Guerrillas for World War III

excerpted from the book


America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy

by Christopher Simpson

Collier / Macmillan, 1988

The Vlasov Army and Waffen SS veterans from Eastern Europe worked hard to integrate themselves into the evolving U.S. nuclear weapons strategy during the cold war years. Colonel Philp and General Gehlen, it will be recalled, began as early as the winter of 1945-1946 to use German officers and refugees from the East to gather information about military construction behind Soviet lines. Each time the location of a new Soviet military site was confirmed, word of its location was passed to a special U.S. Air Force office at the Pentagon whose job was the selection of targets slated for atomic annihilation.

As U.S. atomic planning grew more sophisticated, the role of émigrés in America's nuclear war-fighting strategy expanded quickly. By late 1948 paramilitary expert General Robert McClure had won the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to approval of a full-scale program of guerrilla warfare that was to follow any U.S. nuclear strike on the USSR. From then until at least 1956, when this strategy was at the height of its popularity in U.S. command circles, preparations for post-World War III guerrilla insurgencies employed thousands of émigrés from the USSR. Pentagon documents show that Vlasov veterans and Waffen SS men played a major role in these underground armies. Considering the wartime record of these forces, there is reason to suspect that a number of these enlistees may have been war criminals.

These émigrés did not, of course, create U.S. nuclear strategy. The advent of atomic weapons and their impact on international affairs would have taken place with or without the use of former Nazis and collaborators in U.S. war planning. The exile soldiers simply rode the coattails of the movement toward reliance on nuclear weapons during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In many cases they themselves were not aware of what the Pentagon had in mind for them. The integration of these groups into even the most humble levels of U.S. nuclear planning, however, gave the military and intelligence agencies a powerful reason to conceal the Nazi pasts of their unusual troops.

The process of integrating ex-Nazi emigre groups into U.S. nuclear operations may be traced at least to early 1947, when General Hoyt Vandenberg became the first chief of staff of the newly independent U.S. Air Force. Vandenberg had commanded the Ninth Air Force in Europe during World War II, then been tapped to head the Central Intelligence Group, the immediate predecessor to the CIA, in 1946. Among the general's responsibilities at the air force was the development of written plans describing strategies and tactics for the use of America's new nuclear weapons in the event of war.

"Vandenberg had a clear idea about just how he thought a nuclear war was going to be fought," argues retired Colonel Fletcher Prouty, who was a senior aide to the air force chief of staff in the 1940s and later the top liaison man between the Pentagon and the CIA. "[He] knew that if there was a nuclear exchange in those days-and we are talking about atomic bombs, now, not H-bombs- you would destroy the communications and lifeblood of a country but the country would still exist. It would just be rubble. People would be wandering around wanting to know who was boss and where the food was coming from and so forth, but the country would still be there." Therefore, the U.S. thinking went, "we must begin to create independent communications centers inside the Soviet Union [after the nuclear blast] and begin to pull it together for our ends."

The army, air force, and CIA all began competing programs to prepare for the post-nuclear battlefield. This included creation of what eventually came to be called the Special Forces-better known today as the Green Berets-in the army and the air resupply and communications wings in the air force. The job of these units, Prouty explains, was to set up anti-Communist political leaders backed up by guerrilla armies inside the USSR and Eastern Europe in the wake of an atomic war, capture political power in strategic I sections of the country, choke off any remaining Communist resistance, and ensure that the Red Army could not regroup for a counterattack.

In 1950 CIC and CIA agents used the Labor Services cover to begin guerrilla training of at least 100 members of the far-rightwing League of Young Germans (Bund Deutscher Jungen, or BDJ). These "Young Germans" were no Boy Scouts; most were Waffen SS and Wehrmacht veterans, according to a later West German government investigation, and a considerable part of the leadership of the group had been enthusiastic "Jew baiters" in the Goebbels ministry during the Nazis' rule.

The budget for the clandestine group was 50,000 deutsche marks per month, according to records seized by German police in 1952, plus an ample supply of free arms, ammunition, and explosives cached in the Odenwald Hills south of Frankfurt. American and German advisers provided BDJ agents with extensive military instruction, including, as a report in the West German parliament later revealed, "use of Russian, United States and German weapons, including machine guns, grenades, and knives . . . [as well as] light infantry weapons and explosives." The underground group called itself a U.S. "Technical Service" unit.'

But the training program was only the beginning. BDJ Technical Service leaders decided that the best thing they could do for Germany following a Soviet attack was to liquidate certain German leaders they regarded as insufficiently anti-Communist. German Communists were, of course, at the top of the Technical Service assassination list. Next in line for elimination were leaders of West Germany's Social Democratic party, the country's loyal opposition during the Adenauer administration. The Technical Service group planned to murder more than forty top Social Democratic officials, including the party's national chief, Erich Ollenhauer; the interior minister of the state of Hesse, Heinrich Zinnkann; and the mayors of Hamburg and Bremen. BDJ's U.S.-trained underground infiltrated the Social Democrats to shadow individual party leaders so as to kill them more efficiently when the day to act arrived.

The plot unraveled in late 1952, however, when a chance arrest by local police led to discovery of the hit list of Social Democratic officials. The CIC's behavior following this accidental exposure was so compromising that it raised serious questions in the German parliament whether the U.S. government was aware of the Technical Service unit's assassination plans all along. Then again, perhaps the CIC response to the arrests was just stupid, not a conspiratorial cover-up. Either way, American CIC officers took custody of the arrested BDJ members and proceeded to hide them from the German civil police, who intended to charge the "Young Germans" with numerous weapons violations and conspiracy to commit murder. The German chief of the Technical Service unit, an ex-Luftwaffe man named Gerhard Peters, was placed under wraps for almost two weeks in a U.S.-requisitioned building that was off-limits to German civil authorities. U.S. CIC agents also seized all the remaining Technical Service records that they could lay their hands on, then refused to turn the dossiers over to the German equivalent of the FBI.

But the cat was out of the bag. Soon Social Democratic deputies were demanding investigations and pounding the lecterns in state and federal parliaments all over West Germany. Unfortunately for the Americans and for the Technical Service, their blunder had been discovered in the midst of a closely fought election, and the Social Democrats made the most of it. In the end, U.S. authorities were forced to confirm, as the New York Times reported, that they had "sponsored and helped finance the secret training of young Germans, many of them former soldiers, to become guerrilla fighters in the event of a war with the Soviet Union."

The question of U.S. use of former Nazi collaborators in assassinations is important, and not just because of the obvious damage that the Technical Service imbroglio did to U.S. relations with Germany's influential Social Democrats. Few subjects are more deeply clothed in mystery than this one, and the evidence concerning how U.S. assassination operations worked during the cold war and who was responsible for them is inevitably scattered and fragmentary. All that can be said with certainty is that such murders did take place and that in some cases former Nazi collaborators were instrumental in carrying them out.

To put the case most bluntly, many American clandestine warfare specialists believed that the most "productive"-and least compromising-method- of killing foreign officials was to underwrite the discontent of indigenous groups and let them take the risks. American intelligence agencies' use of this technique appears to have originated in operations during World War II, when the OSS supplied thousands of cheap pistols to partisans in France and Yugoslavia specifically for assassination of collaborators and German officials. (According to Pentagon records,' the OSS also air-dropped these weapons in areas where there were no significant rebel forces so that the Nazis, upon finding the guns, would tighten the screws on local populations and thereby produce new anti-Nazi partisans.)

The concepts of maintaining "plausible deniability" for the actual murder and of the expendability of the killers themselves are a key to understanding U.S. assassination techniques. In most cases, it appears to have been neither necessary nor practical for U.S. intelligence officers to give precise instructions for murder. Instead, the OPC gave directions to commit assassinations to guerrilla movements in the same simple, sweeping terms that had been used in wartime Yugoslavia. U.S. intelligence encouraged insurgents to "eliminate the command and other dangerous personnel of the MVD and the MGB [the Soviet secret police]," as the psychological warfare appendix to a Pentagon war plan put it in 1948. Other assigned tasks under the Halfmoon war plan, as it was known included "organiz[ing] for the destruction of industry, communications and other factors in Soviet war-making capacity"; "engag[ing] in sabotage wherever and whenever it disrupts enemy action"; and "creat[ing] panic and terror."

Several organizations of former Nazi collaborators were ready to undertake such slayings on a major scale. Covert operations chief Wisner estimated in 1951 that some 35,000 Soviet police troops and Communist party cadres had been eliminated by guerrillas connected with the Nazi collaborationist OUN/UPA in the Ukraine since the end of the war, and that does not include casualties from other insurgencies in Lithuania and the Muslim regions of the USSR that were also receiving aid from the United States and Britain.

These shotgun-style killings and guerrilla actions account for the large majority of murders carried out with U.S. assistance in Europe during the cold war. It is inappropriate, of course, to lay responsibility for all these deaths at the feet of the CIA. The rebellions against Soviet rule were not initiated by the agency; they exploded inside the country out of discontents that were bound to give rise to violent resistance. Still, it is clear that CIA aid sustained such rebellions longer and made them more deadly to all concerned than they might otherwise have been. Moreover, these widespread shotgun-style slayings served as cover for a smaller number of specific individual assassinations that appear to have been directly ordered by U.S. intelligence officers.

Former Nazi collaborators made excellent executioners in such instances, because of both their wartime training and the fact that the U.S. government could plausibly deny any knowledge of their activities. Suspected double agents were the most common targets for execution. "In the international clandestine operations business, it was part of the code that the one and only remedy for the unfrocked double agent was to kill him" (emphasis added), the CIA's director of operations planning during the Truman administration testified before Congress in 1976, "and all double agents knew that. That was part of the occupational hazard of the job." The former director, whom the government declines to identify, also claimed, however, that he didn't recall any executions of double agents actually occurring during his tenure there. It is understandable that he might fail to remember any executions; for admitting a role in such killings could well lead to arrest and prosecution for conspiracy to commit murder in Europe, if not in the United States itself.

"We kept personnel at several air bases around the world for these types of missions," says Colonel Prouty, who was responsible for U.S. Air Force air support of CIA missions overseas, including the delivery of agents to their targets and subsequent evacuation measures. "Some of these guys were the best commercial hit men you have ever heard of. [They were] mechanics, killers. They were Ukrainians, mainly, and Eastern Europeans, Greeks, and some Scotsmen. I don't know how the Scotsmen got in there, but there they were. None of them were American citizens." Prouty asserts that teams of such "mechanics" were used in cross-border infiltrations, in highly dangerous rescues of American agents inside the USSR and China, and in special murders. According to Prouty, there was no clear policy concerning the use of killing. "It was an ad hoc event, and it [the actual assassination] was done by third parties. If it had to be done in Yugoslavia, for example, it was set up with exile Yugoslavians or the [emigre] Polish groups. The [U.S.] Army had by far the best assets" for this type of thing, he states, but "on the operational level there was good cooperation with the air force, CIA, and army." Many of the Eastern Europeans, he says were Nazi collaborators during the war.

Several such killings did take place during the late 1940s under Operations Hagberry and Lithia, both of which were approved at senior levels of the Pentagon. These two instances, furthermore, must be considered only the documented examples of a more widespread practice. Hagberry required, according to army records, the "liquidation of the Chikalov Ring, a possible Soviet intelligence net operating within the U.S. zone of Germany." And Lithia, which began under army auspices in November 1947, authorized "liquidation in [the] United States Zone [of Germany] of the Kundermann Ring, a large scale Czechoslovakian intelligence net." Army intelligence believed that the Chikalov Ring and the Kundermann organization had managed to plant double agents in certain emigre espionage networks that were being jointly managed by the United States and Britain under still another code-named project, Operation Rusty, and it is those agents who were marked for "liquidation." Army spokesmen today claim with shrugs of their shoulders that all further files concerning Hagberry and Lithia have simply disappeared. No further information is available, they say, and there is no indication of who withdrew the Hagberry and Lithia files or when they vanished.

Other people were murdered gangland-style during Operation Ohio, according to published reports in the United States. Ohio employed a squad of Ukrainian ex-Nazis to carry out at least twenty murders m a displaced persons camp at Mittenwald, south of Munich. The Army CIC and later the CIA are reported to have financed this squad for strong-arm work against double agents, Soviet spies, and similar undesirables. The fragmentary evidence still available suggests that most of the squad's victims were double agents whose deaths-when they became public at all-were attributed to factional violence among rival right-wing Ukrainian emigre groups.

"We were just out of World War Two, and we were using those [wartime] tactics," says Franklin Lindsay, the former CIA/OPC paramilitary expert. "In my case, I had operated only in wartime conditions. Given the feeling that we were very near war at that time, one tended to operate in the same way as in wartime." Lindsay, however, rejects the term assassination as a description of CIA/OPC practice during his tenure there.

The records of Operation Bloodstone add an important new piece of information to one of the most explosive public issues of today: the role of the U.S. government-specifically the CIA-in assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign officials. According to a 1976 Senate investigation, a key official of Operation Bloodstone is the OPC officer who was specifically delegated responsibility for planning the agency's assassinations, kidnappings, and similar "wet work."

Colonel Boris Pash, one of the most extraordinary and least known characters in American intelligence history, completes the circle of U.S. agents, Nazi collaborators, and "mechanics" involved in these highly sensitive affairs. Pash is not a Nazi, nor is there any evidence that he is sympathetic to Nazis. But his work for U.S. intelligence agencies places him in the critical office given the responsibility for planning postwar assassination operations.

Pash, now in his eighties, looks much like a bespectacled retired high school teacher. That's not surprising. He taught gym at Hollywood High School for a decade prior to World War II. He is modest-even shy, some might say-with a gravelly voice and a cautious manner born of a lifetime of keeping secrets. Politically Pash remains loyal to the legacy of General Douglas MacArthur, with whom he served in occupied Japan. Colonel Pash is one of the few remaining originals of U.S. intelligence, and his experience in "fighting the Communists" goes back to the 1917 Russian Revolution. He was in Moscow and Eastern Europe in those days with his father, a missionary of Russian extraction, and the young Pash spent much of the Soviet civil war working on the side of the White armies, then with czarist refugees who had fled their country. In the 1920s Pash signed on as a reserve officer with the U.S. military intelligence service, and he maintained the affiliation throughout his years at Hollywood High. He was called to active duty in the first days of the Second World War, played a role in the internment of Japanese civilians in California, and was soon assigned as chief counterintelligence officer on the Manhattan Project, the supersecret U.S. effort to develop the atomic bomb. (More than a decade later it was Colonel Pash's testimony that helped seal the fate of scientist Robert Oppenheimer in the well-known 1954 security case.) Before the war was out, it will be recalled, Colonel Pash led the series of celebrated special operations known as the Alsos Mission that were designed to capture the best atomic and chemical warfare experts that the Nazis had to offer.

After the war Colonel Pash served as the army's representative on Bloodstone in the spring of 1948, when the tasks of that project, including recruiting defectors, smuggling refugees out from behind the Iron Curtain, and assassinations, were established. Bloodstone's "special operations," as defined by the Pentagon, could "include clandestine warfare, subversion, sabotage and . . . assassination," according to the 1948 Joint Chiefs of Staff records. In March 1949, Pash was assigned by the army to the OPC division of the CIA. There, according to State Department records, his responsibilities included many of the functions originally approved under the Bloodstone program.

At the CIA Boris Pash became an administrator and organizer, as distinct from a field operative. His five-man CIA unit, known as PB/7, was given a written charter that read in part that "PB/7 will be responsible for assassinations, kidnapping, and such other functions as from time to time may be given it . . . by higher authority." Pash's fluency in Russian, his skill in dealing with Bloodstone émigrés, and his solid connections in anti-Communist exile circles were valuable assets in that job. Indeed, those qualifications-along with his sterling record as a counterintelligence officer-may well have been what led to his selection as PB/7 chief.

As with so many other aspects of the history of U.S. intelligence the evidence here must be carefully sifted. Pash himself denies involvement in the Bloodstone program, asserting that he has "no recollection" of Bloodstone or of "anything like that." However, documents establishing his participation in Bloodstone and PB/7 are now a matter of public record.

Pash did testify before Congress in 1976 that his responsibilities at the CIA included planning for defections from Communist countries, facilitating the escape of prominent political refugees, and disseminating anti-Communist propaganda behind the Iron Curtain-all of which were clearly Bloodstone activities. Pash's supervisor at the CIA (who is not identified in the hearing record) offered further details concerning some of the less savory aspects of emigre operations during the 1940s that coincide with what is known of Bloodstone. Pash's PB/7, the supervisor said, was responsible for "kidnapping personages from behind the Iron Curtain . . . [including] kidnapping people whose interests were inimicable to ours."

Much of the documentary evidence concerning what PB/7 did during the first years of the CIA has disappeared, leaving both Congress and the general public with many unanswered questions concerning U.S. operations among émigrés during the cold war. The CIA claimed in 1976 that it had "no record of documents which deal with this aspect [i.e., assassinations] of Pash's unit" and that even the office's charter was missing. Colonel Pash himself insisted in congressional testimony that he did not "believe" that he had any involvement in or responsibility for planning or conducting assassinations. He also testified that he had no recollection of the language of the charter of PB/7, the CIA office of which he had been in charge.

Despite the mysterious disappearance of the PB/7 records while in the hands of the CIA, the chain of circumstantial evidence concerning some Bloodstone émigrés' roles in paramilitary, kidnapping, and assassination operations abroad is too strong to be easily dismissed. First, there is the incriminating Pentagon document, quoted above, which indicates that paramilitary operations, assassinations, and kidnappings were an explicit mission of the Bloodstone program from its beginning.

Secondly, at least one key Bloodstone official, Boris Pash, was active in Bloodstone's early phases in mid-1948, then became chief of the OPC office responsible for planning paramilitary operations, assassinations, and kidnappings at about the time that control of "politico-psychological" and paramilitary operations was passed from the Bloodstone committee to the OPC.

Thirdly, at least some Bloodstone émigrés with backgrounds as Nazi collaborators-former Albanian Minister of Justice Hasan Dosti, for example-went on to become deeply involved in clandestine operations that did indeed involve paramilitary operations, murders, and unconsummated plans for assassinations, such as the 1949 and 1950 secret raids on Albania designed to overthrow the government. (Dosti did not participate in the actual field operations. But the organization he led, the Committee for a Free Albania, served as a "private" cover for the Albanian guerrillas, who were, in fact, organized and financed by the OPC.)

Fourthly-and perhaps coincidentally-certain Soviet spies, double agents, and "people whose interests were inimicable" to those of the CIA were marked for death by the agency. Pash's immediate superiors in the OPC acknowledge that the "one and only remedy" for Communist double agents was to murder them. According to published reports in the United States, persons accused of being Soviet or East bloc agents were in fact killed during this period by former Nazi collaborators at Mittenwald and in other displaced persons camps, though under mysterious circumstances that have never been clearly traced back to the OPC.

In the opinion of the author, the early Bloodstone operations played a significant role in laying the groundwork for what one Senate investigator later called "a procedure [within the CIA] which, although not spelled out in so many words, was generally understood and served as the basis to plan or otherwise contemplate political assassination." The killings of minor double agents in German DP camps were murders and deserve to be investigated as such. More significant, however, is what these otherwise obscure crimes appear to have foreshadowed: Before the decade of the 1950s was out, the CIA is known to have established mechanisms for using "deniable" assets and émigrés for the execution of heads of state and other international leaders. These later killings, which are arguably the most serious blunders ever made by the CIA, have created blowback problems on an international scale and have had a significant and generally negative effect on the lives of millions of people.

Blowback - CSimpson

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