in west germany. you will notice that these guys don't seem to be wearing uniforms. that's because they're not. that weapon right there, for example, is a world war ii german machine gun. airborne operations, just like the guys, the unit did airborne operations. not because they thought that they might have to use them, but to keep up their qualifications was easier than having to retrain them later and you could never tell when a mission would come up someplace else that would require it. you see some of the names down here. eastern european. the lieutenant colonel was a polish immigrant of the united states. served with general gavin in world war ii, was in berlin in
1946, '47, came back as a unit commander. you see this. anybody in today's army would recognize this guy as what we would call a leg, nonairborne qualified soldier. at least until you look right there. those are service stripes for overseas service in combat zone. spec 5 medic with three senior accommodations for valor in korea. just an indication of some of the people who served in this unit. falling out of an airport, as i said, parachuting. people often ask me why i would want to jump out of an airplane. i say if you have ever flown in the air force aircraft. also, small unit operations required using small airplanes.
this is practicing for message drops, two small units. that airplane was actually based out of berlin. quite useful for sitting down on short air strips or in farmers' fields, anyplace, anytime. 1956, this is what the teams looked like. this is actually an exercise in west germany. they're still carrying american weapons because they have not been able to get enough communist bloc or eastern german weapons. this is an interesting story. it was about the time that the government started thinking about using small nuclear weapons as a way to slow down the russians. so the engineers had a version they could put under a bridge and blow up a bridge, and that was really fine and easy, but so many came up with an even better idea. why don't you give special forces guys one of these things and drop them in behind the lines and see what they can do with them? because the unit had members
that were all top secret cleared, this was the first special forces team that was trained to use the atomic demolition weapons. back then, it was not quite so small. four pieces, 400 pounds. with a load kiloton yield, which would probably clear out five square blocks. but you could imagine what these things would have done to that railway around berlin. later on, the unit acquired german weapons. nobody knows what this is. this is a walter p-38 used by both sides, the east german and west side. that's a better view. more interesting weapons. that's called the well rod mark one hand firing device, developed by the british.
very silent weapon, completely unmarked. single shot, but it had a magazine that operated like a piece of plumbing equipment. small radios. that piece on the left side, this is called an rs-6. it was called an agent radio. it had a distance, it was an hf radio that had a transmission distance of about 6,000 miles. so from germany, you could easily communicate with your headquarters in england or wherever. later on, we switched to british equipment. but that's neither here nor there.
1961, the wall goes up. makes admission a bit more difficult. that wall splits the city. and goes all the way around. 110 miles of total wall. donald trump could get some ideas from this. of course, you have to remember that it took them 30 years to perfect it before they decided it didn't work and they 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 of their wall crossing points. we had intelligence available from the air force, from east german emigres who would be interrogated, close up looks at the wall, and we could determine ways to cross the wall without be caught.
one of the things you did not want to do was cross the wall and find out you were in a east german military base, of which there were many. we had to do reconnaissance on both sides. the east germans, the wall had one fallacy. it was designed to keep their people in. it was not designed to keep people out. so there were ways in. but as i said, 30 years, they can start to perfect things. dogs, not so much as an attack device, but as an early warning device, because they were very attuned to who or what was in the area. east germans, of course, are as interested in what we're doing as they are. that's 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's up in the french sector. this is actually the wall between west berlin and east germany. not east berlin. that's about 80 meters across. so obviously, you had to find a location that was a bit closer, a bit easier to get across, and as i said, all methods were used to find out information. having personal knowledge of that photo, that tower was empty. did not want to risk getting shot in the back. also, you didn't think about just going over the wall or through the wall.
you had to think about going under. so the city of berlin has more sewer systems, more canal systems than amsterdam, for example. so we also worked with scuba gear. demolitions using scuba gear in the water. just had to know what your enemy was. that's one of the east german patrol boats. but as i said, if you're under water with a nonbubble-making device, like a nonscuba gear, then you could get under these things and through these things. not only could we get into east berlin through this means. we could get into east germany. i should say that the unit also did some ballistic training because it wasn't all fun and games up in the city. this is down in burgess garden. holistic training. skeet training. mountain climbing.
of course, 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's actually garmish, looking towards austria. not just downhill, but cross country. so our mission through the 1950s, 1960s, unconventional warfare, fighting the russians and the east germans. 1968, 1970s, in europe, when you start seeing student movements growing up. there's opposition to the vietnam war in europe. and 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, but for the most part, the u.s. decides that counterterrorism is an aspect that's 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 u.s. commander in the nato of the ucom commander both decided they needed a means of their own because they were really at the hotbed of terrorism at that time. to combat it. so they tasked berlin because it was a special forces unit, because it had intelligence collection staff, because it used clandestine operations, all of these things were well versed
in the unit. they tasked berlin to come up with basically a precision marksmanship unit to help out in the case of aircraft hijackings, which were all over. in 1974, the unit begins to do this. by 1975, 1976, it has the first counterterrorism unit in the u.s. military, that's not military, anyways. these guys are now doing unconventional warfare and counterterrorism, two missions which is a problem that i can discuss later. but early on, we decided that our allies had information that would be useful to us. this is the bg troops, the german border patrol. they had a unit created after munich, specifically for this. the british saf, other units,
the local police forces, that's the berlin special operations command. the bgs practicing with their door breaching charges. so there was quite an exchange of information between the americans, the british, and the germans very early on, even with the israelis. we would pass techniques and tactics back and forth. this unitt was from berlin. they're training with gsg-9. as far as gsg-9 knew, these guys came from the united states. they had no clue that they came from berlin. we had an urban training area inside berlin that we used quite a bit. that's the bare bones assault unit. now, today, you would never see an assaulter in a uniform like
this. he would be incumbered by 200 pounds of armor, lightweight armor, but still 200 pounds. precision shooting. being able to engage a target quickly, multiple targets, discriminatory, seven meterers to 25 meters. to pull down shot groups. and we built an assault range where you could practice multi-room, multi-person injury tactics. and we began to train on airplanes. this is an interesting story because the manager, the field manager said, went out on a limb and said i know you have something to do with this, so if you want to use our airplanes, it's quite all right with me. he didn't clear this with the corporate headquarters or anything. this is the airport, and this is not a broken jet. this is a 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 then of course, not telling the passengers the next day what had happened the previous night. but we would also train on the tarmac. that's the international airport, probably the second largest airport in germany at the time. obviously, the guy in the back door has the beat on the photographer. but working ostensibly as maintenance crew. working as baggage handlers and aircraft handlers, people would be on the tarmac as these pan-am airplanes were moving in and out. gave them the familiarization with the operations and how to possibly use it if there ever was a hijacking.
1979, in tehran, iran, a student quote/unquote extremists attack over the american embassy compound. 66 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, who was going to go in to tehran to rescue the people from the american embassy compound. what is lesser known is that charlie, who was in command of delta said, i cannot handle the second target. the second target was the iranian foreign minister, ministry, where the american acting ambassador of cia officer and his deputy were being held by the iranian government. the commander of the unit, a czech emigre who fought in world
ii with the resistance said i could do this. the unit was enlisted as the second assault element, and these are the nine guys that would participate in this. but another aspect of this 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 to send them into tehran to collect the intelligence needed for both delta and this force to do its mission. very early on, about january of 1980, two guys from berlin appropriately covered as bizmen, made multiple trips into tehran to collect a list of intelligence. when desert one was bad, this is desert one. this is the layout of all the aircraft.
there were three americans right here waiting for this force to move on. the mission failed. the troops were recalled out of here, but somebody forgot to tell three guys who were waiting for them. they found out the next day over the radio. when someone announced that the americans had tried to do a rescue, and oh, by the way, there may be more americans inside iran. so now these guys are basically in the wake-up, instead of running like 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. and that was special forces berlin. now, the problem with that, this is 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 detachments force went from 9 to 40. 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 the small helicopters. delta force got the big blackhawks. these small helicopters came from a national guard reserve unit which was given the name temporarily of task force 159. i participated in this, and i have never seen pilots who could fly like these guys. you might know them now as task
force 160, the night stalkers. way up here, that's not the ch-47. that's a command ship. our aspect of the unit was 16 of these helicopters with 40 guys loaded up with all the weapons and ammunition they could carry. doing all kinds of strange things, practicing in florida, practicing on a building that looked very much like the iranian foreign ministry, if any of you have gone to ranger school, you'll notice this is camp rudder. as i intimated, the cover that the unit had and then the association that unit with counterterrorism would be basically a problem area. the unit would be exposed as a "time" magazine article or a "newsweek" article and ended up
in the unit being closed down in 1984. but everyone at the time thought that the mission 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 known as physical security support element, would carry on the mission, just as the first unit did. but this time with a cover that made sense. these guys were doing physical security vulnerability surveys for the ucom commander all across europe, africa, and the middle east. along with that mission, that's actually one of the security surveys in uganda. along with that mission, they're still doing the war time and ct mission. quite busy. and you can see that 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 in the book and said, it looked to him like the difference between u.s. army in world war i and going to star wars. which, yeah. along with the assault teams, which was the previous ones, we had sniper teams. and special weapons for opening doors. door opening devices, so to speak. that's not that door, but that's the kind of techniques you practiced to get into a room. that's a steel door, so there's an exceptionally difficult target. if anybody was directly on the other side of this, it would probably be dead. again, practice, practice, practice.
interestingly, we had exchange courses with delta force, some of the operators in this picture are delta force operators and some are from the unit. continued to practice with pan-am. how to get in to talk to the co-pilot when you have no other means, and doing actual mission practices, exercises on the air field. this particular one, the berlin brigad commander was on board. luckily, we didn't shoot him. and the wall continued to be a problem. it was getting better and better. you mentioned the military liaison mission. one of the ways we got across the wall was with the ostensibly legal military liaison mission which was set up to keep observation on both sides. the russians did it in west
germany. the french, english, and americans did it in east germany. we also used it as a way to look at our targets. this guy is looking at a russian troop train on the east german border with poland. obviously, from a field 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's a track guide for a t-80 tank. if you saw this tank on a railway car, completely covered by a tarp, the only way you can identify it specifically is because of this. i'm just showing you, this is the kind of esoteric detail you had to know to work on this mission.
you could identify a truck and by association the unit it was assigned to and tell your o.b. guys, your order of battle guys, which units were actually where at any particular time. quite a valuable tool. the unit changed its mission again, still going across the wall but not sabotage, not unconventional warfare, but strategic reconnaissance. and strategic reconnaissance, 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 as they move forward. that's what they did. and then you radio the information back to your headquarters. and the next thing you know, hopefully the air force is bombing it. so it's not quite as dangerous as blowing up bridges, but it's still dangerous in you're sitting behind the lines with the russians.
1984, 1990, psse is the unit that is working, physical security support element, the wall goes down, finally. 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. 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 aside, we see what the russians are doing and the
eastern ukraine and other places, the army special forces is relooking the unconventional warfare mission ala berlin, and that's why i was out talking to ten special forces group about two weeks ago. so the legacy is there, much as the legacy of oss led to this unit, now it is leading to a new unit within the army. but, the history of this unit has been incapsulated as i said in this book, i did it for the guys who served there for their families. it's only been as a result of writing the book that i've come out and started to talk to people, but that in a nutshell because this is 34 years of history is special forces berlin. so, can i entertain any questions here? well if somebody raises his
hand, sir. [ inaudible question ] >> when writing the book, what surprises you the most? >> i think what surprised me the most was the fact that we had a nuclear mission when i had never knew that before. that was very classified. i was in a pretty good position. i worked in both units. i worked in the operation center and got to see a lot of the documentation. so i knew a lot of the history before, so what surprised me, i think, more was the fact that a lot of guys that served in the unit i talked with did not know where they had come from. where their predecessors were. did not know that the connection with the office and strategic services. that's another reason to put this stuff down into a book.
i guess, what you forget is what you end up doing anyway. and you have to really look at that when you're a soldier. have we done this before? what can i learn from my predecessors. that's what surprises me often when i'm talking history or military. how many people do not know where they came from? sir. >> could you bring a clarification on yugoslavia, you mentioned yugoslavia and also later others, yugoslavia was never part of the soviet. did you actually have operations there? >> berlin did not, but others had people that were working towards yugoslavia. it was not part of the orbit, but it was agreeable to supplying forces to the war pack and the event of war.
one of the things that the soviet war plan states very obviously was we're heading for the gap in west germany. what they don't talk about so there was going to be tacit amounts of forces enrolled in any offensive movement to the soviets. >> not to extend it too far but the yugoslav military doctrine at the time called for opposing any soviet troops that came through, as you know, i'm sure, a little bit after that tito was asked to join nato. >> well, you know, from -- as i said, this mission is evolving. this does not involve berlin, but in the beginning, in the early '50s and early '60s, they were looking at the eastern european front as a whole even
down in albania. >> speaking of opposing sides, how did military interact with cia during this period? >> ostensibly the cia was going to give the unit support in the early 1950s, directing them to resistance organizations in the eastern 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" says "you're on your own, son." [ laughter ] yeah, that's pretty much how we
felt. >> how difficult was it for special forces to set up to infiltrate on the other side and then set up businesses so that it looked like they were part and parcel of the scene? >> well, 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 didn't do that. the cia was very adamant about who would operate in their -- on their turf and they would not even let their people from west
germany or west berlin go into east germany. you had to be stationed in east germany with the agency to move in east germany. and we all know how well that worked. >> and i had another question about kennen. could you explain a little again about what he wrote to help us decide how to look at this -- how influential was kennan's letter. memorandum? >> 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 also used it to base their military strategy off of it so it was extremely influential. it's called the lon telegram written by george kennan.
it was printed in open press later on. it was signed "mr. x" but it was extremely influential to american strategy in the early '50s and '60s. >> i haven't read the book but you alluded to the number of emigres that came into the unit. i'm curious if you had done any follow-up research to what happened to them as they retired. i'm curious if they went back to their communities, what kind of lessons learned they bring as we look forward to maybe revamping this type of capability. the other one is you had some examples later on in the '70s and '80s in terms of their capabilities. do you have any operational missions that you can discuss that took place in the '50s which were impactful on our strategies at the time?
>> to break it down, i'm in contact with a number of the people and some of the germans that came into the american forces. many of them went back to 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 quickly changed their minds once they got there but as far as missions in the 1950s, most of our missions were happening elsewhere. some people might remember the congo and also early on in vietnam. so there were no specific strategic missions that the unit was involved with. there were some tactical missions within west berlin and east berlin that did happen, but those, most of those remain classified. >> i was curious in your research, did you get any access
to any of the opened east german military files or the soviet files that gave any insight as to what they knew about your unit or didn't know? >> the soviets are no longer our friends so they wouldn't really give me access. but i did manage to get into the east german archives and with a specialist, we went through about 50,000 pages of information on the berlin brigade and about 15 pages applied to the unit, most of what the unit -- what they had was extrapolated from their knowledge of 10th group. they knew generally what it was. they had some names of the 800 people who served in the units 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 dispersed, all bets were off. sir. >> were there ever any incidents where they were members of the units that had been abducted, kidnapped, arrested, otherwise disappeared or had certain mysterious accidents or other problems? >> no. however one unit member did have an east german court put a death sentence on his head. so it was not necessarily dangerous at that point but it had the probability of getting dangerous really quickly. actually, we had more problems with the west berliners. we had more than a number of guys that would have run-ins with spurious elements downtown, let's put it that way.
>> can i ask another question? i don't know if you can answer. but what were the rules, if any, about dating, relationships with women while assigned to berlin? if there is anything you can say about that. >> 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 from an outside country or especially the east was off limits, quote/unquote. if a guy was interested in someone 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. even just to find out who you were dealing with.
any more questions? well, in that case i will say thank you very much, appreciate your attention. [ applause ] american history tv on c-span3, this week in prime time. starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern, tonight u.s. army special forces detachments stationed in berlin, germany, during the cold war. >> two teams would remain in the city just to give the russians and the east germans a hard time, destroy critical targets like radio stations and power plants while the other guys would cross over the walls to hit these targets. rail yards.
>> wednesday night, black voter suppression in the 1940s. >> during the congressional debate, representative lewis ludlow of indiana said "what a travesty, negroes by the multiplied -- we're sending negroes by the multiplied thousands to the firing line to die and fight for freedom while telling them they shall have no part or parcel in freedom at home." >> thursday night, president andrew jackson's political struggle to challenge and even cripple the powerful bank of the united states. >> already by 1829, june of 1829 when he'd been president all of three months, jackson was writing friends that the only thing that can prevent our liberties to be crushed by the bank and its influence would be to kill the bank itself. >> and friday night, an interview with senator john mccain on the vietnam war's impact on his life and the country. >> i don't hold a grudge against the north vietnamese. i don't like them. there's some that i would never
want to see again but at the same time i was part of a conflict and i thought they were some of the meanest people i've ever met in my life and i never want to see again. but there were several that were good people and that were kind to me so that's why it was much easier for me to support, along with president clinton and others, the normalization of relations with our two countries, to heal the wounds of war. >> watch american history tv this week in prime time on c-span3. >> c-span cities tour takes you to springfield, missouri, on january 6th and 7th. while in sbringfield, we're working with media com to explore the literary scene and history of the birthplace of route 66 in southwestern missouri. on saturday, january 6th at noon
eastern on book tv. author jeremy nealy talks about the conflict occurring along the kansas/missouri border in the struggle over slavery in "the border between them." >> john brown left kansas, came back to the territory, and he began a series of raids into western missouri during which his men will liberate people from missouri and help them escape to freedom. in the course of this, they'll kill a number of slaveholders. and so the legend or the notoriety of john brown really grows as part of this struggle that people locally understand as really the beginning of the civil war. >> then, sunday january 7th, at 2:00 p.m., on american history tv, we visit the nra national sporting arms museum. >> theodore roosevelt was probably our shootingest president. a very, very avid hunter. first thing he did when he left
office was organize and go on a very large hunting safari to africa. now, this particular rifle was prepared specifically for roosevelt. it has the presidential seal engraved on the breach. and of course, roosevelt was famous for the bull moose party, and there is a bull moose engraved on the side plate of this gun. >> watch c-span cities tour, springfield, missouri, january 6th and 7th on c-span2's book tv, and on american history tv on c-span3. working with our cable affiliates as we explore america. a 1962 u.s. army film narrated by actor james cagney presented a critical history of soviet communism, beginning with a failed revolution in 1905 up to the construction of the berlin wall. the film was nominated for a 1963 short subject documentary academy award.